Williamson Chong In Toronto Creates Beautiful Features In Laminated Wood

Wood is a quintessential building material in Canadian housing. Even with fairly high percentages of waste associated with wood-frame construction (which happens -in part- because it’s so affordable), lumber remains one of the most renewable materials available to us today since you simply cannot grow more steel or concrete.

The development of engineered wood products has meant that wood-frame construction can now support the needs of larger structures. In fact, in January 2015, the Ontario Building Code was updated to reflect new developments in wood-frame construction, which means they are currently permitting the use of timber-framed residences up to six stories high.

Thanks to the resilience of engineered wood materials, the tallest wooden structure in the world, The Wood Innovation and Design Centre at UNBC (pictured below), stands in Prince George, British Columbia. Designed by MG Architecture, at a height of 29.5m, the building utilizes a “dry construction” system of Cross-Laminated floor panels, and Glulam beams and columns to introduce a structural typology with a much quicker build-process than poured concrete buildings, and one that can even be disassembled!



Photograph by Ema Peter


But what is engineered wood products? It is the process of laminating smaller pieces of lumber together in strategic ways to produce structural components with high strength/weight ratios.

Clearly these materials can offer a number of practical advantages, but for the most part, consumers still think they are less-desirable than solid timber.  Williamson Chong, a small Toronto-based architectural practice who received the Prix de Rome in 2012, is making strides to change this thinking with projects that showcase the beauty of laminated materials when paired with the right techniques.



Photo by Bob Gundu



Take the digitally fabricated stair enclosure at House in Frogs Hollow for example (see images above and below), The undulating form connects the first and second floors, drawing light and air from the clerestory above into the space. Appearing solid, the form is composed of hundreds of CNC milled strips which were nested together on the sheets they were cut from, making for an iconic central element in the home.



Photo by Bob Gundu


Door with Peephole is another beautiful piece by Williamson Chong, and makes a strong case for the aesthetic appeal of oblique laminated timber. Soft curves are milled from the surface meeting in a linear ridge. The peephole is treated as an “activation device” across the doorway, taking the central focus, it's pulled inward toward the occupant with a vertical ridge pointing out sharply toward the visitor.



Photo courtesy Williamson Chong Architects



Wood may be a very traditional material, but the projects above prove that the construction methods and their appearance, don't need to be. Pairing digital fabrication techniques with engineered products in the right ways let's the layers of materials add visual detail that accentuates the form.



Photo courtesy Williamson Chong Architects


With a recent study from UBC indicating that the visual presence of wood surfaces actually helps reduce physiological stress, perhaps it’s time we stopped relegating exposed wood to rustic cottages and find more ways to bring it into our principal residences.

View more projects at Williamson Chong, or find out more about Wood Innovation and Design Centre


This article was researched and written by Miranda Corcoran, an Industrial Design and Digital Media student at OCAD University.

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