Drawing Design Inspiration from Black Culture
By Andrea Woo
In the mid-90s, Toronto-based designer Del Terrelonge participated in a contest put on by Kareem Abdul-Jabbar to design a jazz club. While others opted for traditional, 1920s, speakeasy-themed venues, Terrelonge’s team opted for a more modern approach, drawing inspiration from the progression of jazz music.
“That whole [speakeasy] thing was repressing to Black people,” says Terrelonge. “You had to go to these places [to hear the music back then]…. If you take jazz as a creative, iconic movement—the most progressive expression of the last 100 years—[our] design of the space mirrored this theme.”
While Terrelonge’s proposal was ultimately not chosen, his fondness for a contemporary, urban aesthetic has continued to permeate much of his work. Backed by his multi-disciplinary design studio, rhed, Terrelonge’s diverse range of projects—architecture, graphic, interior, product and new media design—are held together by the common thread of modern appeal. Past projects that Torontonians may recognize include the Brassaii bistro lounge, and club Zinc (now called In the Mood), for which he won a 2001 James Beard Foundation award.
Perhaps his most anticipated project is the Templar Hotel, a 27-room boutique hotel located in the heart of Toronto’s Theatre District. Terrelonge calls this his most challenging project to date, as rhed will handle every aspect of design, from two-dimensional to three, as well as the business aspect. Complete with a bar, spa and penthouse restaurant, the high-end hotel seems a fitting piece to Toronto’s metropolitan puzzle. Already eight years in the making, the Templar is slated to open late spring or early summer.
Other projects he is currently working on include Langston Hall and the Smart House, and a promotional campaign for the Beatles Revolution Lounge at the Mirage in Las Vegas. Terrelonge is also the founder of the Coloured Development Fund (CDF), a foundation that provides scholarship funds in the arts for underprivileged students.