By Sarah B. Hood
Although early British surveyors tried to design Toronto on a neat grid, our ravines and railway tracks have left us with lots of untidy but intriguing culs-de-sac – which is good, because some of the best things thrive in these spaces. A railway overpass forces the long warehouse building at 388 Carlaw Ave., south of Gerrard, to end diagonally; consequently, unit 102H is oddly triangular. But it’s just right for two highly specialized metal shops that look out onto the gravelly alley south of the tracks. Paradox Structures is a high-end custom metal fabrication shop run for the last six years by Wyatt Currlin-Parzybok, who has previously trained and worked as a welder, aircraft technician, car mechanic and blacksmith. Each Paradox Structures project is unique, says Currlin-Parzybok. “We fabricate whatever the client’s dream is, and we make all our parts and pieces, whereas almost every other metal shop buys their pieces and puts them together.” Last year, Interior Design magazine featured a stainless steel fire pole and a glass-and-metal handrail the company created for a design by architect Jonathan Chou. Among other notable projects, ”We made a chandelier for some aerialist artists;’ Currlin-Parzybok says. “The girls hang from it and serve champagne. So that was a pretty elegant job. A lot of shops would pretty much hang up on people if they called with some of these requests:’ Currlin-Parzybok’s neighbours are Milen and Malcolm Munro, owners of Biseagal, an unusual bike shop. ”We didn’t want to do a mainstream shop with a shiny row of bikes and a wall of accessories;’ Milen Munro says, “so we thought ‘Let’s really promote what we can do with a difference.”
Biseagal (Scottish Gaelic for “bicycle”) can rebuild a frame tube by tube or tweak a top-quality sport bike for high performance. It’s also a hospital – almost a museum – for antique and unusual bikes, like the CCM with wooden rims that hangs overhead, or the quadricycle, with room for four pedallers and a baby, that often resides in the hallway. The shop handles non-bicycle work, too. “Right now, we’re working on the prototype for an uptight electric bass:’ Munro says. ‘And then there’s our ‘magic metal’ rods for NASA – that’s how they’re referring to this material,” she adds. “It’s a unique alloy that’s requiring some special care. The rods just needed to be cut down to an exact size. Very simple, in a way, but they need to be cut very accurately, and you’re not allowed to use a coolant or any sulfur on it. We’re told it will be sent into space.” Clearly, it takes special surroundings – more than just a cookie-cutter strip mall – to nurture the special services architects need. Or acrobats, or astronauts, for that matter.