Williamson Chong is the Toronto architecture and design office of Donald Chong, Betsy Williamson, and Shane Williamson, experienced architects and academics committed to using both built and unbuilt work as vehicles to explore diverse agendas associated with research and practice. Their design approach privileges specificities of context, materials research, building performance, and client-based collaboration. Williamson Chong’s work ranges from furniture and installations to master plans and buildings, with a particular emphasis upon employing advanced digital tools as a means to engage architectural craft as expressed through the synthesis of emerging technologies with traditional methods of construction.
One of the recurring themes within Williamson Chong’s body of work is the notion of “Incremental Urbanism” which recognizes the possibilities of intensification latent in the morphology of urban fabric. The Galley House, for example, is situated on a long, narrow ‘leftover’ lot – 12’ wide. It occupies a once-neglected site – the basic lot configuration having not matched a desirable parcel in the mind of the market. Considered a prototype for future development, Galley House shows how a new, slender detached housing type in Toronto can be viable in terms of square footage while not shortchanging itself on natural light and programmatic amenity.
An emerging focus within the office is that of large-scale sustainable building strategies. Abbey Gardens, for example, is a master plan proposal for a prototypical community village which aims to service its immediate locale as well as a broader regional audience for those interested in sustainable food production and its impact socially, agriculturally, economically, nutritionally and culturally. The scheme is centred around a series of built projects which would stitch into existing open ‘rooms’ left behind by a recently decommissioned sand and gravel quarry — on a 441-acre lot two hours north of Toronto in Haliburton, Ontario.
Building upon the office’s interest in sustainable building strategies and its established expertise in the area of digital fabrication, Williamson Chong was awarded the 2012 Professional Prix de Rome from the Canada Council of the Arts. Over the last two years, the partners have visited Austria and Switzerland, Scandinavia, and Japan to engage international architects, researchers and industry leaders in advanced wood construction and emerging manufacturing technologies. The ongoing research situates digital fabrication and wood construction in a broader cultural context and links theories of design and technology with ecological aspects of building and construction. A recent exhibition, Living Wood, showcased the first physical exploration of these ideas at the Corkin Gallery in Toronto.
Most recently, Williamson Chong was selected for the 2014 Emerging Architectural Practice Award by the Royal Architectural Institute of Canada and 2014 Emerging Voices Award by the Architectural League of New York. Betsy Williamson was also named a finalist for the Architects’ Journal 2015 Emerging Woman Architect of the Year Award. The firm was also honored to have three projects selected for the 2014 Residential Architect Design Awards. The winning projects were selected from nearly 700 entries and “represent some of the best residential architecture that North America has to offer.”