The Design Exchange - Neat Design in a Cool Old Building

This is part 4 in a series of profiles on places we visited during this past weekend's Doors Open Toronto.

Compare your sleek iPod with an old clunky yellow Sony walkman and you'll start to understand the importance of design in your life.

The Design Exchange, smack dab in the middle of our financial district, showcases the importance of design in everyday stuff and the Canadian design industry in particular. Created in 1988, the Exchange was created by designers in response to a lack of clear direction or support in the design community. In 1994, the Exchange opened in the former Toronto Stock Exchange building on Bay Street (just south of King), and it was this building that I visited as part of Doors Open Toronto this past weekend.

Deciding to skip the group tour, I wandered through the exchange and was impressed with the informality of the experience. The building that holds the Exchange also provides a lesson in the history of design itself - the former Toronto Stock Exchange building, a heritage property since 1978, gives you an example of Streamline Moderne before you even walk in the door.

Once in the building, skip the elevator and use the impressive stainless steel Inco Staircase that leads up from the lobby. Before going up, take a look at the gallery on the main floor called the Chalmers Design Centre, in what used to be the dining room for TSE members. Here you'll find an assortment of Canadian design exhibits. The Teknion Lounge, also on the first floor, holds a variety of the exhibits including the current "Assembling a Galaxy" exhibition of Star Wars advertising, toys, and original production pieces (on for Star Wars Nerds until July 8).

There is a huge, restored trading floor on the second level along with large scale murals depicting mining, transportation, engineering and agriculture - elements of commerce in what is still the heart of Canada's financial district.

The third floor, the Exhibit Hall, is currently showing the Danish Way of Living exhibit - a selection of Danish designed products from major design icons like Fritz Hansen. The products on display include shimmering, almost water-like chandeliers as well as chairs that beg you to take a seat (another refreshing example of informality is that you get to actually sit and use some of this beautifully designed furniture). The Danish Way of Living exhibit continues until June 20.

Even if you missed the Doors Open Toronto this past weekend, the Exchange is open Monday to Friday from 10-5 and on weekends from 12-5 and showcases a variety of exhibitions, lectures and other design-related happenings throughout the year. It's a lunch break away for us downtown workers and it's a must see for anyone who appreciate how everything from fonts to fashion appear in everyday life.

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Pictures from Paul and Khamla

The Design Exchange is located at 234 Bay Street.

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