The Architectural League of New York’s Emerging Voices award and lecture series highlights individuals and firms with distinct design “voices”, singling out those with the potential to go on to even greater heights.

2018 saw two rounds of judging; first by a panel of past Emerging Voices winners, and a second to pick the winners. The first-round jury included Virginia San Fratello, Sebastian Schmaling, Wonne Ickx, Lola Sheppard, Marcelo Spina, Carlos Jimenez, and Marlon Blackwell, as well as members of the second-round jury, Sunil Bald, Lisa Gray, Stella Betts, Jing Liu, Paul Makovsky, Tom Phifer, Chris Reed, and Billie Tsien.

AN originally profiled all of the emerging voices firms in our February print issue. LA-Más founders Helen Leung and Elizabeth Timme will deliver their lecture on March 22nd, 2018, at the SVA Theatre in Manhattan.

For LA-Más, architecture does nothing if it doesn’t address a need. Guided by co-executive directors Elizabeth Timme and Helen Leung, the nonprofit urban design organization believes that too many young architects have become disconnected from this fundamental aspect of the discipline. By combining expertise in both design and policy, and by forming productive partnerships with other nonprofits, community groups, and local governments, the duo is creating street-level strategies for empowering communities that are often overlooked or threatened by demographic shifts.

Working in collaboration with district councils or local business development groups, LA-Más has developed a series of vibrant projects, throughout L.A. designed to create a safer and more accessible pedestrian experience. These high-impact, low-cost projects include wayfinding, murals, street furniture, and temporary parks like the cartoon-inspired interventions of Hollywood Pop!, which converts a vacant corner lot into a privately owned public space where passersby can share their thoughts about the neighborhood’s future.

More substantial transformations have resulted from their small business support program, which was created to provide local mom-and-pops with design services and additional support. LA-Más doesn’t just give these businesses a new storefront; they give them a new outreach network and help with leases, licenses, and websites. “They don’t just feel like they’re surviving,” said Timme, “but that they’re supported, which is a huge paradigm change.” These projects aren’t the result of abstract planning exercise but of listening to the people who live and work in the neighborhood. Timme added: “That’s what Helen and I do—we facilitate a conversation between a community and the city.”

City of LA ADU Pilot Project (Courtesy LA-Más)

LA-Más’s work with accessory dwelling units (ADUs) is its most ambitious, and perhaps most impactful, project yet. Created to combat the housing crisis in L.A., its ADU Pilot Project is an opportunity to get residents directly involved in the development of their communities by building affordable housing in their own backyards—literally. In collaboration with organizations including the mayor’s office, local council, and Habitat for Humanity, the firm is building their first ADU in the Highland Park neighborhood. The two-bedroom, 1,000-square-foot project will not only be a model for affordable and contextual housing solutions but for innovative financing and future ADU policy. And it’s the best example yet of the benefits offered by LA-Más’s unique blending of policy and planning.

As Leung said, “Because we can combine all these skills, we get to test ideas, implement, figure out what works, ground it in the need of the community, and really push the boundaries of what’s possible.”

Related Stories