How An Old Sewing Warehouse in Toronto Has Become A Multi-use Creative Hub

For years creatives who didn’t belong to a company where condemned to beavering away in the bedrooms they rented, on the floors they slept on by favour of a friend and at the coffee shops they were forced to order, and then drink, copious amounts of black coffee. That era is over – we have crawled out of the proverbial woodwork and reclaimed public spaces as ours.

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68 Claremont is one project that is doing so on our behalf: the former sewing floor in downtown Toronto has been converted into a 6000 sqft multi-use production space. Galleries, desks, booths and video and photography production are sprawled across the expansive open space – flooded with natural light and responsive to the needs of the creatives who call it home – or, perhaps more exciting for the creative, the office.

Tom Chung, the architect behind the mammoth project, has kept the industrial feel – using raw pine, keeping the galvanized steel in place and then filling the space with affordable custom crafted furniture. The space is more than just a workspace though it is a space for people, to connect, to create, to collaborate and to do so in a place where they don’t need to hide behind the guise of ordering a beverage. Events are regularly held at 68 Claremont and it is also home to the Canon Creator Lab, an event space for Canon Cameras.

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We spoke to the man behind the project, Tom, about his vision and the importance of such a space in today’s society.

The Plus: How did you first come up for the idea for 68 Claremont?
Tom Chung:
The project was brought to me by the client as they were searching for a new office location. Their idea was to find a space large enough to host not just their office, but also create a hub for photographers, writers and film makers in the city to meet, work and exchange ideas.

TP: How did you find the space?
TC:
The space was found by the client and I was brought in just before they signed a lease.

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TP: Did you have a vision for the space or did it unfold organically as the project progressed?
TC:
The resulting space was very much the result of budget restrictions. The existing walls were kept, the floors were left exposed when possible and we kept the material palette very raw and economical. The client had the idea that they wanted to have an event space, co-working space, photo studio and gallery, but had no plan of implementation. We worked together to create a floor plan that resolved all these conditions as well as informing the logistical model of how they would operate.

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TP: Why do you think it is so important to have creative hubs, like 68 Claremont, in existence?
TC:
I believe the space is interesting as they are offering up free space and resources for people in the community in order to create a cross pollination of ideas and resources. It can be the right catalyst to bring ideas to life much faster.

TP: What is your favourite aspect of the project? (anything from design to atmosphere to vision)
TC:
We are quite happy with how we were able to create a very dynamic plan that was restricted by the existing building structure.

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TP: What kind of people visit 68 Claremont?
TC:
There are two memberships available at Free Space, the first anyone can sign up for and use the drop in facilities. The second is by invitation through Free, and they have more access to gear and the studios. During any of their events such as gallery openings or film screenings you may find any number of people with the Toronto creative community, film makers, photographers, small business owners, artists or designers.

TP: What kind of events do you hold in the space?
TC:
Free hosts everything from talks, live music, workshops, dinners, gallery openings and film screenings

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TP: Sum up the space in three words.
TC:
Douglas Fir Plywood

TP: What’s next?
TC:
I am currently working on a collection of domestic objects to be exhibited in early 2017 as well as a few products with manufacturers.

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