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Emerging Voices 2018

Comunal: Taller de Arquitectura deploys vernacular construction in Mexico’s traditional communities
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 profiled all of the emerging voices firms in our February print issue. Comunal: Taller de Arquitectura founders Jesica Amescua and Mariana Ordóñez Grajales will deliver their lecture on March 15, 2018, at the SVA Theatre in Manhattan. Since establishing their practice in 2015, Mariana Ordóñez Grajales and Jesica Amescua, of Mexico City–based Comunal: Taller de Arquitectura, have continually worked to push the limits of their socially guided architectural practice and the architecture and building that result from it. The practice combines academically minded research with materials engineering and community-led participatory design and construction to generate new forms of vernacular architecture in rural communities. “Our work begins with a social feasibility study,” Ordóñez explained. “We analyze and understand the capacity, willingness, and degree of organization that a community has to face difficulties. Then, we carry out the processes of research, social management, participatory design methodology, and finally, construction itself.” For the architects, the true power of their profession lies in their ability to facilitate the culturally appropriate material improvement of these glossed-over rural communities, as evidenced by the firm’s work on a series of childbirth centers across Tenejapa Municipality, in the Mexican state of Chiapas. Comunal partnered with a group of local midwives to conceptualize a network of pitched clapboard structures that will help the delivery nurses formalize their practices and achieve their goal of eliminating infant and maternal mortality in the region. Through built projects and academic research, the office also works to stave off the modernizing—and standardizing—effects of market forces and government regulation, which can produce alienating, short-lived structures and can often disincentivize the use of trusted materials like bamboo and thatch. In a recent project, for Mexican social housing developer Infonavit, created in partnership with Mexico City-based architects Escobedo Soliz, Comunal helped create a courtyard home prototype built from these traditional materials. The vivendas are defined on one end by a home capped with a steeply raked roof that conceals a double-height interior volume containing a loft and the sleeping hammocks that are customary in the region. The courtyard complex is designed for passive ventilation and is erected out of running bonds of offset, buff-colored concrete block, with stone foundations. An indoor-outdoor kitchen sits opposite the lofted space, with a generous patio sandwiched in between. Amescua said, “Vernacular architecture poses a close link and a constant dialogue with the territory, where the symbiosis between it and the inhabitant becomes evident not only in the form and functioning of the architectural objects but in the way in which elements are grouped.” Working with traditional materials and construction techniques fueled Comunal’s approach for another social housing project, from 2013, with Unión de Cooperativas Tosepan Titataniske, a cooperative made up of indigenous communities in the state of Puebla. In this project, the designers pushed to incorporate bamboo construction in ways that would still allow regulators from the state to approve— and potentially fund—the project. For the development, Comunal and local partners developed a set of modular infill panels and roof trusses that sit on or between concrete-block walls and bamboo piers buttressed by intricate brickwork. The wall panels utilize bamboo and cementitious materials alternatively, depending on functional need, while the corrugated metal panel roof is designed to facilitate rainwater capture on site. Lessons gleaned from the project were implemented in a 2016 effort in the same area that utilizes a primary set of concrete posts and beams for structure instead of bamboo. The social housing project was recognized in November 2016 with a silver medal in Mexico’s National Housing Commission’s First National Rural Housing Contest and has led to new work with the organization.
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Emerging Voices 2018

Brooklyn’s Future Green wants to change the way we think about weeds
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 profiled all of the emerging voices firms in our February print issue. Future Green founder David Seiter will deliver his lecture on March 1, 2018, at the SVA Theatre in Manhattan. For the Brooklyn, New York–based landscape architecture firm Future Green, “spontaneous urban plants” are part of a patchwork ecology that has the potential to transform our cities. Future Green’s work is another part of that ecology. David Seiter founded Future Green in 2008 because he felt disconnected from his work in more traditional offices, applying new landscapes onto a site when he wanted to “draw them out of the place itself.” Now grown to about 25 people, his office features a garden and 6,000-square-foot fabrication facility for prototyping new ideas and new ways of weaving contextual plantings into urban sites. A picturesque quality pervades Future Green designs, particularly architectural collaborations like the Atlantic Plumbing residences in Washington, D.C., with Morris Adjmi Architects, and 41 Bond Street in New York, with DDG. At Atlantic Plumbing, the 300-foot-long planted window boxes contribute to the building’s postindustrial character, while the plants climbing up from 41 Bond’s facade were inspired by a visit to the quarry that provided the building’s stone. Future Green will sometimes maintain these types of projects for years after their completion to learn how the plants respond and evolve. Nowadays, an outdoor venue on a former rubble-strewn industrial site in Queens, New York, takes an informal approach. Stepping into the 18,000-square-foot space almost feels like stepping into a friend’s backyard. It’s cultivated but not too cultivated, organized around three large earth mounds, shaded by a grid of honey locust trees that help remediate the soil, and planted throughout with weeds. “We were able to leave a lot of traditionally weed species on the site,” said Seiter, “and then we seeded in a lot of other species that are, I would say, on the edge of acceptable.” For now, Future Green is advocating for a new understanding of “native landscape” that isn’t driven by climate but by human-created conditions. The firm's largest project to date is Half Street, a mixed-use curbless street in D.C., located near the Washington Nationals stadium. On game days, the retail-lined street closes to automotive traffic and becomes a pedestrian plaza for 30,000 people. Future Green’s design draws from its context and the need for flexibility; it includes a paving pattern inspired by Pierre L’Enfant’s iconic plan for the city, large tree pits paired with bio-swales, and other “soft” infrastructural elements designed to manage both water runoff and pedestrian traffic while creating a distinct sense of place. Future Green’s design for Half Street reflects their belief that streets are “the foundation for good new urban space.” As Seiter said, “If we can actually design our streets and sidewalks to be more effective green spaces and more-actively designed spaces for the public realm, we can create a new garden city.”
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Emerging Voices 2018

In Buffalo, Davidson Rafailidis tackles big challenges with unique sensibility
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 profiled all of the emerging voices firms in our February print issue. Davidson Rafailidis founders Stephanie Davidson and Georg Rafailidis will deliver their lecture on March 15, 2018, at the SVA Theatre in Manhattan. Spatial planning is king at Davidson Rafailidis. It has to be, because the small husband-and wife-run studio is focused on designing tight projects with equally tight budgets that can be adapted for long-term use. Both founding partners, Stephanie Davidson and Georg Rafailidis, teach in the nearby State University of New York at Buffalo’s architecture department and frequently integrate more academic theory into their built projects than a traditional studio. It’s a natural progression, as the couple originally met while they were students at the Architectural Association School of Architecture, in London. “In the end, the realized projects are very similar to essays,” explained Davidson. “When the project is inhabited and really comes alive, we always try to keep tabs, even on private projects, to see how they’re used and what changes and what needs to be adapted. We see that as ongoing research, to see how people respond to our ongoing spatial interventions.” Nowhere is this approach more evident than in the studio’s 2015 transformation of a formerly vacant corner store in Buffalo into the vibrant Cafe Fargo (now under the name, Tipico Coffee). The coffee shop strips the monolithic brick building back to its raw materials and introduces colored tiles throughout to delineate the new space from the old. Working under serious budget constraints, Davidson Rafailidis was forced to “make machinery itself the architecture,” according to Rafailidis. Instead of using a bulky HVAC system, the studio installed large operable windows and a skylight, for passive cooling, and a wood-burning "kachelofen" hearth, clad in tile, that provides ambient heat. Most tellingly, Rafailidis said that guests often don’t realize that the heater is a new addition to the space. The cafe has grown to host pop-up events and public gatherings, reinforcing the building’s continually evolving relationship with its users. The 2016 project He, She & It, a tripartite studio space in Buffalo for a creative couple, unifies a painter’s studio (He), ceramic and silver-working area (She), and greenhouse (It) under one umbrella. While each space has a vastly different use, all of them use a mono-pitched roof with a long overhang to funnel rainwater into a garden at the building’s base. Each space relies on passive heating and cooling, as well as natural overhead lighting, and the greenhouse can be opened up to share its solar gain with the working spaces in colder months. He, She & It has won its fair share of acclaim in the last year—though if this recognition has made Davidson and Rafailidis’s lives more hectic, they can’t tell. “It’s really a challenge with our small size. Even to go to see a building someone wants to show us can take half of our workday,” said Davidson. “Both of us are on AutoCAD, and on Rhino, and making models, and also going to meetings; it’s a big challenge. It doesn’t feel like it’s more work, because we’ve become accustomed to this crazy schedule.”
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Emerging Voices 2018

Modus Studio gets ahead by sticking to its Arkansas roots
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 profiled all of the emerging voices firms in our February print issue. Modus Studio founder Chris Baribeau will deliver his lecture on March 1st, 2018, at the SVA Theatre in Manhattan. Modus Studio might have started in 2008 as a two-man operation in cofounder Chris Baribeau’s back office, but the firm’s expansion to 24 people and a full fabrication shop shouldn’t have come as a surprise. The office’s intensive focus on the surrounding Arkansas environment and their hands-on approach have drawn attention both inside and outside of the state. “A thinking–making philosophy really evolved out of our passions, from working through college, working on construction, working on fabrication,” explained Baribeau. “It set the tone for the rest of our professional work.” Modus is a frequent collaborator with the University of Arkansas and has designed for the school a pair of mass timber residence halls, an athletic area master plan, and, most recently, a sculpture studio— although the firm has realized nearly every type of project. Its single-family homes typically draw on the surrounding geographies and ecosystems to influence the final forms, as is the case with Van Huset on the Bluff, a stark cabin overlooking Beaver Lake, in northwest Arkansas. Educational work has a special place in the studio’s canon. Green Forest Middle School, Modus’s first project, was also the first school that either Baribeau or cofounder Josh Siebert had ever worked on. Having to leap into a new building typology meant engaging heavily with the community at every step of the school’s design and construction, an approach that has carried over to all of their projects afterward. Timber and sustainability are prominent through-lines in many of Modus’s built works, no matter the intended use. Working with timber allows the studio to harvest wood directly from the trees on-site, or if they’re not able to do so, connect with Arkansas’s timber industry. Even Modus’s Fayetteville office, a reclaimed warehouse clad in timber that was charred in the fabrication shop, is winning notice, as it was Arkansas’s only LEED Platinum– certified building in 2017. “We’re very connected to the natural world,” said Baribeau. “And being in the Ozarks, the language of the rugged mountains and valleys and rivers connects us to the outdoor world. We’re straddling this dynamic place that’s somewhere between the manmade and the natural world. Our buildings are about fitting into the landscape and drawing inspiration from the context around the site.” Modus views its location outside of the “major design cities” as a boon. Arkansas is in the process of rebuilding and infilling its urban centers, providing the studio an opportunity to experiment while allowing them to build their brand through projects that serve the community. While Modus has begun working on projects as far north as Illinois, Baribeau is most proud of the K–12 schools that the studio has designed for low-income, rural areas. “We’ve found, particularly in this region of Arkansas, how rural communities are really underserved in terms of good design. The hub of that community, their tax money, the local football team, all focuses around the public school. For us, the ongoing tilling of the soil is to raise the bar for rural communities."
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Emerging Voices 2018

Luis Aldrete’s collaborative practice elevates the quotidian
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 profiled all of the emerging voices firms in our February print issue. Estudio de Arquitectura founder Luis Aldrete will deliver his lecture on March 22, 2018, at the SVA Theatre in Manhattan. Luis Aldrete’s Guadalajara, Mexico-based practice, founded in 2007, works across a variety of scales and types, from small public facilities to housing towers. “We like to work directly with those executing our designs to create what would otherwise be impossible,” architect Luis Aldrete explained, describing the hand-in-glove relationship his elemental practice has with the workers who build his projects. “What we can achieve using mostly our hands is incredible.” Because some builders do not know how to read and write, the architect will typically take a more proactive role in directing construction and coordinating tradespeople—and not just by spending extra time on-site. Aldrete synergizes his design sensibilities with what his workers can produce. “We don’t believe in detail drawings,” Aldrete said. “For us, [overwrought] construction details represent a type of over-design. Instead of producing complicated detailing, we like to focus on precision in construction.” The buildings Aldrete designs, like the series of poetically spare shelters in the Mexican state of Jalisco he designed in conjunction with Chinese artist Ai Weiwei and Mexican architect Tatiana Bilbao along the Pilgrim Route, are quick to show off that precision. The cooling shelters, long and wedge-shaped, are designed with solid adobe-colored concrete-block walls that dematerialize as they rise. They dot the pilgrimage route, offering respite from the heat while providing water and camping facilities. “Some people intellectualize architectural discourse too much,” Aldrete said. “We like working on quotidian concerns, like shade and rest, instead. The way one can provoke life in common spaces is inspiring.” The architect and his half-dozen or so employees have more than a handful of projects in the pipeline, including a trio of apartment towers slated for a rapidly urbanizing section of the otherwise flat city of Guadalajara, as well as several moody single-family homes and a series of social housing complexes across the region. These low-slung masonry complexes typically feature monolithic punched openings, structurally dependent massing, and pockets of interconnected and shared outdoor spaces. The 15-story concrete-frame towers, on the other hand, are more platonic in their forms and create a triangular courtyard between one another, leaving a large percentage of the site open for public spaces and gardens. The exoskeleton for each of the gridded towers creates shade for the units within, which are designed as spare and variously lit quarters. Like several of the firm’s projects, the 132-unit development is guided by a “love and passion for ruins,” as Aldrete said. “Some of our work looks like ruins, and we like that.”
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Emerging Voices 2018

AGENCY uses deep research to push architectural boundaries
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. AGENCY founders Ersela Kripa and Stephen Mueller will deliver their lecture on March 8, 2018, at the SVA Theatre in Manhattan. Ersela Kripa and Stephen Mueller started AGENCY to consider the margins of the world. “We use our architectural training to uncover the shrinking of individual agency in public space and the reduction of human rights or potential human rights violations,” Kripa said. Working out of El Paso, Texas, the pair deploys words, maps, wearables, and installations to uncover contradictions in liminal spaces like military training sites, refugee camps, and borders—especially the one between the United States and Mexico. The architects completed their first project as AGENCY in 2008. A decade later, the firm continues to be defined by deep research into contested urban spaces and humans’ relationships to environments, built and digital, that are increasingly designed to collect personal data and monitor people’s actions without their consent. Kripa and Mueller, both instructors at Texas Tech University College of Architecture – El Paso, wound up in the city after a research visit for their forthcoming book, Fronts: Security and the Developing World. They were studying military training environments, like Playas, New Mexico—a village of hundreds of empty homes the U.S. Department of Homeland Security uses for counter-terrorism training. Increasingly, these simulated spaces feature shantytowns and junkyards, informal typologies associated with the developing world. AGENCY, Mueller said, believes these are both a “preamble to where the U.S. military can engage in the future” as well as a reflection of state attitudes toward public space in the contemporary city. Along similar lines of inquiry, the duo writes "Border Dispatches," a series for AN that explores these and other expressions of militarism along the U.S.-Mexico border. These are worthy topics, but are they architecture? AGENCY believes its designs could not manifest without the deep research it conducts. “In our built work, we start with intensive research and problem identification, where we proactively uncover hidden or emerging realities that are just beneath the surface of contemporary urban space,” Mueller said. “We try to imagine a scenario that can be inflected by designed objects or spaces that have a discreet presence.” The approach is apparent in Selfie Wall – A Public Sphere for Private Data,¹ a subversion of the made-for-Instagram interiors that trend online. For El Paso’s annual art fair, Kripa and Mueller fashioned the ideal selfie sphere from 162 units of CNC-milled composite aluminum panels that diffuse soft LED light. The pair asked visitors to hashtag their photos from the installation so they could be collected and tracked. “People were very on board with hashtagging selfies so we could collect them,” Kripa said. “That was surprising.” AGENCY may remake Selfie Wall in Juarez, the Mexican city right across from El Paso, with an eye toward connecting people on both sides of the border. Design, they believe, can—and should—be deployed to control data, as well. For Delta Fabrics – Air Pollution Data Mapping,² a project executed during the 2017 Shenzhen Bi-City Biennale of Urbanism\Architecture, the pair walked the border between Hong Kong and Shenzhen with Arduino sensors to monitor air quality. The region’s air is cleaner than it was in the past, but it’s sometimes hard to tell what pollutants still linger, as the Chinese government often releases inaccurate data. To empower people with knowledge about the air they breathe, Kripa and Mueller are looking to mass-produce the sensors and distribute them to residents, who can then track air quality throughout their day. This should be a busy year for AGENCY. At home, Kripa and Mueller are working with a local entrepreneur to adaptively reuse a warehouse site, transforming it into a kitchen incubator and outdoor public market. Fronts is coming out this fall, and after that, the duo is scaling up the Delta Fabrics project. “We want to dive deeper into understanding how to democratize data so [people can] measure their own environment on their own, to take back agency a little bit,” Kripa said.

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¹ Selfie Wall – A Public Sphere for Private Data was commissioned by the El Paso Museums and Cultural Affairs Department

² Delta Fabrics – Air Pollution Data Mapping was a one-month residency in Shenzhen for New Cities Future Ruins with Future+ Aformal Academy and Handshake 302. The project was supported by Design Trust Hong Kong and Texas Tech College of Architecture as part of the 2017 Shenzhen Bi-City Biennale of Urbanism\Architecture

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Emerging Voices

Vancouver-based Scott & Scott Architects blends warm minimalism with local materials and custom furniture

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. Vancouver-based Scott & Scott Architects’ founders Susan and David Scott will deliver their lecture on March 23, 2017, at The Architecture League in New York City. Click here to learn more!

After leaving large architecture offices in Vancouver, wife and husband Susan and David Scott established their own practice in 2012 out of their home and studio—a renovated former grocery store off of Main Street. Using this home-studio and a cabin they built for themselves as their initial portfolio, the Scotts began building a reputation for their warm, minimalist aesthetic. “Our first few commissions included a sausage restaurant and a barn,” David said. “After working on large institutional projects, the idea of doing things that were more functional and related to the daily lives of their owners was very appealing. We really value having a direct relationship between architecture and its occupants.”

Other completed projects include cabins and houses across British Columbia as well as restaurants and even an artisanal liquid-nitrogen ice cream parlor, Mister. “We’ve been very lucky with our initial clients; when it's someone’s own business or own house, they tend to be really interested in taking design risks and being open minded,” Susan said. In each space, natural materials were carefully selected from Canadian suppliers and manufacturers for durability and beauty. “We enjoy focusing on materials that are local and not branded,” she explained. “They are often harder to find, but they are always more durable and a better investment in the project.”

Combined with a sophisticated, pared-back approach, materials such as soapstone, marble, and concrete take center stage without overwhelming the building’s ability to be highly functional, whether as a restaurant or a residence. Susan and David often create or commission furniture, light fixtures, and hardware for each space in their workshop, promoting an overall sense of integration in every project. “There’s not a written philosophy about [our approach], but our background as site architects who often oversaw construction, as well as our own set of interests, lends itself to a focus on materials and making things,” David said.

In 2016, Scott & Scott Architects were awarded the Young Architect Award by the Royal Architectural Institute of Canada. Currently, they are working at various architectural scales, including master planning an alpine community, designing ground-up residences, and adapting urban buildings for reuse, but they also continue to enjoy smaller-scale projects even as their practice grows. “Right now we are at a tempo where a lot of projects are happening concurrently, so there is a thread that other people can’t necessarily see that pops up in each project,” David explained. “So we might explore something in one project and it becomes more refined in the next one—the progression is exciting.”

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Emerging Voices

New Orleans firm OJT redefines overlooked and undervalued properties

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. New Orleans–based OJT's Founder Jonathan Tate will deliver his lecture on March 23, 2017, at The Architecture League in New York City. Click here to learn more!

OJT is making waves in New Orleans with research-based work that redefines overlooked and undervalued properties. Founder Jonathan Tate is an Auburn graduate who experienced the Rural Studio under Samuel Mockbee and spent 10 years in Memphis working for Buildingstudio (formerly Mockbee/Coker Architects). After a sabbatical to study at Harvard, he relocated with the firm to New Orleans in 2008 and started OJT a few years later. “New Orleans just felt like the right place to be. We really cared about what was happening post-Katrina,” he said.

OJT is committed to applying scholarly methods to professional practice. The seven-person firm’s portfolio comprises architecture and planning work as well as self-initiated research, like mapping nonconforming properties in New Orleans. This odd lot of odd lots helped kickstart the firm’s Starter Home* project, a development strategy to build modern, speculative infill housing aimed at first-time buyers.   

The prototype Starter Home*, located at 3106 St. Thomas Street, is shaped by the limitations of its 16-and-half-foot-wide lot and historic setting. The metal-clad building riffs on vernacular forms and uses the allowable 40-foot height to make its narrow spaces feel large. It’s become a model for development in New Orleans, and Tate hopes to apply it to other cities. But he’s quick to point out that OJT isn’t a developer. “Development is a tool for us to continue to explore an idea, and to illustrate imaginative ways to work within rules and regulations,” he explained.

The Starter Home* at 4514 S. Saratoga Street further tests the limits of limitation—not only of the concept, but of architectural tropes. “We’re always negotiating this fine line,” Tate said. “They need to feel like a home but we also want them to be challenging.” OJT’s highly iterative process incorporates 3-D printing to rapidly test formal variations. “It all circles back to the desire to investigate.”

That desire also drives the Zimple house, built for the client’s father after he was diagnosed with dementia. Its clear sequence of spaces and central courtyard, which functions as a visual anchor, is informed by the firm’s research into the effects of memory loss. Located next to the client’s traditional camelback house, the project inverts the vernacular type to balance privacy and openness between the homes.

Although OJT has earned recognition for its residential projects, the firm is applying its methods just as successfully to commercial and cultural work like Hattie B’s Hot Chicken, a restaurant that adapts and subverts a fast food joint, and the Southern Food and Beverage Museum, built in a repurposed historic market. “We’re a thoughtful practice that tries to engage every project type in a meaningful way,” Tate said. “This is an intellectual project for us. We’re always asking ourselves why we’re doing what we’re doing.”

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Emerging Voices

LEVER Architecture is bringing mass timber construction into the mainstream

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 (Portland, Oregon–based LEVER Architecturewill deliver its lecture on March 16, 2017, at The Architecture League in New York City. Click here to learn more!

Architect Thomas Robinson kick-started his career with Joseph Esherick, the architect best known for designing the Hedgerow Houses at Sea Ranch, California, followed by stints leading institutional and cultural projects at Herzog & de Meuron in Switzerland and Allied Works in Oregon. In 2009, Robinson, a graduate of UC Berkeley and later Harvard (studying under Peter Zumthor), decided to branch out on his own, launching LEVER Architecture from his Portland basement.

Over the past eight years, his firm has grown to 18 employees. A winner of the USDA’s U.S. Tall Wood Building Prize, LEVER Architecture has found a niche working with cross-laminated timber (CLT). “Timber is often hidden away,” Robinson said. “We want [timber] to be part of a greater architectural experience.” While mass timber construction isn’t new—according to Robinson it has been around since the 1930s—there is a rediscovering and understanding of the technology coupled with modern advances in fire safety, seismic engineering, and acoustics that has made it more feasible.

LEVER Architecture is currently working on a 90,000-square-foot, 12-story CLT high-rise in Portland. The project, Framework, incorporates a wood-core structure. When completed in 2018, it is expected to be the first mass-timber high-rise in the United States. The design relies on a post-tension CLT rocking wall, which, as Robinson explained, is a resilient low-damage design that takes advantage of the lightness and strength of wood. “Wood moves and can re-center itself,” he said.

Other recent LEVER projects also feature mass timber: There is Albina Yard, the first office building in the U.S. built with domestically manufactured CLT (LEVER Architecture recently moved its offices to this four-story, 16,000-square-foot building), and L’Angolo Estate, a winery tasting room in Newberg, Oregon.

At the core, Robinson explained that LEVER’s design projects are about the transformative power of materials. “It’s almost akin to product design at the level of a building.”

With funding from the National Science Foundation and a $1.8 million grant through the U.S. Tall WoodBuilding Prize, LEVER is implementing a performance-based design process throughout its projects. The grants help pay for additional research costs to demonstrate that CLT high-rise buildings are equivalent to traditional steel construction.

LEVER advocates mass timber as a more sustainable way of building while encouraging economic growth in the Pacific Northwest. “We look to the farm-to-table model, where people are connected more directly to the producer,” Robinson said. Translated from the culinary scene to the architecture world, the “forest-to-frame” approach is about building stronger relationships between architects, contractors, and the people growing the timber.

“We focus on simple materials and how to put them together to form transformative experiences,” Robinson said. “We’re interested in an economy of means. It’s rare being both at the cutting edge and having a seat at the table.” 

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Emerging Voices

Cadaval & Solà-Morales is building a striking collection of architecture on two continents

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 (Mexico City and Barcelona-based Cadaval & Solà-Moraleswill deliver their lecture on March 16, 2017, at The Architecture League in New York City. Click here to learn more!

Eduardo Cadaval and Clara Solà-Morales met at the Harvard University Graduate School of Design and launched their practice, Cadaval & Solà-Morales, in New York City shortly after in 2003. Two years later, they moved it to Barcelona and Mexico City. Their first projects were two residences: the House at the Pyrenees—a renovation and expansion of a vernacular house perched on the top of a mountain in Aran Valley, Spain—and TDA House in Oaxaca, Mexico, a beach house that can easily be opened and closed depending on the weather.

With a focus on residential architecture in challenging sites, Cadaval and Solà-Morales strive for an honest, straightforward approach—hitting that intersection of theory, practice, and academy. “We always look for simplicity in our work,” said cofounder and partner Cadaval. “We try to make bold projects that can stand the passage of time and not rely on the latest trends. We enjoy working at different scales and types of projects so we don’t have a set goal to achieve. We just try to do our work in the best way possible and enjoy the process.”

This simple approach has led to striking results: The X House is nestled into the hills of Cabrils, Barcelona, celebrating the expansive, dramatic views of nature and the city. The project also makes use of concrete construction techniques typically used for building bridges and tunnels. To help reduce costs and shorten the construction schedule, the project relied on high-density concrete made using a single-sided formwork rather than a double-sided one.

Outside of Spain, Cadaval and Solà-Morales are building up a body of work in and around Mexico City. “Recently we have been working on buildings that are part of an effort to densify Mexico City,” said Cadaval. These include urban residential units, such as Córdoba-Reurbano—a conversion (renovation and addition) of a formerly abandoned historic home to nine residential units with ground-floor commercial space.

Cadaval and Solà-Morales, both associate professors at the Barcelona School of Architecture, have also completed ephemeral works, including a Reporters without Borders exhibit at Robert Palace in Barcelona.

“We think that it would be very pretentious from our part to say that we stand apart from other offices,” explained Cadaval. “We all try to do our best. The only thing that we do is try to work as hard as possible and try to find solutions that simplify and synthesize the project.”

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Emerging Voices

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 Leongwill 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.”

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Emerging Voices

How Duvall Decker brings innovative solutions to underserved communities in Mississippi

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 (Jackson, Mississippi–based Duvall Deckerwill deliver their lecture on March 9, 2017, at The Architecture League in New York City. Click here to learn more!

Jackson, Mississippi–based Duvall Decker Architects have a knack for finding design solutions for the complex politics of the underserved urban South. From housing to institutional work, the firm navigates an intricate web of public money, government subsidy, and city code. They have become so good at it that they find that they are teaching their clients, and sometimes city officials, how to get things built while serving the community. 

An early project, designing a small high school, found them consulting with the client after completion about how to best maintain the new building. When looking for an office space, instead of renting, the firm decided to buy a space. This led to a series of buying, fixing, and reselling their own office spaces, something they jokingly called “office flipping.” In other projects, the firm’s research strategy led them to form master plans, which led to more work. These early experiences shaped the way in which the office now operates.

In more recent work, Duvall Decker has been tapped to design entire affordable housing neighborhoods. For a project for the Jackson Housing Authority, planning and community research led the office to some unorthodox formal moves. Hoping to achieve the maximum density, but limited to building duplexes, a twist and shift was applied to the typical typology. The resulting form produced more social interior spaces, and more dynamic exterior spaces, both usually lacking in the standard banal blocks of public housing.

“These projects are often lowest-bid public projects. We take the same dollars-per-square-foot and we make a building with that,” explained Ann Decker. “We strip the finishes and focus on improving the craft. When we poured some of the first architectural concrete in Mississippi in decades, we had to teach the contractor how to do it.”

Duvall Decker’s attention to the client and the end user is just as evident in its institutional work. Reflecting new ideas about education, and the social topics taught within the project, Bennie G. Thompson Academic & Civil Rights Research Center at Tougaloo College in Jackson, Mississippi, strives to embody egalitarian ideas through form. With no center and a diverse set of spaces, students can inhabit the building in more than one way.

When Ann and Roy Decker set out to start an office they did not know exactly what they were getting into. Coming from academia, they wanted to continue teaching, but they felt they could contribute more within the profession. The path from those early days to their now thriving practice was not typical one. Today they are not simply an architecture firm. Within the design practice, master planning and consulting play a major role; outside of design, the firm acts as developers and property managers. This journey has given them the chance to continue educating: their clients and themselves.