Who hasn’t walked down a city street and marveled over the brilliant minds that envisioned and brought to life the buildings before them? In honor of the critical role architects play in shaping our environments and serving society in doing so, the Union Internationale des Architectes (UIA) has designated October 2nd as World Architecture Day. What better time to celebrate the architectural accomplishments of the next generation? Read on for a roundup of six architects changing the world with hard work and innovatory spirit.
Architect Maria Smith and engineers Steve Webb and Andy Yates make up the creative collaboration known as Interrobang, AKA “the fusion of an exclamation point and a question mark.” Earlier this year, The Guardian profiled these rising stars -- best known for converting west London’s art deco Hoover Building into flats -- and their “practice dedicated to ‘hybrid’ and ‘anti-specialist’ thinking. Says Smith of the firm’s unique name, “It suggests adventure and questioning.”
Proposes the Interrobang website of its unconventional approach to architecture, “Much of contemporary practice involves battling extensive, often conflicting constraints. To create meaningful intervention in our built environment, therefore, requires a collaborative and, critically, adventurous attitude to problem-solving. Too often architects are divested of any power to innovate in the face of impenetrable engineering imperatives, and somehow at the same time, engineers are relegated to ‘making it work’. This debilitates architects, undervalues the innovation clever engineering can bring to a project, and squanders a host of potential designs. Interrobang rejects this bunk by colluding with and engaging engineers’ visionary, divergent thinking in every project from start to finish.”
NY-based internationally-acclaimed architecture and design firm REX comprises a think-tank of 30 diverse designers. Said Fast Company of REX in its ranking of the world’s Top 10 innovative companies in architecture, “REX has mastered the experimental facade, as seen in its designs for 2050 M Street, a Washington, D.C. office building in covered in striking curved glass windows that add coveted light and floor space, and for New York’s Ronald O. Perelman Performing Arts Center, which is clad in translucent marble that looks almost like a Rorschach pattern from far away. By using unorthodox materials in its buildings, REX adds a new dimension to cityscapes.”
REX’s philosophy, according to its website? “We believe it is time for Architecture to do things again, not simply represent things. Departing from the modus operandi of contemporary practices, where a formal agenda supersedes a project’s intractable realities, REX emphasizes performance—a hybrid of program, organization, and form calibrated to each client’s aspirations and each project’s constraints. Unprejudiced by convention or a preconceived aesthetic strategy, we return to root problems and doggedly explore them with a critical naiveté. Sometimes we discover uncharted territory; sometimes we rediscover forgotten territory that has renewed usefulness; sometimes we reaffirm conventions with assured conviction. Through this process, we expose solutions that transcend those we could have initially or individually imagined, and aspire to produce designs so functionally specific that they offer profoundly unique aesthetic experiences.”
In including Assemble in its list of “10 Upcoming Architects Every Highsnobiety Reader Should Know,” Highsnobiety highlighted the London architecture group’s status as the first-ever design studio to receive the prestigious Turner prize. Wrote Zoe Cooper, “The group of 18 young architects and designers earned praise for their Granby Four Streets project in Liverpool, where they worked with local authorities to clean up the neighborhood, revive empty houses, and establish a local market…In keeping with their penchant for repurposing pre-existing spaces, the collective is now busy working on a new gallery for London art college Goldsmiths in a former bathhouse.”
Enthuses the New York Times, meanwhile, “For this renegade architectural collective, what goes on in and around a space is just as important as the space itself.”
4. Moreau Kusunoki
Another up-and-comer earning a nod from Highsnobiety? The husband-wife duo of Paris-based architects Nicolas Moreau and Hiroko Kusunoki. Thrust into the spotlight two years ago when they won the very visible (and highly controversial) Guggenheim Helsinki competition, they said of their tight-lipped approach, “Architecture is best conceived in reserve and introspection, which are favorable to the emergence of poetic visions.”
“Moreau Kusunoki is expanding on a global trend toward more accessible – some would even say democratic – museum architecture that welcomes visitors inside, offering a panorama of the surrounding landscape through glass walls. The young firm is sure to have a bright future ahead of them,” proclaims Highsnobiety of Moreau Kusunoki’s most recent designs.
5. Bjarke Ingels
As head of BIG, a Copenhagen, New York and London based group of architects, designers, builders, and thinkers operating within the fields of architecture, urbanism, interior design, landscape design, product design, research and development, Bjarke Ingels is known for several high-profile projects (including 2 World Trade Center), as well as his “Yes is More” manifesto (now available in comic book form).
Of the Danish architect’s “deeply-thought-out and often rather large works,” TED says, “Theory meets pragmatism meets optimism in Bjarke Ingels’ architecture. His big-think approach is informed by a hands-on, ground-up understanding of the needs of a building’s occupants and surroundings.”
(Hear Ingels’ inspiring TED talk on “3 Warp-Speed Architecture Tales,” here.)
6. Melike Altinisik
Said Complex in 2014 when including Istanbul-based Melike Altinisk in its list of “10 Young Architects Transforming Urban Skylines Around the World,” “Melike Altinisik is no stranger to success, having worked for the famous architect Zaha Hadid before co-founding her own studio, Salon Architects, with partner Alper Derinboğaz. Together, they excel in designing dynamic spaces for mass use, such as museums, parks, and housing complexes. At the Ataköy Marina in Istanbul, they have envisioned a commercial and cultural compound as a welcoming harbor for cruise ship tourism, complete with a glittering opera house.”
Today, she leads award-winning architectural design firm Melike Altinisik Architects (MAA) on projects including the Istanbul Çamlıca TV Tower. MAA’s Kizilirmak Bridge Design was also recently shortlisted for the WAN Future Projects Transport Award. Said one judge, “I give this project high marks, because it’s a utilitarian piece of infrastructure which adds beauty...It’s making infrastructure into something that is value added and shared.”
Asserts Jesse Harris for UNESCO-IICBA, “[Architects] represent a great force in our society because architecture is as well an expression of the strengths of the society as well as their technological progress.” While wildly different in their backgrounds and approaches, these six visionaries are at the forefront of the push to enhance human life on the planet through their architectural ingenuity.
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