Lockdown interview Deborah Wang, Artistic Director, DesignTO
On the sofa with

Lockdown Landscape from Toronto

May 20, 2020
Deborah Wang, Artistic Director, DesignTO
What they do:
Architecture, Design

Q: How are you finding lockdown? Who are you locked down with?

I started sheltering in place on March 13, so it feels like forever, but time has also flown by. I’ve gone through ups and downs, including losing work, but generally I’ve been doing well. I’m very motivated by my work, so that is a good distraction, and have a dedicated work-from-home set up. I’m at home in Toronto with my husband who is an architect. We’ve known each other for 20 years — since we met and became fast friends at architecture school — so working alongside each other isn’t new. In fact, being together 24/7 is probably one of our pandemic highlights.


Q: What are you reading, watching and working on?

I’m still trying to stay on top of our weekly subscription to The Globe and Mail newspaper and New Yorker magazines, and haven’t tucked into books yet, although we did revisit an old copy of Albert Camus’ The Plague. We’re watching Netflix — mainly Nordic detective shows after we exhausted all the British ones. We’re also watching some architecture and design documentaries. Tonight there is one on the designer Eileen Gray offered by the New York-based Architecture & Design Film Festival.

Work-wise, I split my time between architecture work and DesignTO, a non-profit arts organization which I co-founded. DesignTO produces Canada’s largest annual design festival every January.


Q: How do you think the design sector will pivot post-Covid? Has anything good come from it?

I’m not sure exactly how yet, but the design sector is pivoting. There’s an opportunity for invention. The pandemic taught us how precarious parts of our businesses are. It has also taught us how much we need each other. Maybe the “good” will be slowing down because everything before the pandemic was happening at such a breakneck pace. It’s also a chance to re-evaluate what we do, our values, create a more conscious way of working, and to care more for each other and the environment.


Q: If you could travel anywhere today, where would it be and why?

Being a first generation Canadian, I’ve travelled internationally since I was born because my parents are from elsewhere. But now, I’m not sure I could get on a plane for a long time.

Because we often define travel as going farther afield or to somewhere new, I wouldn’t ordinarily consider this travel, but I’d love to go to my close friend’s cottage this summer. Her cottage is on a lake three hours north of Toronto. It’s beautiful and familiar, a place where my mind and body are “trained” to relax. It’s also a place where our families get to live with each other for a few days every year, which is special.


Q: What’s the first thing you are going to do when lockdown ends?

Have a close communal experience.


Grace Ma is a contributing writer for Travel & Leisure (SE Asia), CNA Luxury and Robb Report Singapore.