Design Exchange Honours Its Home at Touchy-Feely Gala

From living art to features meant to be touched, the Design Exchange's annual Black and White Gala engaged all of the senses.

By Stephanie Gray October 30, 2007, 2:12 PM EDT

An Audi was the focus on the second floor.

Photo: Tina King/Presidential Gourmet

In addition to Eb Zeidler—the architect behind Ontario Place and the Eaton Centre—Design Exchange's black-and-white fund-raiser on Saturday, October 20, honoured its venue, recognizing the 70th anniversary of the historic Toronto Stock Exchange building. That guests could walk through the physical space of that landmark honoree fit this year's theme, “Feel This,” which was chosen to suggest the visual and physical elements of good design.

Even the invitation played with texture by incorporating raised mini-circles that felt like braille. Inside were sketches by Zeidler that also appeared as silk-screen prints on cushions throughout the gala.

Inside the third-floor exhibition hall of the Design Exchange, the 160 attendees sampled six types of hors d'oeuvres passed by models dressed and decorated to mimic Zeidler's work. The men's bare chests were painted with an architectural-inspired print, while the women wore black organza dresses and sculpted flower headpieces shaped like the Ontario Place dome—both designed by Seneca students. The students were part of the event's planning process, as helping with the event is part of their curriculum. “We're mentoring and involving them and letting them come up with ideas to make it work,” said Gillian Hoff, the Design Exchange's senior director for special events.
Seated at tables decked with bright yellow and orange dome-shaped floral centerpieces and white textured tablecloths, diners had two dinner options, courtesy of Presidential Gourmet Fine Catering: oven-roasted chicken stuffed with asiago and leeks accompanied by roasted garlic and buttermilk potato mash and spiced pecans on a sweet corn succotash, or a vegetarian alternative of roasted vegetarian strudel with sweet pea sauce and tender shoots.
Designer goods including jewelry, furnishings, and clothing were up for bid in a silent auction on the first floor by the main entrance. In the far corner of the room was a leather lounge, courtesy of Edelman Leather, where massive cow hides hung, inviting guests to touch and interact with them. Western movies played on the back wall, while bartenders in leather vests served Wild Ass wine from an adjacent bar. Guests looking for some high-rolling action could take their chances in the gambling room, provided by Stella Entertainment.
On the ground floor was the yellow-and-black Eb Zeidler Retrospective Lounge, where cool jazz played and miniature salmon sushi burgers with wasabi mayonnaise, crisp lobster ravioli with tomato corn relish, and lamb brochettes in mint and coriander were among the passed hors d'oeuvres. High tables covered in zebra-print cloth held dome-shaped yellow floral centerpieces lit from within, while the black vinyl couches featured pillows with Zeidler's sketches on one side that were available for purchase. Those in need of further relaxation could visit the Cake hand-massage table overlooking the gambling room.
Before walking up the flight of stairs to the second-level trading floor, guests encountered one of two square 10-foot-high water fountains from Waves Design Group. A portion of the trading floor was devoted to lounging, where modern black plastic chairs and black vinyl couches from Contemporary Furniture Rentals offered seating space to guests. Included in the area was an intimate seating arrangement referred to as the “kissing booth": Two raised circular beds covered in paisley-printed velvet were loaded with at least 30 plush cushions, and models wearing gowns and wrapped in fabric stood behind the beds.
A massive chandelier hung above an Audi that was the focus on the floor. Three food stations, decorated with Iceculture ice sculptures, provided comfort food like pear confit poutine with aged cheddar and red wine gravy, and gourmet grilled cheese on truffle french toast with balsamic onions from Eatertainment, and confit of braised beef short ribs served on a corn blini from Daniel et Daniel.
Ballet dancers from Hit and Run Productions performed onstage before Karim Rashid took a turn as DJ; four bands took the stage later that evening. State-of-the art VersaTube lighting shone waves of colour into the room from the back of the stage, while guests danced into the late hours of the night.

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