Williamson Chong Architects founding partner Donald Chong has a long list of go-to products to share, but he can’t help but first rave about his hometown of Toronto, where he still lives and works. Visitors looking for great architecture, he says, would be remiss not to include—in addition to Ludwig Mies van der Rohe’s Toronto-Dominion Centre and Viljo Revell’s city hall—the city’s array of communities, the Algonquin Island community in the Toronto Islands, and Queen Street West. “There’s a commitment to the public realm that you see,” Chong says. Residents are aware that “what happens on your particular lot will have an impact across your neighborhood.”
Not surprisingly, Chong gravitates to materials and products with which “we can conspire to design something that ultimately leads us to better cities.” Wood is a favorite medium for its versatility and resiliency. “It weathers and patinas in a way that reminds us that materials and spaces should only appreciate,” he says. His litmus test for good design is simple: “Can it last?” When specifying or designing a furniture piece, for instance, he’ll mull over its construction: “If you can build it well, you can make it last.” After all, in a pedestrian-friendly city such as Toronto, he says, “it’s better to have a good table than a good car.”
Wanda is the senior editor of technology, practice, and products for ARCHITECT and Architectural Lighting. She holds a B.S. civil engineering from Michigan State University, an S.M. building technology from MIT, and an M.A. journalism from Syracuse University. Follow her on Twitter.