Williamson described the firm’s work as “digital but not in a ‘swoopy’ sense.” Instead, their designs are restrained with an emphasis on transforming materials like wood. “What can you do with a small budget and a stack of wood?” said Williamson. Her approach is to transform the material through fabrication. “Things that seem simple are not. That’s how we want to approach technology.” The firm has grown up with the emergence of digital practice. “When we started working there was no one doing CNC milling in Toronto, but now there are dozens of people doing it,” said Williamson.
Williamson Chong has designed three multi-generational co-housing projects, including the nearly complete Grange Double Dwelling in Toronto’s Chinatown. A series of units are stacked atop one another, culminating in a strong brick corner that holds the intersection. Williamson said affordability was key. “We went to a brick yard to get the left-over remnants for the facade,” she said. The mottled color of the various bricks will be concealed by painting the facade white.
At Abbey Gardens outside Toronto, Williamson Chong has master planned a 441-acre former gravel quarry into what will slowly become a community focused on sustainable agriculture practice and education. “The local community needed a center for collecting knowledge about food, not just a place to buy food,” said Williamson. Her team distributed a series of structures around a prefabricated greenhouse called the “Cradle” that wraps around a depression in the landscape.
The firm has spent considerable time researching traditional and modern wood construction across the world, from Scandinavia to Japan. Williamson said she is attracted to the material for its warmth and ease of transformation. “We are a 100 percent building practice,” said Williamson.