Contract - November/December 2011 - (Page 136)
Johnson Chou, designer of the Red Bull office (on the cover and page 68) in Toronto, founded his eponymous multidisciplinary design practice in 1999. The Toronto firm’s work encompasses architectural and industrial design, furniture and interiors, graphic identity, and corporate communications.
Johnson Chou Johnson Chou Inc. Toronto, Ontario, Canada
What advice would you give to design students or those starting out in the field?
It is vital for students to gain practical experience, especially in internships. It is important for students to recognize that there is a cost incurred by an employer in training an intern, and one must treat an internship experience seriously.
Do you have a particular design philosophy? How would you describe it?
I would describe my work as a form of “narrative” architecture that engages on intellectual, emotional, and physiological levels of experience. The creation of a narrative forms the conceptual point of departure for all of our work. Distinct and unique to each client, the narrative is comprised of two parts: ritual and metaphor. Ritual is manifested as a “scripting” of movement and views—the architectural promenade. It is intended to elevate one’s experience of the mundane or commonplace. Metaphor is invoked as a means of generating form—to facilitate one’s “reading” of a space.
Which interior space—anywhere in the world, designed by anyone—inspires you? Why?
The one space that was most formative and illustrated to me the power of architecture was Le Corbusier’s chapel in Ronchamp, France. It was both a revelation and one of the most moving experiences of my life. The building seemed alive. Le Corbusier’s brilliant use of natural light as a hidden source—along with the iconic interior forms—verged on the metaphysical and sublime.
How selective are you with the clients that you work with?
We are very selective for two reasons. The first is that we, as a team, invest so much time, creativity, and passion into our projects that we cannot squander on clients whose primary concern is expediency. The second—and most important—reason is that clients are instrumental in the success of their own projects. Clients who find creativity in what they do are inclined to appreciate innovation, art, and design.
Do you have a particular approach to a dialogue with a client in a project’s early stages to understand what they want in the project?
Most of our clients are already well versed in design, but sometimes conversations can be deceptive, both for what is said and what is not. I often ask our clients to compile a selection of images of objects, music, or literature that they find inspirational to enable them to articulate their thoughts.
Currently, in addition to concrete, clear and acid-etched glass, and stainless steel, I am appreciating figured, natural materials such as statuario marble, flat-cut walnut, rosewood, and ebony. There is so much life in these materials. I am also using reclaimed wood for many of my projects for the same reasons.
What would be your dream project?
A museum or an art gallery because of the building type’s inherent narrative potential.
contract november/december 2011
Photo by Michael Cooper Photographic
Is there a particular material that you enjoy incorporating into your current work? Why?
Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Contract - November/December 2011
Contract - November/December 2011
Product Focus: Classic Touch
Product Focus: Generating Buzz(i)
Gelfand Partners Architects Office in San Francisco Designed by Gelfand Partners Architects
Sorg Architects Office in Washington, D.C. Designed by Sorg Architects
Sauerbruch Hutton Office in Berlin, Germany Designed by Sauerbruch Hutton
Roth Sheppard Architects Office in Denver Designed by Roth Sheppard Architects
AOL West Coast Headquarters in Palo Alto, California Designed by Studio O+A
Red Bull Canada Office Expansion in Toronto, Ontario, Canada Designed by Johnson Chou Inc.
Goods Shed North in Melbourne, Australia Designed by BVN Architecture
Bota Bota Spa in Montreal, Quebec, Canada Designed by Sid Lee Architecture
A’maree’s in Newport Beach, California Designed by Paul Davis Architects
2011 Contract Brand Report Awareness Survey
Designers Select: Building Products
Contract - November/December 2011