In New York and L.A., Leong Leong is designing new platforms for marginalized communities
The Architectural League’s Emerging Voices award and lecture series spotlight individuals and firms with distinct design “voices” that have the potential to influence the discipline of architecture, landscape architecture, and urban design. The jury, composed of Sunil Bald, Mario Gooden, Lisa Gray, Paul Lewis, Jing Liu, Thomas Phifer, Bradley Samuels, Billie Tsien, and Ian Volner, selected architects and designers who have significant bodies of realized work that creatively address larger issues in the built environment.
The Architect’s Newspaper featured the Emerging Voices firms in our February issue; stay tuned as we upload those articles to our website over the coming weeks. The firm featured below (New York City–based Leong Leong) will deliver their lecture on March 9, 2017, at The Architecture League in New York City. Click here to learn more!
“Our father was an architect and we grew up in a small town in Napa Valley. Architecture became a medium through which we explored the world,” Dominic Leong said. “It was a way to understand the city, and for us there was an inherent link between the cosmopolitan and architecture.”
Dominic and his brother Christopher founded their practice, Leong Leong, in 2009, and although they came from distinct architectural firms—Dominic worked at Bernard Tschumi Architects before founding PARA-Project, while Christopher worked at SHoP and Gluckman Mayner Architects—their shared upbringing equally influences their firm’s approach. “The practice is much more about an organization and a collective of people. Our interest in architecture is a way to embed ourselves in different contexts and to relate to who we are as individuals,” Christopher said.
As a result, Leong Leong has shifted from designing high-fashion boutiques for the likes of 3.1 Phillip Lim, to working at increasingly larger and dramatic architectural scales. They have two notable civic projects: the Anita May Rosenstein Campus for the Los Angeles LGBT Center in Hollywood with Killefer Flammang Architects, and the Center for Community and Entrepreneurship for the nonprofit organization Asian Americans for Equality (AAFE) in Queens, New York, with JCJ Architecture. “Both the LGBT Center and AAFE are nonprofit organizations whose fundamental missions are to create a platform for marginalized communities,” Christopher said. Dominic continued: “There are new social organizations and social technologies that have yet to find a specific manifestation in architectural typologies. These communities already exist and have existed for a long time, so the projects are opportunities to translate these communities into new organizational typologies and places of exchange.”
Concurrently, Leong Leong continues to work on smaller objects, installations, and exhibitions. In 2016 they designed a collection of nine basic tools carved in pink Himalayan sea salt titled A Toolkit for a Newer Age, and an immersive sound bath installation called TOPO. “Toolkit and TOPO were explorations into the relationship between collectivity and form that emerged when we were designing the LGBT Center,” Dominic explained. “This eventually led us to investigate how social technologies, like self-care, might translate into architectural typologies.”
As the firm continues to take on increasingly ambitious projects, the brothers filter each one through what they refer to as “the triad”: the [architectural] discipline, the profession, and the broader culture. “Through this feedback loop, certain ideas become more relevant than others,” said Dominic. “It’s not just about large scales, it’s about things at the tactile level as well: A small project can have a huge impact—and that splash may be necessary in our current culture—and bigger projects can have a slower, different kind of impact, a lasting change to the city itself.”