Posts tagged with "Emerging Voices":

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

AN profiles all of this year’s Emerging Voices firms

The Architectural League of New York’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 and the lecture series has just concluded. However, in case you weren't able to attend, we've compiled each of our Emerging Voices firm profiles below. Enjoy!

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

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.”

New Orleans firm OJT redefines overlooked and undervalued properties

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.

LEVER Architecture is bringing mass timber construction into the mainstream

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.

In New York and L.A., Leong Leong is designing new platforms for marginalized communities

“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.

How Duvall Decker brings innovative solutions to underserved communities in Mississippi

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. 

Inside the rising Mexico City–based practice of Frida Escobedo

Mexico City–based architect Frida Escobedo has only ever worked for herself. A graduate of Universidad Iberoamericana in Mexico City, and the Arts, Design, and the Public Domain program at the Harvard Graduate School of Design, Escobedo cofounded her first office, Perro Rojo, in 2003.   

In 2006, she began her eponymous firm, realizing a trend-setting rehabilitation and reinterpretation for the Mexican muralist David Alfaro Siqueiros’s home and studio that utilized screened walls made up of breezeblocks. Casa Negra, built in 2007, is a slightly deconstructivist sentinel clad in black panels that straddles a bluff overlooking a rural road from Mexico City to Cuernavaca. In 2013, her studio conceived of a circular, weighted plaza sculpture for the Lisbon Architecture Triennale. Escobedo explained, “Our work goes from the scale of furniture to something larger.”

Atlanta-based BLDGS brings new creativity to adaptive reuse projects

When Brian Bell and David Yocum first founded BLDGS 10 years ago, they didn’t plan to specialize in adaptive reuse—certainly not in Atlanta, a city not necessarily known for exploring the past.

But after they continued to land such commissions, they began to relish the role and have elevated this ever-expanding realm of architecture to a more creative, thoughtful, complex level than almost any firm has been able to achieve.

“We take a lot of pleasure in uncovering,” Yocum said. “If we can find the truth in each of the challenges and kind of reflect the presence of that truth it gives us a lot that we would not be able to layer onto a project.”

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.”

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.”

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.” 

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.”

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.

Inside the rising Mexico City–based practice of Frida Escobedo

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, Mexico–based Frida Escobedowill deliver their lecture on March 2, 2017, at The Architecture League in New York City. Click here to learn more!

Mexico City–based architect Frida Escobedo has only ever worked for herself. A graduate of Universidad Iberoamericana in Mexico City, and the Arts, Design, and the Public Domain program at the Harvard Graduate School of Design, Escobedo cofounded her first office, Perro Rojo, in 2003.   

In 2006, she began her eponymous firm, realizing a trend-setting rehabilitation and reinterpretation for the Mexican muralist David Alfaro Siqueiros’s home and studio that utilized screened walls made up of breezeblocks. Casa Negra, built in 2007, is a slightly deconstructivist sentinel clad in black panels that straddles a bluff overlooking a rural road from Mexico City to Cuernavaca. In 2013, her studio conceived of a circular, weighted plaza sculpture for the Lisbon Architecture Triennale. Escobedo explained, “Our work goes from the scale of furniture to something larger.” Escobedo’s Aesop store in Miami’s Wynwood neighborhood similarly plays into that teleology. In the small storefront, she manipulates the scale of objects and vistas through reflection. Bathed in an ochre light, the shop is divided by a series of reflective, glass partitions and is populated by sections of boulders and tropical Monstera deliciosa plants. Here, prismatic color and reflected silhouettes distort scale.

Escobedo’s more recent work expands the senses even further. A recently completed screen at the Graduate School of Business at Stanford University is crafted from Solanum steel and designed to create melodies. The rhythmic tapping made by children running sticks across railings inspired the installation—a halcyon tendency Escobedo ties to ideas of coming home. She explained that the structure is “not only perceived visually… You can play with the screen as you move along it and the closed fragments produce different sounds.” 

Escobedo’s eight-person office is currently working on two social housing projects: One in the rural area of Taxco in the Mexican state of Guerrero will take the shape of an incremental housing scheme, while another in the town of Saltillo is made up of rowhouses. Regarding both projects, Escobedo said, “We’re trying to do as much as possible with as little as possible while also reducing as much as possible the debt of the people who are acquiring these properties,” the architect explained. The Taxco scheme will ultimately result in a fully-built out home, featuring a double-height room that can be subdivided vertically as the resident family grows. According to Escobedo, the goal of the scheme was “to optimize the subsidized credit [provided by INFONAVIT, the housing developer] by first building what is most costly and therefore what will give more value over time; and second to provide people with a finished building, that is sometimes more encouraging and gives the sense of completion.”

Atlanta-based BLDGS brings new creativity to adaptive reuse projects

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 (Atlanta, GA–based BLDGS) will deliver their lecture on March 2, 2017, at The Architecture League in New York City. Click here to learn more!

When Brian Bell and David Yocum first founded BLDGS 10 years ago, they didn’t plan to specialize in adaptive reuse—certainly not in Atlanta, a city not necessarily known for exploring the past.

But after they continued to land such commissions, they began to relish the role and have elevated this ever-expanding realm of architecture to a more creative, thoughtful, complex level than almost any firm has been able to achieve.

“We take a lot of pleasure in uncovering,” Yocum said. “If we can find the truth in each of the challenges and kind of reflect the presence of that truth it gives us a lot that we would not be able to layer onto a project.”

Bell and Yocum met at Harvard’s Graduate School of Design and then worked together at Mack Scogin Merrill Elam Architects in Atlanta. They founded their firm in 2006, spurred mostly through work from art galleries, whose budgets and interests called for work within existing spaces. One of their first, Whitespace Gallery, is located inside an 1880s carriage house. Impressed by how clearly the original functions were expressed structurally, they set out to not only maintain that core, but also express the building’s new artistic focus with equal intensity. They hid lighting and HVAC along the periphery, and installed thin, floating panels—framed in steel—to display art.

Yocum calls this inserting the “featherlike presence of the new while respecting the gravity of the old.”

“We’re pushing and pulling off things that are seen and unseen rather than inventing from our own imagination,” added Bell. “There’s a lot of fascination with the situation that’s already there.”

Their work has continued along these lines, pushing and pulling on the complex layers of existing materials and techniques and the addition of contemporary ones. The installation Boundary Issues at the Atlanta Contemporary Art Center removed contemporary plaster walls to display a mesmerizing combination of existing paint and bricks.Essentially they practiced addition by subtraction, architecture’s version of etching away a solid in a block print.

For their Caddell classroom and faculty building at Georgia Tech, they took cues for a new canopy from the structural logic of the existing 1950s building, whose steel frame is hidden behind a concrete exterior. The resulting canopy of aluminum louvers looks ultra-light from below, but like the original building, its thick steel frame is hidden above, out of sight. At Congregation Or Hadash Synagogue, they converted a former Chevrolet paint and auto body repair shop by carefully carving away its tilt-up concrete and sheet metal cladding, creating a radically different typology, nonetheless informed by its bones.

Even their only ground-up building, the Burned House in Atlanta, plays with history. Its cladding is painted with dozens of layers of paints, stencils, metallics, and other markings, which are meant to become exposed as the paint decays. Its interior plays with solid and void, with spaces pushed and pulled in unusual configurations to maximize exposure and push the boundaries of expectation.

“We wanted to think of history in reverse,” said Yocum. “Everything has a historical presence. If you’re not exploring that you’re missing opportunities.”

Profile: Emerging Voices Winner S-AR

The Architectural League of New York’s Emerging Voices competition identifies leading talents in architecture and design in the U.S., Canada, and Mexico. Meet the eight 2016 winners that were selected for their “distinct design voices and significant bodies of realized work." Each firm will deliver a lecture this month in Manhattan. The fourth lecture takes place today, Tuesday, April 12 at 7:00 p.m. when Cesar Guerrero and Ana Cecilia Garza, along with Alex Anmahian and Nick Wintonpresent their work.

CESAR GUERRERO AND ANA CECILIA GARZA

Although the four young partners behind S-AR met at the Technical University of Monterrey in Mexico and are currently based in the historically industrial city, they have worked in architecture firms around the world. The result is a portfolio that  combines weighty, often rough materials and techniques with the elegance, simplicity, and refinement of today’s modernism.

“We’ve learned a lot of things in other countries,” said principal César Guerrero, “but the work is very related to this city, not only in its materials and resources, but in the people who work in those enterprises. We try to use that knowledge about manufacturing and construction.” S-AR’s Casa 2G in San Pedro, Mexico, utilizes handmade doors, windows, and handles, as well as imposing poured-in-place concrete walls. Outside it appears heavy, industrial, and monolithic. But walk inside and the house transforms, projecting lightness, openness to the outdoors, and a genius for permitting natural light.

Like Casa 2G, most S-AR projects have the advantage of custom materials and resources and employ a healthy mixture of natural and manmade elements. Their Casa Madera, also in San Pedro, is the first domestic building in the city to be made completely of wood. Giant sheets of glass were produced locally in the biggest glass factory in Mexico. 

The young partners are not content to work on one type of building or scale. They also create architectural installations, furniture, design objects, and publications. Their triangular chair transforms one medium-density-fiberboard sheet into triangular pieces that create a contained seating area; their CB container reinterprets a traditional basket in steel mesh; and their book Macroplaza 20.30 explores interventions to transform a public space in Monterrey.

“Architecture has great possibilities to create knowledge,” noted Guerrero. “It’s important to be diverse in your experimentation. And it’s more fun to keep your interest in a lot of things. One day you’re designing a public space and the next a pavilion.”

The firm has also created a nonprofit organization, Comunidad Vivex, that works with low-income residents to create houses, community centers, and other architecture. Materials are donated by local companies, and labor is provided, in part, by the future tenants themselves. Working with the organization they created Casa Caja, or Box House, in Zuazua, Mexico. It consists of concrete masonry, reinforced concrete, and a clay box, placed in the middle of the site, which leaves room for a large side patio as well as copious light and ventilation. Another box is placed at one end, containing core systems like HVAC, plumbing, and stairs. The first level contains flexible, open spaces, including room for commercial enterprises, while the second level contains private living and bedroom spaces.

“Architecture is not about the size of the buildings, it’s about the size of the ideas,” said Guerrero.

Profile: Emerging Voices Winner Anmahian Winton Architects

The Architectural League of New York’s Emerging Voices competition identifies leading talents in architecture and design in the U.S., Canada, and Mexico. Meet the eight 2016 winners that were selected for their “distinct design voices and significant bodies of realized work." Each firm will deliver a lecture this month in Manhattan. The fourth lecture takes place today, Tuesday, April 12 at 7:00 p.m. when Alex Anmahian and Nick Winton, along with Cesar Guerrero and Ana Cecilia Garzapresent their work.

Alex Anmahian and Nick WintoN

Alex Anmahian and Nick Winton met in studio during their time at Harvard’s graduate school. Their paths crossed under the stewardship of studio leader John Tuomey (now of O’Donnell + Tuomey), when they collaborated on a project together. Shortly after, in 1992, they set up Anmahian Winton Architects in Cambridge with just the two of them at the helm.

Now with 12 associates, each project, Anmahian said, is approached with a mix of “anxiety” and juvenile zeal. From the outset, they have deterred from adhering to any set style or preconceived aesthetic principles. Rather, their ethos, if anything, derives  from the cultural context of the site, financial constraints, and client demands.

Speaking about their most recent project, an observatory in New Hampshire, Anmahian describes how the abstract form “came from analyzing the contextual language that came from the site, as well as tending to the need and aspirations of the client. The form developed as an outgrowth of the rock we were building on.”

A glimpse at their work further reflects this philosophy. Through typology alone, one can see how the practice is continuously looking for something new, while maintaining a sense of honesty and well-being, and this mindset is what has been a catalyst to the duo’s success. “All projects have different character quality and are very specific and highly personalized to our client,” said Winton.“We don’t try to express ideologies, and we don’t have a style. What we bring is a way of thinking,” Anmahian added. “Instead, we ask: Does it represent and absorb its cultural context? Hence, the results are unique.”

They thoroughly enjoy the processes of design and are constantly eager to try new challenges—as revealed in the variety of their work, which ranges from basketball benches to observatories and bamboo-based offices. “We’re not specialized in terms of typology; what has remained the same is the sense of trepidation,” said Anmahian. 

Anmahian and Winton also express how their work focuses on the “rituals of everyday life,” and in doing so, delve deeply into their clients’ operations. “We take every space seriously. Obviously there is still hierarchy in the work, but we don’t leave things unturned or focus on one space and let the others feed off [of it].”

Where next? Neither Anmahian nor Winton are quite sure, but both are aware of how far they’ve come. “We look back on our first project with nostalgia while wincing [at the] missed opportunities.” Being self-critical has allowed the firm to progress and adapt to their own growth. “We think globally with  our projects; we work internally without specialized employees,” said Anmahian. “In our office, the collaborative aspect of it has expanded a lot.”

The Architectural League New York announces 2016 Emerging Voices winners

The Architectural League of New York announced the eight winners of its annual Emerging Voices program. “The 2016 ‘Voices,’ each responding to distinct geographic sites and typologies, all compellingly address the relationship between architecture and place by resourcefully synthesizing programmatic invention with computational production and the craft of building,” Anne Rieselbach, program director, said in a statement. This year, the jury panel was composed of Sunil Bald, Henry N. Cobb, Susannah Drake, Mario Gooden, Karrie Jacobs, Anna Kats, Thomas Phifer, and Billie Tsien. Lectures with the winners will be held throughout March and April at The Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen Center for Thought and Culture, 18 Bleecker Street, New York, NY at 7:00 p.m. Please verify all program information with The Architectural League before listing. The 2016 winners are... Alex Anmahian and Nick Winton, principals and cofounders of Anmahian Winton Architects A Cambridge, Massachusetts, architecture firm with works as far away as Turkey and close to home in Boston that views “the synthesis of place, program, and community as an opportunity to enhance the rituals of everyday life, foster a sense of wellbeing, and to inspire the imagination.” Omar Gandhi, principal at Omar Gandhi Architect Based in Halifax and Toronto, Gandhi’s projects are site-specific and material forward, keeping to a “modest, formal lineage that makes for architecture that is accessible to all types of people.” Cesar Guerrero, Ana Cecilia Garza, Carlos Flores, and Maria Sevilla of S-AR The Monterrey, Mexico–based firm focuses on “the design and development of architectural projects of several scales and typologies from private, experimental, and social structures to architectural installations, educational buildings as well as furniture and book design.” Frank Jacobus and Marc Manack, principals at SILO AR+D Splitting their time between Cleveland and Fayetteville, Arkansas, Jacobus and Manack have worked on a spectrum of projects from a church in Cleveland, a “Super Sukkah” pavilion in St. Louis, and a home in Fayetteville. Jon Lott, principal at PARA Project and cofounding member of Collective-LOK New York’s Jon Lott has most recently crafted a series of sleek, monolithic structures in Syracuse, New York, including the Haffenden House residence, the Crawford Attic Writing Room, and La Casita. E.B. Min and Jeffrey L. Day, principals, Min | Day Founded on the belief that “architecture is a spatial and material practice in the service of human habitation,” the studio is located in San Francisco and Omaha, with projects ranging from a home to a public transportation station. Rozana Montiel founder, Rozana Montiel | Estudio de Arquitectura Montiel’s work focuses on the public domain with projects that include the City Out of Line Park in Mexico City, Common-Unity, a public space rehabilitation project in Mexico City, and Court, a sports field in Veracruz, Mexico. Heather Roberge principal, Murmur Roberge’s most recent projects include an installation at SCI-Arc Gallery and two residences in Los Angeles, where the architect is based.