DX Gala Honors Bruce Mau's "Big Thinking" With Massive Ice Crystals, Oversize Balloons

By Susan O'Neill October 26, 2010, 10:35 AM EDT

Photo: George Pimentel

The Design Exchange's Black & White Gala
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For the Design Exchange's seventh annual Black & White gala, held Saturday at the Bay Street venue, organizers paid tribute to this year's honouree—Bruce Mau, chairman and founder of Bruce Mau Design—with an evening inspired by his career, including works like his “Massive Change” exhibit and his “Incomplete Manifesto for Growth.”

“The whole theme was 'big,' based on Bruce Mau and his success as a big thinker in the world,” said Gillian Hoff, vice president of special events at the Design Exchange. “Everything was oversize, from the ice crystals [above the bar on the trading floor] to the giant vases [in the reception space], to the catering and Daniel et Daniel's giant scallop shells.”

To set the stage for the evening's V.I.P. dinner, which drew 220 guests and took place in the venue's exhibit hall, Hoff created decor elements that played off the theme of experimentation. “I was inspired by a line from his Web site that says Mau continues to pursue life's big question, 'Now that we can do anything, what will we do?'” said Hoff.

Hoff displayed large vinyl cutouts of words from Mau's “Incomplete Manifesto” on the walls and worked with students from the event design and management program at Seneca College to create four-foot square frames to hang candles and flowers above the dining tables. “The caterer, Eatertainment, created an amazing menu using the [purple and yellow] colours from the invitation in their selection of food,” she added. (Guests dined on a dessert of lemon sabayon topped with cubes of lavender marshmallow and grape jelly.)

A further 800 guests attended the main party, held on the venue's main level and trading floor. For the reception area, Hoff created a Moroccan lounge with metal cocktail tables from Furnishings by Corey, Moroccan-style cushions, belly dancers, and live snakes. “The idea was to use diverse cultural ideas and face your fears by using snake charmers,” Hoff said. CCR Solutions installed lighting on the ceiling using moving prisms in orange and purple to complement the theme, and Nourish Tea offered a selection of flavoured teas at a tea bar topped with ornate lanterns.

On the trading floor, Hoff hung 14 oversize white balloons from the ceiling on either side of the room and projected the faces of big thinkers like Mau, Dean Kamen, Albert Einstein, Sigmund Freud, Charles Darwin, Walt Disney, Plato, and Nikola Tesla onto the surface of the spheres. She also worked with Iceculture to create a massive seven-piece ice chandelier suspended from a truss line above the main bar.

“One of the hardest parts of putting in an ice sculpture is the last-minute installation time due to melting factor,” Hoff said. “We set up three sides of the bar and then had Iceculture install the chandelier at the very last minute before doors opened.” Four ice crystals, supported by wood frames built into the white Plexiglas bar, also topped each corner of the bar. CCR Solutions lit each of the ice sculptures from above with yellow and purple beams to create a prism effect.

Event sponsors included TD Bank Financial Group, Toronto Life, and NUVO.

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