People / Published on May 5, 2021
A TRIBUTE TO A GODFATHER
Written by Madeleine Champagne and published in INTÉRIEURS 74, SAISON, ANNÉE, as part of the TRIBUTE Award granted by the GRANDS PRIX DU DESIGN. Updated for INT. design in 2021.
Mise à jour pour INT.design en 2021.
FROM SOURCE TO RIVER…
It all started with the iconic Nylon4 chair.
Elegant and sturdy, made of laminated maple and nylon cords, it was designed by Jacques Guillon at the age of 30, a true “annunciation”, which anchored in him the deep desire to evolve in the world of design.
He would become one of the most significant pioneers at the heart of the development of design in Québec, passing away in 2020, at the age of 98.
A LASTING DESIGN
Far from being ephemeral, the Nylon4 Chair has become a part of the permanent collection of the Montréal Museum of Fine Arts.
This notion of durability is true and seen in the Montréal Metro’s design and signage. Designed by Jacques S.Guillon & Associates, the car design has not aged at all. As for the metro logo … it is always just as dashing today as the day it was introduced.
This stamp of quality has become his label. His products do not grow out-of-date. His credo: a beautiful design must sell and adapt to the needs of the customer. We must not work for glory!
STRAIGHT AS AN OAK TREE
Met by the magazine on the occasion of his nomination for the GRANDS PRIX DU DESIGN Tribute Award at the age of 95, Jacques Guillon has remained as sharp as a blade throughout the years. His gaze is strong and his voice resonates when he talks about his life.
Two major scenes seem to have shaped his career and influenced his development.
1) His childhood under the loving eyes of an architect father and…
2) Serving liberty himself as a pilot of French origin in the only Canadian squadron in the Middle East during World War II
It was on these solid foundations that he confidently founded his design office in 1958, one of the first design offices in Montréal. Tough and hard were the beginnings … but well worth it. Designers then unable to live on their royalty, Jacques S. Guillon and his wife, Peggy McNaughton, decided that the main floor of the company would house the Pego boutique. This Scandinavian furniture import business was masterfully run by his wife over the years.
DEAR TO HIS HEART, EXPO 67
He is proud to point out that he was instrumental in having 8 Canadian design firms create 8 pavilions for Expo 67, a “true design laboratory”. As for Guillon’s team, they built the Pavilion of Man and Life, the Belgian pavilion, as well as the layout and interior design of some Habitat 67 cubes which were widely visited during Expo 67 as examples of Canadian design. De facto, he became the catalyst of an international expertise.
His experience is plural, we owe him:
• Alcan’s head office at Place Ville-Marie,
• Alumna site, a system of aluminum inserts on the corners to protect furniture,
• the urban development of the city of Concordia University,
• the co-founding of the Industrial Design Association of Canada,
• the foundation of the Museum of Decorative Arts and more…
He was also granted the Sam-Lapointe Award and became a member of the Design Canada Circle of Honor. His company went through many changes, names, locations and today, he is the proud spiritual father of its latest reincarnation, GSM project, a very healthy company that has currently 1,000 projects in the world, including North America, Europe, the Middle East and Asia, arising from their three offices in Montréal, Dubai and Singapore under the direction of Yves Mayrand, president who started at Guillon Smith Marquart & Associés, as a graphic designer 39 years ago.
To see more about GSM project…
« SUFFIT-IL DONC QUE TU PARAISSES… ELSA MON AMOUR MA JEUNESSE… » — ARAGON
In our interview closing, the man was keen to say over and over again … and which such splendour … that he has had a very happy working life and marriage, thanks to his wife, Peggy McNaughton. This beautiful Scottish woman, lover, partner, accomplice, mother of his five daughters, always by his side, soulmate and woman of his dream, to whom he attributes all his success and all his happiness….
Eternal gratitude… Rest in peace.
TO READ TOO: GUILLON EXPO 67