Founded in 2016 by Andrea McLean and Stella Boyland, The Aviary is Vancouver’s hippest co-working space and retail shop for architects, designers and creatives. Supporting indpendent designers and visionaries, the duo – who met at architecture school – are on a mission to connect the public more directly to design in an inclusive and inspiring environment. We found out how in a conversation with co-founder Stella Boyland.
The Aviary is a co-working space and retail shop for designers and creatives. How did the idea come about to create a creative working hub for this specific niche?
We had a desire to work with others who share our interests in design. As we both felt isolated in our respective work/life situations, Andrea working alone in her own office running her interior design business and me just quitting my job at a large architectural firm to be a stay at home mom with a young child, we wanted to create a space for us to work alongside others who are also working independently.
What makes the space unique in your opinion?
We are on street level in a mainly residential neighbourhood. Most coworking spaces are in the downtown core of Vancouver, but we are just 10 minutes away from downtown, therefore not at all remote. This means no parking problems, and it feels much more family-friendly as a lot of our members have young kids who they may bring to the studio occasionally. We are on a small commercial stripe with houses and apartments and lots of green space surrounding us. We are part of a small cluster of locally owned small businesses making our location quite special.
Why was it important for The Aviary to connect design more directly to the public?
Vancouver is still a very young city and is growing up – we feel that it is up to the local designers to raise awareness and appreciation for good design. Even though there are some design events in the city, it doesn’t do enough to engage with your regular person who may be intimidated to go to those events, if they even find out about them. By being on street level and having interesting design installations in our window or design related events happening where everyone can see helps to put design into the passersbys’ consciousness and maybe next time they will come in and find out more.
Do you support local designers?
Our retail shop mainly stocks items that our own members have made or designed. We curate art and objects mainly from the local creative community, but sometimes we bring in things internationally if we feel the products are well made and designed. The retail component adds to our little street in that there is always something new for locals who are getting a coffee next door to look at.
Many come in wanting to know more about what we do as we do not look like a typical retail shop nor do we look like an office space. More importantly, the store-front lets our members exercise their creativity to put on an installation of their work, for example, and that helps gain exposure for their respective businesses.
What kind of events and workshops do you host?
We participate in Vancouver Design Week with our own installation and open to the public as part of a studio crawl during design week. We have hosted many talks on topics related to design, owning and operating a small business, leadership, life coaching. We have had architectural film nights as well. Workshops include weaving, calligraphy, watercolour, drawing, ring carving, kokedama making, floral arrangements, photography 101 and more.
How do you think the Canadian architecture and design scene has evolved over the years?
Mostly, architecture has been driven by private residential development (large and small) as we are in (and maybe the tail end of) a very hot real estate market. As a result, design standards have not been pushed as your regular home buyer clamber for anything they can get their hands on at high prices with no regard to how well the property has been designed. With a cooling real estate market, hopefully, now buyers will demand better design instead of just buying anything that is available. Large developments have contributed to public infrastructure immensely as the City of Vancouver leverage developers to contribute and build public amenities as part of a private development, which has made downtown Vancouver one of the most livable places in North America.