Top Creative Minds: 25 Thought Leaders on the Esteemed A+Firm Awards Jury

The A+Firm Award Jury includes renowned architects such as Francine Houben, Charles Renfro, Toshiko Mori, Thom Mayne and Michel Rojkind.

Paul Keskeys Paul Keskeys

The A+Firm Awards is now well underway, with top AEC companies completing their submissions in the race to be crowned one of the world’s best firms. This new awards program, an expansion of Architizer’s renowned A+Awards, will set the benchmark for construction industry, publishing the work of exemplary studios around the globe and providing a definitive stamp of approval for those firms whose work is of a consistently high standard. With the deadline approaching on November 20, start your firm’s submission now:

Enter the A+Firm Awards

For such a significant accolade, it is vital that those deciding the winners are of equally reputable standing, providing a multi-faceted viewpoint to help decide which firms come out on top.

For this reason, Architizer is proud to present one of the most influential and diverse juries for this form of global architectural awards program. Hailing from a wide range of industries and with unique expertise, these thought leaders will offer their unique perspective to help identify which firms are the world’s best, based on the quality of their work and what they stand for in today’s fast-evolving world.

Below, we present the stories behind the A+Firm Awards jurors, and invite firms around the world to get their work seen by this stellar panel of creative luminaries.

Michel Rojkind

Founding Partner, Rojkind Arquitectos

Photo by Santiago Ruizseñor

Michel Rojkind was born in Mexico City, where he studied Architecture and Urban Planning at the Universidad Iberoamericana (1989-1994). In 2002 he founded Rojkind Arquitectos, a firm focusing on design, tactical and experiential innovation. While addressing the challenges of contemporary life, his goal is to design compelling architectural and urban planning solutions that go beyond mere functionality and become integral experiences that connect the intricacies of each project at a deeper level and positively impact our society and the environment.

He has been a visiting professor at the Southern California Institute of Architecture (SCI-Arc) in L.A., the Institute for Advanced Architecture of Catalonia (IACC) in Barcelona, the University of Pennsylvania (UPenn) and the Aalto University, Finland. Rojkind has gained international acclaim by being featured in numerous well-known architectural & media publications. The New York Times named Michel Rojkind as part of “A Generation of Architects Making Its Mark at Dizzing Speed” in 2017. Rojkind was named as one of the “300 most influential Mexican Leaders” by the Mexican Leaders magazine (2017 & 2018), and in 2010 was named as one of the “Country’s Treasured Architects” by the Mexican Civil Registry.

Sumayya Vally

Founder and Principal, Counterspace

Hailing from Johannesburg, South Africa, Sumayya Vally is the Founder and Principal of Counterspace. Her design, research and pedagogical practice is committed to finding expression for hybrid identities and contested territories. Vally also founded Counterparts, an arm of Counterspace – an interdisciplinary space, residency, dialogue and publishing platform, with an interest in tracing, seeding and carving collaborative ways of working. She is presently based between Johannesburg and London as the architect of the Serpentine Pavilion 2020/20 Plus 1.

Dong Danshen

Chairman and Chief Principal Architect, The Architectural Design and Research Institute of Zhejiang University

In 1986, Dong Danshen graduated from the Department of Civil Engineering of Zhejiang University, majoring architecture with bachelor degree, and is now the Chairman and Chief Principal Architect of the Architectural Design and Research Institute of Zhejiang University. He’s always focused on architectural creation and research, and has been founded the “Balanced Architecture” theoretical framework. The theory derives from the idea of “Knowing and doing” of traditional Chinese philosophy to guide specific architectural creation and practices.

The cores of it are composed of “Unity of sensibility and rationality”, “Unity of technology and art” and “Unity of appearance and quality”, which aim to create the balanced architecture via architectural balance. In 2018, his works featured in the “Art of Europe” International Architecture Exhibition, and he was invited to participate in the Venice Architecture Biennale 2020 in China. He has also published two monographs, Towards Balance and Knowledge and Practice in the Construction of University Campuses.

June A. Grant, RA, NOMA

Founder and Design Principal, blink!LAB architecture

June A. Grant, RA, NOMA, is Founder and Design Principal at blink!LAB architecture; a boutique research-based architecture and urban design practice. Launched in 2014, Blink!LAB is based on Ms. Grant’s 20 years experience in architecture, design and the urban regeneration of cities and communities.

 Her design approach rests on an avid belief in cultural empathy, data research and new technologies as integral to design futures and design solutions. blink!LAB has three mandates – A commitment to Design Exploration, Advocacy for Holistic Solutions and the Integration of Technology as a central component for a regenerative society.

Ms. Grant is also the current President of the San Francisco Chapter of the National Organization of Minority Architects (SFNOMA).

Thom Mayne, FAIA

Founding Partner, Morphosis

Photo by Kurt Iswarienko and Milenio Magazine

Thom Mayne founded Morphosis in 1972 as a collective practice of architecture, urbanism and design, rooted in rigorous research and innovation. Morphosis is recognized for its innovative and sustainable designs for cultural, civic and academic institutions, including the Bloomberg Center at Cornell Tech, the Perot Museum of Nature and Science, and 41 Cooper Square, the academic building for The Cooper Union.

In addition, Mayne helped to establish the Southern California Institute of Architecture (SCI-Arc) in 1972. He has held teaching positions at Columbia, Yale (the Eliel Saarinen Chair in 1991), the Harvard Graduate School of Design (Eliot Noyes Chair in 1998), the Berlage Institute in the Netherlands, the Bartlett School of Architecture in London, and many other institutions around the world. He was also a tenured Professor at the University of California Los Angele Architecture and Urban Design (UCLA A.UD) from 1993 – 2019. Mayne’s distinguished honors include the Pritzker Prize (2005) and the AIA Gold Medal (2013), as well as 29 Progressive Architecture Awards, over 120 American Institute of Architecture Awards and numerous other design recognitions.

Francine Houben

Founding Partner/CEO and Creative Director at Mecanoo architecten

Francine Houben (the Netherlands, 1955) is Founding Partner and Creative Director of Mecanoo architecten. Her work ranges from theatres, museums and libraries to neighbourhoods, housing and parks. Each design is founded on observation of people, location, culture and climate. This analysis amounts to designs that respond to current needs, yet are also prepared for (un)predictable change.

Selected works include Delft University of Technology Library, Delft (1997), La Llotja Theatre and Congress Centre, Lleida, Spain (2008), Library of Birmingham, United Kingdom (2013), Bruce C. Bolling Municipal Building, Boston, United States (2015) and National Kaohsiung Center for the Arts, Taiwan (opened in 2018). Currently, she is finalizing the renovation of the New York Public Library and the central library of Washington, DC – designed by Mies van der Rohe which both re-opened in 2020.

Charles Renfro

Principal, Diller Scofidio + Renfro

Photo by Geordie Wood

Charles Renfro joined Diller Scofidio + Renfro (DS+R) in 1997 and became a partner in 2004. Charles led the design for a number of projects including the Institute of Contemporary Art in Boston and Zaryadye Park, a 35-acre park adjacent to the Kremlin in Moscow. Charles has also led a number of academic projects at Stanford University, UC Berkeley, and Brown University, and is currently designing new facilities for Columbia University, the University of Chicago, and the University of Toronto.

He is also currently leading the renovation of Dallas’s Kalita Humphreys Theater – Frank Lloyd Wright’s only built free-standing theater. Abroad, Charles is leading the design of the Museum of Image and Sound in Rio de Janeiro, and the Tianjin Juilliard School in China. He is a faculty member of the School of Visual Arts.

Little Wing Lee

Founder, Studio & Projects; Design Director, Ace Hotel Group

Little Wing Lee is an award winning interior designer with over 15 years of experience in cultural, commercial and residential projects. Her sharp eye for color, texture and materiality along with her thoughtful and narrative-driven approach brought her to work with some of the most renowned and inventive design firms, including SOM, Rockwell Group, Ralph Appelbaum Associates, APPARATUS and Ace Hotel Group/Atelier Ace – where she currently holds the position of Design Director.

In 2019, she started her own interior design practice, Studio & Projects. She also publicly launched Black Folks in Design (@blackfolksindesign), an organization whose mission is to bring awareness to and promote the cultural contributions, excellence, and importance of Black designers. Prior to her career in design, Little Wing worked in documentary television and film contributing to several Oscar and Emmy nominated projects.

David Rockwell

Chairman, Rockwell Group

David Rockwell is founder and president of Rockwell Group, an award-winning, cross-disciplinary design practice based in New York City, Madrid and Shanghai. The firm has worked on a broad range of projects, including restaurants, hotels, airport terminals, hospitals, museums, and Broadway sets. Rockwell’s honors include a 2016 Tony Award for Best Scenic Design, the AIA New York Chapter President’s Award, the 2008 Cooper Hewitt National Design Award for Interior Design, the Presidential Design Award; and induction into Interior Design magazine’s Hall of Fame. Rockwell Group was named by Fast Company 2008, 2014 and 2015 as one of the world’s most innovative design practices.

Yoko Choy

China editor of Wallpaper* magazine, co-founder of Collective Contemporist

Born in Hong Kong, China, Yoko Choy is the China Editor for Wallpaper* magazine, with work published in Hong Kong Economic Journal, Dezeen, Frame, Louis Vuitton publications and more. Choy is also a communications consultant and has worked for Art Basel on its launch in Hong Kong, curated exhibitions for Dover Street Market in China, advised Beijing Design Week on international strategy and represented Mariotestino+ in Asia. Yoko co-founded Collective Contemporist, a creative consultancy with offices in Beijing, Hong Kong and Amsterdam, together with the launch of creative conference ASSEMBLY in Beijing, to stimulate and inspire conversations and commercial collaborations.

Virgil Abloh

Chief Creative Director and founder of Off-White™️ and Men’s Artistic Director at Louis Vuitton

Born in Rockford, Illinois, Virgil Abloh is an artist, architect, engineer, creative director, artistic director, industrial designer, fashion designer, musician & Dj, and philanthropist. After earning a degree in civil engineering from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, he completed a master’s degree in architecture at the Illinois Institute of Technology (IIT), Chicago. At IIT, while studying a design curriculum devised by Mies van der Rohe, Abloh began to craft the principles of his art practice. The Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago presented a major traveling survey of Abloh’s work in summer 2019. Currently, Abloh is the Chief Creative Director and founder of Off-White™️ and Men’s Artistic Director at Louis Vuitton.

Debbie Millman

Designer, Educator, Podcast Host

Debbie Millman is host of the award-winning podcast Design Matters, the world’s first podcast on design; Chair of the first ever Masters in Branding Program at the School of Visual Arts, Editorial Director of Print magazine, President Emeritus of AIGA, and the author of six books on design and branding. She has worked on the design and strategy of over 200 of the world’s largest brands.

Shohei Shigematsu

Partner, OMA

Shohei Shigematsu is a Partner at OMA, based out of the New York office. He has been a driving force behind many of OMA’s projects, leading the firm’s diverse portfolio in the Americas for the past decade. With an emphasis on maximum specificity and process-oriented design, Sho provides design leadership and direction across the company for projects from their conceptual onset to completed construction.

Sho is responsible for delivering a number of cultural projects across North America, including Milstein Hall, an extension to the College of Architecture, Art and Planning at Cornell University; a new museum for the Musée national des beaux-arts du Québec; the Faena Forum, a multi-purpose venue in Miami Beach and the renovation and reimagination of Sotheby’s Headquarters in New York. Sho has designed exhibitions for Prada, the Venice Architecture Biennale, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Park Avenue Armory, Dior’s first US retrospective at Denver Art Museum and at the Dallas Museum of Art. Beyond his architectural work, Sho has also lectured at TED and Wired Japan conference, and at universities throughout the world.

Hans Ulrich Obrist

Artistic Director, Serpentine Galleries

Photo by Tyler Mitchell

Hans Ulrich Obrist is Artistic Director of the Serpentine Galleries in London. Prior to this, he was the Curator of the Musée d’Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris. Since his first show ‘World Soup (The Kitchen Show)’ in 1991, he has curated more than 300 exhibitions. Obrist is a contributing editor to Artforum, AnOther Magazine, Cahiers D’Art, and 032c, as well as being a regular contributor to Mousse, Kaleidoscope, Das Magazin and Weltkunst. In 2011 he received the CCS Bard Award for Curatorial Excellence, and in 2015 he was awarded the International Folkwang Prize for his commitment to the arts.

Toshiko Mori, FAIA

Principal and Founder, Toshiko Mori Architect PLLC

Photo by Ralph Gibson

Toshiko Mori, FAIA is the founding principal of Toshiko Mori Architect PLLC, and the Robert P. Hubbard Professor in the Practice of Architecture at the Harvard University Graduate School of Design, where she served as chair of the Department of Architecture from 2002 to 2008. She was inducted to the Academy of Arts and Letters in 2020 and has been a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences since 2016.Mori’s recent awards and honors include the Tau Sigma Delta National Honor Society Gold Medal in 2016; Architectural Record’s Women in Design Leader Award in 2019; and the AIA / ASCA Topaz Medallion for Excellence in Architectural Education in 2019.

Roy Kim

Principal, Eight Inc. and Owner, Roy Kim Design

Roy Kim is the Principal of the New York office of Eight, Inc., an experience design company that is perhaps most famous for its work with Steve Jobs for Apple’s retail program. Additionally, he is the founder of Roy Kim Design, which provides services in design and real estate consultation. Prior to both ventures, Roy was the Chief Creative Officer for Douglas Elliman New Development, where he was responsible for the design, development, and marketing of innovative multi-family dwellings. His work has been seen in Interior Design Magazine and the New York Times, as well as in the documentary ‘Super Skyscrapers: the Billionaires’ Building’.

Kate Wagner

Architecture Critic

Kate Wagner is an architecture critic and the creator of the blog McMansion Hell. In addition to McMansion Hell, Kate is the writer of the America By Design column in The New Republic. Her work can also be found in The Atlantic, CityLab, Curbed, Metropolis, and The Nation.

Ji Lee

Creative Director,
Facebook Creative Shop

Ji Lee is an independent designer and a creative director at Facebook, New York. Named as one of the 50 most important designers in America by the Fast Company, Ji’s work has been featured in The New York Times, Time Magazine, Wired, BBC, The Guardian among others.

Yves Béhar

Fuseproject Founder and Chief Designer

Photo by Justin Buell

Yves Béhar is a global leader in design and the Founder and Chief Designer of San Francisco-based industrial design and brand development studio, fuseproject. A successful entrepreneur, Béhar has co-founded new companies such as August Home, FORME Life, and CANOPY. Béhar has given talks at worldwide events as a spokesperson for design, sustainability, technology, and entrepreneurship, has received over 300 awards, and has designs included in the permanent collections of museums worldwide, including the Museum of Modern Art in New York, the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, the Centre Pompidou and the Art Institute of Chicago.

Kathryn Firth

Partner, FPdesign

Architect and urban designer Kathryn Firth is a partner in FPdesign. Prior to this she was Director of Urban Design at NBBJ. From 2011-14, she was the Chief of Design at the London Legacy Development Corporation. She has led master planning and urban regeneration projects that range from those in sensitive heritage contexts to regeneration projects on former industrial sites. Firth also taught in the Cities Programme at the London School of Economics, and over the past three years she has been teaching urban planning and design at Harvard’s Graduate School of Design.

Barry Bergdoll

Meyer Schapiro Professor of Art History, Columbia University

Barry Bergdoll is Meyer Schapiro Professor of Art History at Columbia University and the former Chief Curator in the Department of Architecture and Design at the Museum of Modern Art, New York (2007-14). A specialist in the history of modern architecture, he curated numerous exhibitions at MoMA, the Canadian Centre for Architecture, the Musée d’Orsay, and other venues, including Mies In Berlin (2001), Bauhaus 1919–1933: Workshops for Modernity (2009-2010), Rising Currents: Projects for New York’s Waterfront (2010), Latin America in Construction: Architecture 1955-1980 (2015) and Frank Lloyd Wright at 150: Unpacking the Archive (2017). He is the author most recently of Marcel Breuer: Building Global Institutions (2017).

Jake Barton

Principal & Founder, Local Projects

Jake Barton is Principal and Founder of Local Projects, a media and physical design firm that creates groundbreaking experiences. Credits include landmark projects like the 9/11 Memorial Museum, the Cooper-Hewitt Smithsonian Design Museum, and the Cleveland Museum of Art. Local Projects has won every major award including the National Design Awards and Cannes Lions. Jake’s TED talk has nearly one million views, and he is on Fast Company Magazine’s list of top fifty designers.

Kelly Wearstler

Founder and Principal, Kelly Wearstler design studio

Kelly Wearstler, founder and principal of Kelly Wearstler design studio, is an American designer creating multi-faceted, experiential residential, hospitality, commercial and retail environments as well as expansive collections of lifestyle product designs and brand collaborations. With the demonstration of provocative concepts and expressive narratives signature to her extensive body of work, Wearstler is internationally recognized with distinctive design awards and numerous publications. A multi-layered, stimulating sensory experience is at the center of Wearstler’s design approach. Through an exploration of materiality, color, forms and an intuitive juxtaposition of contemporary and vintage, architectural and organic, graphic and instinctual, she curates a wealth of experiences into every space. Wearstler believes that honoring history, location and architecture is imperative to pushing the boundaries and challenging the rules.

Hoor Al Qasimi

President and Director of Sharjah Art Foundation

Hoor Al Qasimi is President and Director of Sharjah Art Foundation. Her recent curatorial projects include solo exhibitions of the works of Amal Kenawy (2018), Hassan Sharif (2017), Yayoi Kusama (2016), Robert Breer (2016), Farideh Lashai (2016), Rasheed Araeen (2014) and Susan Hefuna (2014). She was co-curator for Joana Hadjithomas and Khalil Joreige: Two Suns in a Sunset (2016) and major surveys such as When Art Becomes Liberty: The Egyptian Surrealists (1938–1965) (2016) and The Khartoum School: The Making of the Modern Art Movement in Sudan (1945–Present) (2016–2017). Co-curator of Sharjah Biennial 6 (2003), she has since continued as Biennial Director.

She curated the UAE National Pavilion, Venice Biennale (2015) and the second Lahore Biennale (2020). President of the International Biennial Association; Chair of the Board, Sharjah Architecture Triennial; Chair of the Advisory Board, College of Fine Arts and Design, University of Sharjah; and President of The Africa Institute, Sharjah, Al Qasimi serves on the Board of Directors for MoMA PS1, New York; Kunst-Werke Berlin e. V.; and Ashkal Alwan, Beirut as well as advisory boards for Khoj, New Delhi and Darat al Funun, Amman. She is also a member of the Prince Claus Award Committee (2016–present).

Benjamin Prosky

Executive Director, AIA New York and Center for Architecture

Benjamin Prosky, Assoc. AIA, has been Executive Director of the American Institute of Architects New York Chapter (AIANY) and the Center for Architecture since February 2016. Previously, he served as Assistant Dean for Communications at Harvard Graduate School of Design. He has also held positions at Columbia University Graduate School of Architecture, Planning and Preservation, Canadian Center for Architecture, and French Institute of Architecture.

To submit your portfolio for review by this incredible line-up of thought leaders, enter the A+Firm Awards before November 20, 2020:

Enter the A+Firm Awards

Paul Keskeys Author: Paul Keskeys
Paul Keskeys is Editor in Chief at Architizer. An architect-trained editor, writer and content creator, Paul graduated from UCL and the University of Edinburgh, gaining an MArch in Architectural Design with distinction. Paul has spoken about the art of architecture and storytelling at many national industry events, including AIANY, NeoCon, KBIS, the Future NOW Symposium, the Young Architect Conference and NYCxDesign. As well as hundreds of editorial publications on Architizer, Paul has also had features published in Architectural Digest, PIN—UP Magazine, Archinect, Aesthetica Magazine and PUBLIC Journal.
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