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Emerging Woman Architect of the Year shortlist: Betsy Williamson

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Williamson Chong’s Betsy Williamson has been shortlisted for the 2015 Emerging Woman Architect of the Year Award

Betsy Williamson founded Toronto-based Williamson Chong with fellow architects Donald Chong and Shane Williamson. Her work ranges from furniture and installations to masterplans and buildings, with a particular emphasis on using digital tools. In 2012 Williamson Chong won Canada Council of the Arts’ Professional Prix de Rome. Alongside the practice’s other work, Williamson has spent the past two years travelling in Austria, Scandinavia and Japan to pursue her prize-winning research proposal focusing on new-growth timber. Last year the practice received the 2014 Emerging Architectural Practice Award from the Royal Architectural Institute of Canada, and the 2014 Emerging Voices Award from the Architectural League of New York.

Q&A

Betsy Williamson

Studied Barnard College, New York, and Harvard
First practice
Brian Healy Architects
First project
Lincoln Street Garage, Boston, USA
Current projects
Masterplan for a ski club; a studio garage for a handbag designer; a family house; and a brewery in Ontario
Current clients
The Exchange Brewery; Osler Bluff Ski Club; Hoi Bo; Pilot Coffee Roasters; private clients
Favourite architects
Colleagues in Toronto who run their own offices: Brigitte Shim, Pat Hanson, Shirley Blumberg, Marianne McKenna and Meg Graham
Favourite building
The Integral House, Toronto, by Shim-Sutcliffe Architects
Why architecture
In high school I tried my hand at an architectural design course after figuring it might be a great way to combine my skills in mathematics with my love of art history. I pursued architecture from that moment on.
Biggest challenge facing women in architecture
The biggest challenge facing women in architecture today is having advocates that will bring them up the profession. We all know there is a steep drop off between the number of women in architecture school and the number in practice, and that number gets even slimmer as you move to those who run the firms. Young women need to be brought up in both the large and small scale firms and encouraged to lead the next generation of architects.
Advice to aspiring female architects
Be optimistic and engaged and learn everything you can about construction.

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