Unitfive Design Inc. Monday 10 Jun 2013

When a premiere 5-star restaurant in Toronto needed an artist installation that reflected their deep Canadian roots, they turned to Unitfive Design. The legendary Oliver & Bonacini restaurant, Canoe has always referenced elements of ‘the great white north’, so when it was remodeled by Anacleto Design they approached Unitfive to create an installation that embraced what was authentically ‘Canada’.

Elements of the rugged Canadian landscape are always a passion point for Lisa Santana and Kelvin Goddard, founders of Unitfive Design. Peppered around their studio are a selection of rocks, wood and maps, all collected from many inspirational excursions to Lake Superior and Northern Ontario. So finding inspiration in the Canuck landscape was second nature to the designers.

The final installation is a 12’ high, 25’ long mosaic map of Canada, and a 50’ feature wall. Both are articulated in over 10 000 pieces of brass. Each piece of the map mosaic was carefully patinaed in a colour chosen from a palette of dozens of deep greys, azure blues and golden and rust coloured browns. After the perfect colour was achieved on each piece, it was polished or honed to garner the ideal reflective quality and layered to create the final map. The feature wall is similar, but the mosaic visually graduates from golden bronze tones to darker slate colours, which creates a textured visual backdrop to the dining space.

Each of the 10 000 pieces were cut into 3”, 6” or 12” sections, textured individually and then layered upon each other to achieve a surface quality reflective of the Canadian landscape. The entire project took 30 days to install to ensure every aspect of the colour and materiality reflected the Unitfive vision.

Goddard talks about their inspiration, “There is a remarkable physicality to the Canadian landscape when you see it from a seat of a plane. The only way to capture that authentically was to build this by hand, piece by piece, on-site. It was the only way to do the cartography justice.”

The response to the map has been overwhelmingly positive. Lisa Santana describes her interaction with patrons who have responded to the work. “People gravitate to the map Canada. It doesn’t matter where you come from or what you do. People will stop, point to a place on the map and start telling you a personal story. We wanted viewers to surrender to the scale of the map for a moment, and we’ve been humbled by the positive connections they have made.” The Unitfive installation successfully creates a point of memory, but also falls to the background and provides a rich backdrop for a 5-star dining experience.

Supplier, Designer and Manufacturer : Lisa Santana and Kelvin Goddard of Unitfive Design Inc.

Photography Credit: Ben Rahn of A Frame Studio