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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.”

Look for 2017 submission details here in Fall 2016

McGregor socks has been a prominent part of many Torontonians and kind of holds a special spot for many of us,” says Stantec's Dathe Wong.

Transcript of the video follows
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<p>Giving back to the community was something that we strive for in all of our projects</p> <p>I actually do remember walking in that door to buy socks</p> <p><b>Dathe Wong</b></p> <p>We are very fortunate that our office is in such a beautiful building and very much part of the history of Toronto here. McGregor socks has been a prominent part of many Torontonians and kind of holds a special spot for many of us. The window gallery occupies the most prominent corner of this historic building. It’s accented by a beautiful architectural feature, this elegant kind of limestone surround over the original retail entrance. It’s a very elegant part of the building and we wanted to do something special with it.</p> <p><b>Karen Zwart Hielema</b></p> <p>The window gallery program exhibits four times a year on the solstice and equinox throughout the year. To submit your work, you would provide a visual image that describes what it looks like, and then a group of us at the office will look at the work and make our selections from there.</p> <p>We generally invite the office to an artist talk that will be on the subject matter of the window but we also like to talk about some of their other work so it gives us a chance to see the thought behind the idea and what they did in the window but also just give us a chance to see what else they’re up to.</p> <p><b>Dathe Wong</b></p> <p>This is a collaborative effort, this is something that involves more than just the team we have within here but really the community that we serve.</p> <p><b>Karen Zwart Hielema</b></p> <p>it’s a pretty visible commitment to design</p>
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