The Making of a Space | The Story of Timbre



Just off 99th Street, near the Argyll industrial area of Edmonton, sits Timbre, a hub for 13 creative start-up companies. Designed with creative endeavours in mind, Timbre is separated into a fabrication workshop, a pod of a dozen studios, and a gallery. Founded in 2015 by Mike Lam  and Jordan Tomnuk, Timbre has a mandate to foster the creative community by renting both office space and studio space to burgeoning companies and makers. We spent the day at Timbre, chatting with Mike and taking in the energy and ambition of this space nestled away in the South side of Edmonton.  


Mike Lam Timbre YEG
Timbre YEG Offices


How did Timbre transition into a hub for creatives? 

When I bought the space in 1999 I was working as a designer in the plastic business and during that time I started to acquire woodworking machinery. I thought, maybe I should start making furniture, but having acquired so much equipment, I also contemplated opening up the studio and sharing the machinery with other industrial designers and woodworkers. That way everyone could benefit! 

I wanted recent graduates to have a collective community because we’re herd people. It can be very difficult after graduation – running a business, purchasing equipment, living in a basement to cut costs, etc. and that can make it impossible to function. Yet if we have a collective voice, we can encourage each other to be more creative and that’s not something that happens everywhere.

So, Jordan became one of the first renters for the space and through his connections we were able to rent it out to many other talented designers.


PublicityRoom Edmonton

Photo of Publicity Room Office 


What was the process for designing Timbre?

Trying to design space for different designers is a bit challenging because by nature we're quite critical. One of the challenges, from a design perspective, was to try to understand how designers work. Personally, I have a data collection process or an emotional data collection process in a public space, then, I bring the data back into my private space and try to process it. So, it's a process of having access to the outside and then the privacy of my own space. The Timbre studios reflect those two worlds.

For the public space, I tried to make it as inviting as possible with skylights, huge ceilings, and a bit of an industrial feel. I spent six months shopping in the Architectural Clearing House and one day I was lucky enough to buy these big windows and doors that determined the actual space in each studio. Having these big windows and doors means the designers don’t get stuck just hiding in their studios. It encourages physical interaction and the organic interaction between designers, and it ultimately has a positive effect on their design.


Timbre Edmonton
Unbelts Edmonton

Photo of Unbelts Studio Space (Lindsey + Claire)  


How does the design of Timbre relate to the mandate of your design process? 

Emotional reward is a primary drive of what I do. Form meets emotion. But in this instance, I'm dealing with designers who are creative and alive, I’m no longer dealing with materials and numbers. I'm dealing with people, creative members who have their own identity and that has been so exciting for me.

Timbre has about 30 designers coming in. They all have different backgrounds and they all have their stories. Their talent and how they love to evolve in the design community is amazing — I’m very lucky to be a part of this group. They make Timbre alive and meaningful. I don't know where we're going to go from here, but I know what’s coming will be interesting! 


Timbre Workspace Edmonton

Written in collaboration by the EDW Team + Leanne Olsen