For the 2016 Rio Games, the Canadian Olympic Committee appointed Yabu Pushelberg to design Canada Olympic House - home base for team Canada. Stemming from a modern, distinctly Canadian point of view, Canada Olympic House expresses a vibrant, welcoming energy.
The design team sought to create a dynamic environment that unfolds to reveal distinct branded rooms, each providing a unique function within the house. An enforced rigor elevates the mundane, interjected with sculptural installations by a group of talented Canadian artists and artisans with a transformative approach to materiality.
Upon approach, bold red 8-foot high hoarding printed with oversized white lettering welcomes visitors. Cladding the perimeter of the complex, the graphic continues the length of the exterior walkway and extends in to the entry lobby, creating one unified graphic statement. The bold red provides a geographic marker within the city that is identifiable from a number of vantage points throughout Rio, ultimately creating a signature presence for the Canadian Olympic Team.
In the lobby, the floor is covered in bright white vinyl, printed with Canadian Olympic Team graphics, while the bold red colour extends up a curved staircase drawing visitors upward. A free-standing log reception desk is the only piece of furniture in an otherwise open space.
Adjacent to the entry lobby on the main level is a modern log cabin-inspired Team Store. Simply detailed plywood millwork with red-painted edging provides reconfigurable shelving and display opportunities. One material, natural-colored plywood, is repeated on all vertical surfaces, and is paired with black metal on simple, geometric floor fixtures. Underfoot, carpet tiles laid in red and black checks evoke a quintessentially Canadian flannel plaid shirt.
As visitors travel up to the second floor from the main entry lobby, a mobile of suspended canoe paddles spirals upward and leads into the Celebration Lounge. The installation, designed by Toronto-based artisans Moss & Lam Art Studios, is made up of dozens of plain wood canoe paddles that were hand-painted solid red, ombre to solid white, and back to red. The floors are again covered in white vinyl graphics and also act as wayfinding, guiding visitors to adjacent rooms. The perimeter is enswathed with Hudson's Bay Company iconic-striped drapery, softening the space and allowing the mobile and a large scale photo of Team Canada at the Opening Ceremony on one wall to take center stage. As in the main lobby, a large log desk stands in front of a full-height red color-blocked Petro Canada graphic wall at one end.
Beyond the Welcome Hall, the Celebration Lounge offers a welcome gathering place; furnished with modular furniture from the Canadian Tire Canvas Collection. Reconfigurable groupings of ottomans and armless chairs were custom slipcovered by Quality & Co. in off-white, lending themselves to multi-use and modular layouts, encouraging interaction and a feeling of comradery, and of course celebration. Seating is interspersed with custom-made tables by Saint-Damase Furniture of exposed-edge plywood with black metal bases. The floor is overlaid with white graphic vinyl film and layered with textured rugs.
Plywood-clad walls are interspersed with televisions, visible from every vantage point, with main events being broadcast on a full-height TV wall at the far end of the room. Lining both sides of the room, bleacher-style stepped seating made of painted plywood, softened with loose throw pillows, adds definition to the room in the form of casual seating. Windows behind the bleachers are overlaid with sponsor-driven graphic film and wood slats, still allowing some natural light to filter into the space.
Overhead, a deconstructed Canadian flag made up of strips of painted canvas drop cloth is suspended from the ceiling. Also designed and made by Moss & Lam Art Studios, this art installation draws attention, focuses the perspective oriented toward the front of the room where events will be broadcast, and medal celebrations will be held.
The overall environment is punchy and graphic. Materials are simple, honest, and not overly processed. The transformation of simple, readily available objects and materials paired with the repetition of color gives continuity to the interconnected rooms. Residentially inspired spaces are relaxed, inspiring, and comfortable and clearly Canadian.
"We wanted to surprise people; to show the world that Canadian Design is progressive and sophisticated," George and Glenn commented. "The design for COH is conceptually powerful and aims to represent all things Canadian with respect to excellence. It is bold, smart, fresh and unexpected.
"Creativity does not equate to the amount of money spent on a project; Rio 2016 COH celebrates the transformation of simple, readily available objects and materials to express a verve and vitality unique to this time and place. An enforced rigor elevates the mundane, along with sculptural installations by a group of talented Canadian artists and artisans with a transformative approach to materiality. The result is something much more impactful than the sum of its parts.
"We are a proudly Canadian company, fortunate to have the opportunity to work on interesting, inspiring projects around the globe, and this was an incredible chance for our studio to come together with an amazing group of partners, suppliers and collaborators to donate our time and skills. It has been an invigorating experience for everyone involved."