The Canada Council for the Arts honoured two Toronto firms for their efforts to unlock the design potential of new wood products and create buildings that are as beautiful as they are ecologically sound. Williamson Chong Architects received the Professional Prix de Rome to pursue research in this area, and Paul Raff Studio was awarded the Ronald J. Thom Award for Early Design Achievement for a decade of building experiments in sustainable architecture.
The $50,000 Professional Prix de Rome awarded to Williamson Chong Architects is for their project entitled Living Wood. They will explore innovative wood technology within a broader cultural and ecological context while focusing on a new product called cross-laminated timber (CLT). CLT is created by stacking small wooden boards (taken from trees in sustainably managed forests) and gluing them together to create an exceptionally strong and versatile product. Digital fabrication tools (called Computer Numerically Controlled milling machines) allow manufacturers to sculpt this wood in a variety of shapes – including organic forms – which are used to create wonderfully distinctive buildings. The prize will enable the firm’s partners to travel to Europe and Asia to visit buildings and production facilities and meet with manufacturers, researchers, designers and writers. They will give lectures about their work as they travel and share lessons learned upon their return.
“Canadians increasingly aspire to live in expertly designed communities that produce a lower carbon footprint,” said Canada Council Director and CEO Robert Sirman. “Williamson Chong Architects and Paul Raff Studio will continue to investigate new ways of using a natural Canadian resource – wood – to create elegant buildings that exist in harmony with the landscape and the people who reside in them.”
Professional Prix de Rome
Administered by the Canada Council for the Arts, the Professional Prix de Rome in Architecture recognizes excellent achievement in Canadian architectural practice. It is awarded to a young architectural firm that has completed its first buildings and demonstrated exceptional artistic potential. The prize allows the winners to travel to other parts of the world to hone their skills, develop their creative practice and strengthen their presence on the international scene. The project can involve multiple trips to a number of destinations, spread over a two-year period.
Betsy Williamson, Shane Williamson and Donald Chong are the partners that make up Williamson Chong Architects, a design and architecture firm. Their collective interest in architectural craft is expressed through the synthesis of new technology with traditional methods of construction. Their shared ambition is to create well-detailed modern environments that shape positive and engaging experiences.
Williamson Chong considers projects as opportunities to explore the intricate relationship between site, program and materiality. The firm’s portfolio is varied. From institutional projects and urban design strategies to residential architecture and furnishings, they create tailored solutions for each client. Their work is both local and international, providing them opportunities to engage in Toronto’s urban growth as well as broader-cultural exchanges and environmental issues.
Williamson Chong has been recognized with numerous awards from the Ontario Association of Architects, the city of Toronto and the Design Exchange. They have also received the Ronald J. Thom Award for Early Design Achievement from the Canada Council for the Arts and the Young Architect’s Prize from the Architectural League of New York.
Ronald J. Thom Award for Early Design Achievement
The $10,000 Ronald J. Thom Award for Early Design Achievement Award is given every two years to a candidate in the early stages of his or her career who demonstrates outstanding talent or potential in architectural design and a sensitivity to architecture’s allied arts, crafts and professions, including landscape, interior and furniture design, and decorative and graphic arts.
This prize acknowledges the Paul Raff Studio practice, which is devoted to creating lyrical and evocative relationships between people and place. Renowned for imaginatively deploying low-cost, locally sourced materials, Raff plays with the energy of the sun, and in doing so, creates meaningful and ecologically sound designs throughout Canada and abroad. In addition to designing buildings, his firm collaborates with other architects, designers, and artists on the design of public and architecturally integrated artworks that push the limits of, and contribute to the field of architecture.
Founding principal Paul Raff spent his childhood primarily in Quebec and Saskatchewan, to which he attributes his interest in landscape and atmosphere. He first began his practice as an artist exploring the effects of the physical environment on one’s experience of inhabitable space. Now based in Toronto, Paul Raff Studio assists clients to create projects where art becomes life. Projects include residential, cultural, and commercial architecture, multi-media and public art, private gardens and special features. They are well known for projects such as the multi-award winning Cascade House, a family residence that unites environmental sustainability with artistic beauty.
Paul Raff Studio has been published internationally, and has been the subject of three television documentaries. They have won numerous awards such as two Allied Arts Awards for lifetime achievement, one from the Ontario Association of Architects, and the other from the Royal Architectural Institute of Canada.