Five Minutes With Nathan Lee & Trevor Coghill Of Contexture

aboutThis week we exchanged words with local aesthetes Nathan Lee and Trevor Coghill of Contexture Design (Nathan answered our questions with Trevor over his shoulder). Their work “emphasizes simple, elegant and sustainable design, and is often inspired by reclaimed materials with historical, cultural or environmental significance”. The pair will be participating in the upcoming IDSWest show at the new Vancouver Convention Center this October 14th to 17th. Be sure to check them, and it, out…



Three things about your neighbourhood that make you want to live there: I’m actually in the process of moving from Main St to Commercial Drive. Things I’m going to miss about Main St: the beer selection at Brewery Creek and the food at Hawkers Delight. Things I’m looking forward to on Commercial: the coffee at Caffe Napoli and some pretty stellar neighbours.

A one sentence statement to describe Contexture: Our work emphasizes simple, elegant and sustainable design, and is often inspired by reclaimed materials with historical, cultural or environmental significance.

What are you most excited to be working on right now? We’ve been working on this glider made from scrap veneer and paper.  It’s sort of like one of those balsawood planes you got as a kid, only it flies like a hot damn!  Sometimes product development can be a chore, and other times it’s nerding out on glider aerodynamics.

What inspires you? For us it’s always been about the materials. We often start with waste materials and let them take us somewhere. Making a conceptual connection between what something was and what it could be is what we’re aiming for. It’s like there’s this nugget of meaning in every object, you just have to dig it out. Hopefully, along the way that nugget can tell a story about where it came from. We talk about nuggets a lot. Sometimes they’re gold; sometimes it’s just chicken. You never know till you dig it out…

What sort of music do you listen to when you work? I’ve been listening to a lot of podcasts lately. My week got a bit more enjoyable when CBC’s Wiretap finally was released as a podcast.

If you could redesign any Vancouver landmark, which would you pick and what would you do? We were just talking about the Bloedel Conservatory the other day. I know a lot of people have put some serious effort into saving it, but it’s a bit of a strange facility. It’s this chunk of the tropics dropped into a coastal rainforest. How is that a reflection of Vancouver? It is a cool building though. We were thinking if you lost the tropical shrubbery and kept the structure it would make a pretty neat music/arts venue.

Contexture uses a lot of reclaimed materials. What has been your most satisfying re-purposing project? I found our Home Phone project pretty gratifying. It’s not really what I would call a market ready design, but it tackles some pretty important issues, especially in this city. It’s a decommissioned phone booth repurposed as a homeless shelter. With 9 square feet to work with, this project was definitely a challenge, but it offered some interesting design solutions. It didn’t hurt that the subject matter had some real meat to it.

If you were going to recommend a Vancouver artist/designer/musician/personality for Scout to interview, who would it be? I’d like to see an interview from Erin Boniferro at Collage Collage.

Why is Vancouver a good city for design? This is a young city. In terms of design culture, if cities like London and New York are developed, Vancouver is about to enter its teen years. These are exciting times in the development of a city. A lot of important things happen in the pre-teen years, and with teenaged angst right around the corner, it’s an exciting time to be here.

One thing you would change about the art + design industry in Vancouver:
Because this is a young city, on a lot of levels I don’t think it has really embraced its growing design culture. It’s not just design; the arts in general need investment. Culture is what makes a city livable. Try and find an affordable studio space in this city and you’ll see what kind of barriers exist for new artist and designers. All that pre-teen energy and nowhere to direct it. You couldn’t pay me enough to repeat my teen years.

Best Vancouver place/show to be inspired by emerging artistic talent: Umm…I don’t get out much.

Three places you like to take out of town guests to show off the design scene in Vancouver: I’m a pretty terrible host. It’s something I’m working on.

Is there a local designer or artist that you admire above all others? I couldn’t decide on one designer, but here are 3 local project that have blown my socks off: Monument for East Vancouver by Ken Lum. It’s hard to believe no one was opposed to this project going up.  I’m not sure how this got made, but I’m sure glad it did. Cetology by Brian Jungen. A life-sized skeleton of an endangered Bowhead Whale made from injection-molded lawn chairs. What more could you ask for? 2.4 Chair by Omer Arbel. I know it’s cliché for designers to wet themselves over a pretty chair, but this chair is really pretty.


There is 1 comment

  1. Really good interview. I saw the contexture phone booth home last year, it was great. Smart boys.