I spent Labor Day in Ottawa (Labour Day, actually, if you want to be specific) enjoying all the culinary (duck poutine at Murray Street) and cultural (the Canadian Museum of Civilization showcased an awesome Mayan exhibition) delights the capital city had to offer. In a city of stunning architecture, one relatively new structure stood out: the Ottawa Convention Centre, which opened in April 2011 and boasts a sweeping glass facade for panoramic views of the Rideau Canal. Inside the LEED Silver certified building, multi-level concourses wrap around a wall more than 100 feet high, assembled from century-old lumber reclaimed from the Ottawa river. This is just the beginning of the building’s impressive statistics, but I’ll be honest, it was that shining, almost otherworldly egg shape—the beauty of its construction—that really got my attention.
Ottawa Convention Centre (photo courtesy of tsaiproject)
Such an impressive glass structure in a city known for its fearsome winters and heavy snows got me thinking: about the materials we use for anything from architecture to upholstery to what we choose to wear close to our skin. And this line of thinking, conveniently, brings me to yesterday, when I sat on a judging panel for Material ConneXion, a global materials consultancy and library.
Now, I’ve never done Jury duty; I’ve actually never been on a judging panel for anything (although I have dreams of judging a BBQ or pie-making contest one day, a girl can only dream), and I was excited about this opportunity. I had visited Material ConneXion’s offices on Madison Ave. last month when they were showcasing materials from the Olympics, and the depth and breadth of the materials they house (and let’s face it, the sheer coolness of same) is impressive.
Material ConneXion’s subscription-based materials library is the world’s largest, with access to over 6,500 materials and counting: new ones are added every month, when a jury deliberates over a selection of submissions and decide which—due to their innovation, uniqueness, functionality, sustainability, and more—are worthy of being added to the archive. The jury experience, while showing me some interesting new materials, also exposed me to the knowledge and expertise of the fellow jurors, who brought their diverse understanding of design, architecture, marketing, and more into an engaging discussion on why a material may or may not be suitable for the library.