When we selected the location of our new home in downtown Toronto, Ontario, our design team wanted to give part of the iconic building back to the city and the arts community. The office is located in the former McGregor sock factory at 401 Wellington Street West.
Many Torontonians—and Stantec team members—have a personal connection to the century-old historic building. “I remember buying socks here years ago,” says intern architect Karen Zwart Hielema (Toronto, Ontario). And the writer remembers visiting the old storefront to buy a high school uniform many moons ago.
When our architects and engineers transformed the post-and-beam warehouse into a modern design studio, the building’s main entrance had to be moved from Spadina Avenue to Wellington Street to provide access to multiple tenants. The design team didn’t want to turn the old entrance into a simple window, so it got creative, reconceiving it as a contemporary art space: the Stantec Window Gallery. “This really was about giving back to the community,” says Karen, a member of the committee that curates the space. “That original entrance has a beautiful exterior frame around it that we wanted to use.”
Since Stantec moved into Wellington Street in 2007, the Window Gallery has typically featured four exhibits each year, which rotate on every solstice and equinox. The committee reviews submissions annually. In 2014, 43 artists vied for the four exhibits available in 2015. Stantec gives artists a stipend for exhibit materials.
Pedestrians strolling along the sidewalk and drivers inching down Spadina Avenue at rush hour can experience the artwork. Many exhibits referenced the building’s location in Toronto’s historic garment district. Head’s Tooth featured a houndstooth-patterned tribute to Edith Head, who won a record eight Academy Awards for costume design. Best Foot Forward showcased the range of contemporary tools used in design and production. Fittingly, the very first installation—S-O-C-K-S—paid homage to the iconic McGregor tartan sock pattern.
Stantec employees also benefit: “The Window Gallery is a point of pride for us,” says Karen. “It shows that Stantec cares about creativity and design. The artists wrestle with many challenges that are like those we encounter in our own projects. Seeing their finished work inspires us.”