Betsy Williamson is a registered architect with the Ontario Association of Architects and a member of the Royal Architectural Institute of Canada.
Through her years of experience in small award winning design firms, Betsy brings to the office her enthusiastic commitment to architectural practice and high quality design. She has developed expertise in detail clarity and creative solutions balanced by focused project management skills.Betsy received a Bachelor of Arts with Honors in Architecture from Barnard College and her professional Masters of Architecture degree from Harvard University. Her office’s early work was awarded the prestigious Ronald J. Thom Award for Early Design Achievement from the Canada Council for the Arts in 2008 and was named one of the top 40 under 40 design practices in Canada by the National Post. In 2006, she was honored with the Young Architects Award from the Architectural League of New York.
Most recently, Williamson Williamson was selected for the 2014 Emerging Architectural Practice Award by the Royal Architectural Institute of Canada and the 2014 Emerging Voices Award by the Architectural League of New York. Betsy was also named a finalist for the Architects’ Journal 2015 Emerging Woman Architect of the Year Award.
Betsy continues to foster her commitment to engaging the city in a greater capacity as a member of the Waterfront Toronto Design Review Panel. She actively contributes to a culture of quality at an urban scale by signaling that high quality design is a critical consideration for the development of Toronto’s waterfront and the city.
Balance – How do you strike a balance between life/work?
I love being a part of the architecture and arts communities. Attending lectures, dinners with friends, our office culture, and travel are all a huge part of both my work and my life and architecture threads everything together. At the office, we know all about long hours and hard work. However, travelling with my four-year-old years ago provided a key lesson: Spending an hour in a park before you head into the Stadsbiblioteket is the right thing to do.
Evolution – How do you see the profession evolving?
More women leading offices, more women on construction sites, and more women teaching and leading architecture faculties. It is a slow profession with a long history that has not included women until recently. There is lots of work to do.
Advice- Share a memorable piece of advice you have received from a mentor or a friend (please say who)?
I have had wonderful mentors: Brigitte Shim, Howard Sutcliffe, and Brian Healy all shaped my life as an architect and have each passed on valuable lessons. However, the very first piece of memorable advice I received came at my first job working for Diane Legge Kemp, the first female partner at SOM. On my first day she advised me to, “Work quickly and accurately.” A succinct way of telling me that I need to know my shit so that I can perform at a high level. Every architect should follow this advice. There is always more to learn and I never stop working at it.
Trajectory – In your career path, what critical steps helped you to achieve your current position?
Surrounding myself with people that have a similar ethos in design, ambition, and work ethic. I have been very lucky in that every job I have held has been incredibly rewarding. The few times I have briefly been in situations that were not a good fit, I had the wherewithal to shift direction very quickly. There are a lot of ways to practice architecture so find the one that is right for you.