Souk Habitat installation presents design through an intimate experience

Creative platform SOUK strives to put Montreal designers on the map

The SOUK Habitat installation replicates the layout of an apartment with ceramic artwork and glassware. Courtesy SOUK

For over sixteen years, the Montreal-based creative platform SOUK has provided local designers with a space to raise awareness for Montreal's design culture. Founded in 2003, SOUK works to connect designers across multiple disciplines under the shared experience of working locally.

The platform’s latest project, SOUK Habitat, was launched in the winter of 2020 with the goal of providing the general public access to the works of underground Montreal design that would otherwise go undetected. 

The installation, in partnership with real estate group Ivanhoe Cambridge, replicates the layout of an apartment, with objects displayed as if to mimic the natural setting of a living space. Ceramic artwork and glassware are arranged as if they are about to be used to host a dinner party, and designer clothing is found hanging on clothing racks. The concept for the installation was inspired by a longing for physical space during the pandemic.

“When the pandemic hit, instead of doing a fair like we did every year, we went virtual,”  said Azamit, founder and creative director of SOUK. “And I thought virtual wasn't enough. We needed to see the products.”

This year, the annual SOUK design fair will be hosted in person on the Mezzanine floor at Place Ville Marie. For its 18th edition, over 50 Montreal designers are expected to present new pieces to the general public from Dec. 1 to Dec. 5. With previous editions attracting an estimated 20,000 people over a five-day period.

SOUK Habitant and the annual design fair are accompanied with the panel series “Meet the Designers” this year. Courtesy SOUK

Alongside SOUK Habitat and the design fair, this year also saw the launch of SOUK’s latest series of panels called “Meet the Designers.” The series consists of roundtable discussions between local designers from across multiple disciplines about their respective artistic processes, which take place every two months or so. 

The latest panel, “The Art of Shaping,” took place on Oct. 1. It focused on the act of shaping and the impact that material has on the design process. Panelists Chris Fusaro, Clara Jorisch, Mie Kim and Verre D’Onge discussed how, as designers, their respective crafts are defined by the physical limits of geography. Designers rely on the materials that are readily available in order to  bring their craft to life. 

“I like collaborating with people who are local and who do work locally,” said industrial designer and panelist Chris Fusaro. “In Quebec, or Montreal specifically, we have a lot of metal fabrication. We make a lot of aluminum and steel locally. So that's something I try to take advantage of when I'm doing metal work, as we can get things done very cheaply here.”

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“There’s a bit of a responsibility on my end as a new designer in this place where design isn’t a thing, to help boost it up a bit more.” — Chris Fusaro

For Fusaro, locality not only impacted the practical aspects of his craft, but his journey as a designer as well. A Montrealer born and raised, Fusaro first studied product design at Dawson before going on to earn a bachelor’s degree in sculpture at Concordia University. During this time, the absence of an industrial design culture in the city impacted Fusaro’s search for local inspiration.

“As a designer coming up in Montreal, I don't have older Montreal designers that I'm looking up to like, ‘Oh, they're my hero,’ because there are none. I'm looking at European designers and I'm like, ‘I like those Italian guys from the ‘60s.’”

SOUK gives local desginers a space to share their work. Courtesy SOUK

However, Fusaro believes that the lack of an established design culture in Montreal provides local designers with a unique opportunity for experimentation.

“I think this idea of locality, or Montrealness, plays into the fact that there's very little structure and very little to build on, and that's kind of like a blessing and a curse in the sense that we're a little bit [like] the underdog, we're a little bit on our own. But at the same time, it's a fresh canvas,” Fusaro said.

For this reason, Fusaro is happy that events like “Meet the Designers” provide a space where the general public can see the innovative work of local designers first hand. SOUK Habitat, as well as the panel series provide the public with an insight into the artistic process rarely seen outside the design world.

“There's a bit of a responsibility on my end as a new designer in this place where design isn't a thing, to help boost it up a bit more,” said Fusaro.

While SOUK has yet to announce the date and theme for its next “Meet The Designers” panel, more information can be found on SOUK events on their website. SOUK Habitat is free to visit for the general public every Thursday through Saturday from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m.