Our Story

Makeshift

/ˈmākˌSHift/
adjective

made using whatever is available; improvised for the moment.

Makeshift has had a long journey to this point, from its early beginnings in a basement, its days as a student collective and discussion group, to the challenges of running a design agency. We have never shied away from the definition of our namesake, in fact we take it as a point of pride that whatever we might be at any given moment, is always a mirror of the people that power us. As we grow as artists, designers, and people, so does Makeshift take new forms to hold that space for us. 

This section of our website is an honest, improvised, and makeshift look back at where we came from. 

 

Early Beginnings

Timeline: 2008

Location: Richmond Hill, ON

Intent: Section Coming Soon!

 

Makeshift22

Timeline: 2011 - 2013

Location: Carleton University, Ottawa, ON

Intent: Find new ways of learning. Think critically about what we were being taught. Build relationships with other students, band together, and seek out the knowledge we were curious about.

 

Makeshift22 was a student collective, founded by Alex Chong at the Azrieli School of Architecture and Urbanism at Carleton University. As students, we felt there were gaps in the education we were being given: at the time we believed the pedagogy of the school to be too insular, too out of touch with what we were seeing out in the field. We wanted to find new ways of learning, and to have somewhere we could meet, discuss, and think critically about what we were being taught.

 

M22 became that space, a place to band together and seek out the knowledge we were curious about. We ran our own extracurricular projects and challenges, created architectural interventions in our school, and built relationships with other students, both within our program and those adjacent faculties. The group gave us a much needed outlet for experimentation, and it empowered us knowing that we could create that space ourselves if we could not find it within our faculty.

 

Eventually, the group fell dormant as schoolwork became more intense. Although the work we did with M22 started to fall off, its spirit lived on its members. Our work developed an edge, and the friends we made were steadfast. Little did we know, M22 would prove to be the strong foundation we needed to build on in the future.

 

Live/Work

Timeline: 2014 - 2016

Location: Toronto, ON

Intent: Foster a community through shared learning, and build resources that empower our pursuits. Build an opportunity for ourselves to explore and experiment. 

 

In 2014, Alex Chong was living in an apartment on top of a restaurant, in Toronto’s Chinatown. When he was told the tenants underneath his third floor home were vacating, he saw an opportunity to combine the two spaces, and recreate the environment of the dormant Makeshift22 in downtown Toronto. Our group of friends had all begun feeling the acute lack of a creative studio space like we had in our years at Carleton, a space to experiment and explore other pursuits. Alex found three more roommates, both original M22 members and new friends. Alongside so many others, the new Makeshift Collective began to take form.

We started small, using our limited resources and borrowed tools to make the most of our humble space. Starting with a single power saw, we created loft spaces to maximize the usage of each space: raised beds made room for living space, a projector being thrown away at a workplace became our movie nights, and we opened our kitchen up to family-style dinners. Our apartment of four had regular drop-ins, and soon we began to take on small projects, competitions, and film challenges. Slowly, the energy of Makeshift came back to us.

 

Projects became larger, until finally the space could no longer hold those living there as well as the  ambitions for the work we wanted to do at the same time. We felt empowered, our humble beginnings had procured us new tools and opportunities. Empowerment turned to curiosity and we began to ask ourselves: could we become a design agency?

 

The Collective

Timeline: 2016 - Present

Location: Toronto, ON

Intent: Discover agency in collecting our individual skills and in building a team. Share what we've built with others, and expand our community. Find other collectives, and in doing so broaden our perspectives on what impact we might have on the community around us.

 

Curiosity requires commitment, and so in Spring of 2016 we wiped the slate clean: the old studio was torn down, the loft beds removed, and we renovated to fit all new facilities and tools. As soon as we gave our members the chance, they carved out the space in their image, and the direction of the studio was decided by us effecting change directly to the space. Our wood shop was framed in by Fall, and the sewing and photography studios followed soon after.  

 

Large projects started to come in, multimedia, design and build projects that required us to work as a team. By collecting our skills as a team, we discovered agency: in the work we took on, the clients we chose, and in our mission. Curiously, the more diverse skill sets we added, the larger the scope of projects we could take on. Two years went by, and we were humbled by all that we learned working as a team professionally. We count ourselves lucky to taste a bit of freedom in the work we chose, and the risks we took on made us feel capable. However, two years of learning and testing raised even more questions, and many of our core members returned to their respective fields or to academia in hopes of finding new perspective to bring back to Makeshift.

 

While we learned, the space and its facilities developed with us. Now we want to share what we are building with others, and expand our community. We opened up the studio for general rental, and in finding other individuals, other collectives, and other friends, we hope to broaden our perspectives on what impact we might be able to have on the community around us.