History of the DX
The Design Exchange opened in the autumn of 1994, but its origins are rooted in the 1980s. At that time, the design community was concerned regarding a lack of support for design on the part of the Canadian government and cultural institutions. This belief was underlined by the closing of the federal agency, Design Canada, in 1985, followed by the University of Toronto's announcement in 1986 that it intended to close its school of architecture (fortunately this was soon rescinded).
In 1983 the Toronto Stock Exchange had abandoned its historic home of the last 46 years at 234 Bay Street. Olympic & York (O&Y) purchased the building which was designated a heritage property. In return for the air rights to build an office tower on the site, O&Y agreed to retain and restore the building. O&Y also commissioned a study to consider the idea of using the trading floor as a public facility.
The study indicated that Toronto designers from all disciplines represented an enthusiastic audience for a cultural design centre. Indeed designers were quick to lobby City Hall in support of the initiative. Their first gathering in January 1986 was a standing-room-only event. City officials were so impressed by this response that they immediately recognized a body of ten citizens as the "The Group for the Creation of a Design Centre in Toronto" (incorporated on February 6, 1987 and hence the birth of the organization which came to be known as the Design Exchange).
This citizens' group included:
This citizens' group persuaded the City to hold another feasibility study which concluded that a design centre in the old Toronto Stock Exchange "was both possible and desirable." [Lord Cultural Resources Planning and Management Inc., "Design Centre Feasibility Study" (Toronto: report prepared for City of Toronto Economic Development Committee, 1987)].
In 1986, O&Y sold the old stock exchange property to Cadillac Fairview and The Toronto Dominion Bank (Toronto-Dominion Centre West Limited). The sale was conditional on the design centre concept being retained. The new owner was also required to provide $500,000 to the City for 25 years, which would in turn would be passed along (minus a 10% holdback) onto the design centre to offset operating costs. This agreement, in effect, gave the Design Exchange operating rights in the historic building.
In 1988 the design centre was named the Design Exchange and the original citizens' group was made the founding board. The group established a Board of Management (which included the founding board and citizens and a couple of city counselors). Kuwabara Payne McKenna Blumberg Architects was commissioned to renovate and enlarge the non-heritage-designated spaces (exhibition spaces, administrative office space, the resource centre and meeting rooms).
In 1988 the Design Exchange (The Group for the Creation of a Design Centre in Toronto) began a capital campaign drive aimed at both the private and public sectors. All three levels of government sent signals that they were not interested in funding another museum. In 1993, after years of arduous lobbying, the federal and provincial governments finally confirmed funding for capital expenses in the sum of $6.3 million. The Design Exchange was now viewed by all levels of government as a component of Canada's economic recovery and renewal. In 1994 The Group for the Creation of a Design Centre in Toronto became the sub-tenant with a long-term lease (December 1, 1994 – May 30, 2001).
On September 21, 1994 the Design Exchange was officially opened by Prime Minster, The Right Honourable Jean Chrétien. The mandate for a permanent collection was established in 1996: to collect the best Canadian materials designed since 1945. Today the collection has over 450 industrial design objects and over one thousand paper archives and continues to grow. The Design Exchange has mounted over 300 exhibitions, organized numerous seminars, lectures, international conferences and educational programs and publications stimulating the debate over the role played by design in culture, industry and business. In addition, the organization runs the only national design awards program in the country, which receives hundreds of entries from all design disciplines. In recent years, the Design Exchange has published various design books and has worked closely with Industry Canada and other government branches to research, inform and implement a Canadian Design Policy Initiative.
The Design Exchange was the product of collaboration between a number of individuals who were passionate about the important legacy of Canadian design. The role that design played in the Canadian economy was an important one, yet the feeling was that the public was not aware of the contribution made by design. The group worked with designers, industry and government to develop the concept of the Design Exchange as a museum, as an educational and research centre and as an organization that understood the contribution that design makes to business's competitive edge. The following is a list of the Founding Board, and Founding Partners and Associates whose time and financial support has enabled the Design Exchange to expand on their vision and make a difference in the world of design.
Founding Board of Directors