Does the start to summer get any better than good friends, new friends, free hooch and an evening of design? Last night down at Harbourfront Centre, the Toronto and international design community congregated to unveil the winners from Azure’s first ever AZ Award finalists.

Azure is Canada’s design glossy bible, showcasing our local talents and connecting global design, architecture, interiors and curiosity. The magazine celebrated its 25th Anniversary this past Fall 2010 with a evening soiree at the Wychwood Barns eagerly attended by local elite. Last night proved to be no different while also hosted the international finalists anxiously awaiting the awards ceremony.

The “internationally renowned jury was comprised of landscape architect Claude Cormier of Claude Cormier Landscape Architects, architect Craig Dykers of Snøhetta, industrial designer Patty Johnson of Patty Johnson Design, architect and product designer Eero Koivisto of Claesson Koivisto Rune, and interior designer Glenn Pushelberg of Yabu Pushelberg”.

Set at the Lakeside Terrace conversations in French, Spanish, English and Italian filled the air. We arrived mid ceremony to a stylish crowd chatting over glasses of chilled pinot and Bud Light?! While the awards brought us all together it felt like everyone was charged with the energy of a warm pre-summer cocktail night; a promise of many to come as the summer continues to unfold.

Ceasarstone as one of the main sponsors showcased their quartz surfaces throughout the event spaces. I triangular installation previewed their newest collections Concetto, a hand-made surface created from individually cut and bound semi-precious stones. The three surfaces, two in brilliant shades of azures and one in blushing pink were back-lit providing the perfect background for photo ops. Then the outdoor bars positioned at either end of the terrace featured a quartz surface from the Motivo line. This is their new embossed and patterned collection featuring textured surfaces. One bar was decked out in crisp white damask while the other was slick in a black alligator pattern.

The gallery displayed the finalist’s work and included both images and prototypes for us to feast on. In the centre of the space a fully recyclable concept kitchen designed by Valcucine proving to be a showstopper with vibrant green glass surfaces and LED lighting. A cable system was used to elevate and display the various components involved in the construction of this futuroso culinary proposal.

I was pleased to see the Richmond East Co-op project on the board a building you’ve probably passed a dozen times and not taken much notice. It was designed by Teeple Architects and offers up a super modern approach to government led builds.

I also really liked the Hydroelectric lamp conceived by Hierve, it’s power is harvested from the movement of water via out average plumbing systems, it offers up some interesting applications.

The gallery will remain open to the public at Harbourfront Centre until September 25th. And with all the fun stuff coming up this summer down by the lake I strongly recommend taking a quick peak when you’re in the neighbourhood.