Launched in 1999 by Johnson Chou, a graduate of the University of Waterloo School of Architecture, the eponymous Canadian design practice has become internationally renowned for its interdisciplinary body of work. Covering architectural and industrial design, including furniture and interiors, as well as graphic identity and corporate communications, this firm puts the focus on narratives drawn straight from their clients. Whether it’s the narrative of the image the client wishes to portray or something drawn from actual literary sources, Johnson Chou Inc. prides itself on depictions of “narratives of inhabitation.”
When asked to design the penthouse at the Candy Factory Lofts in Toronto, the firm drew from the owner’s penchant for travel and desire for the space to reflect a sense of landscape. The lower level is dark and moody, wrapped in ebony wood veneer panels. Ramps, platforms, and sunken levels provide many opportunities for changes in elevation and subtly mimic hiking through a mountain pass. A wood screened spiral staircase connects to the upper level, which – in contrast to the lower level – is bright and airy, evoking the sensation of climbing to the top of a forest canopy.
The practice’s commercial designs are equally as narrative focused, as in the case of 383 Sorauren, the sales center for a 10-story condominium. The history of the neighborhood served as inspiration for the materials used in the design. Effortlessly blending textures and materials, such as oil-finished wood and hot-rolled steel, the interior is a juxtaposition of the industrial history of the neighborhood with the modern aesthetic of the current residents. The space is comprised of two sections, the presentation space and the model suite, separated by a glass partition. Both sections can be viewed from the street framed by two large, rectangular windows.
Johnson Chou Inc. has won awards for its work on such projects as the Head Offices for Red Bull Canada and the Candy Factory Lofts. The practice is also responsible for the Museum of Canadian Contemporary Art (MoCCA).