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Hot Shots: 12 Emerging Designers Shaping the Future of Practice

They are groundbreakers, rebels, visionaries and detectives. Through their work, they’re uncovering new conditions that subvert and reimagine the future of practice.

Eric Baldwin Eric Baldwin

Great design arises from the unexpected. By its nature, architectural discourse tends towards polarization, pitting image or formal exploration against activist design or the austere. When surveying contemporary practice, some of the most compelling work resists this polarization, occupying a middle ground focused on reinterpreting the everyday through critical engagement. Here, design elevates architecture above commodity to explore new definitions of the built environment. As both playful creations and rigorous investigations, these projects are created by designers who are actively shaping architecture’s evolution.

Hot Shots draws together 12 designers challenging convention. As a disciplinary cross section, the group includes award-winning Emerging Practices, Design Vanguards and Next Progressives from across the industry. Their work explores everything from hip hop architecture and cartoon storytelling to arctic food networks and guerilla gardening. They are groundbreakers, rebels, visionaries and detectives. Through their work, they’re uncovering new conditions that subvert and reimagine the future of practice.

Lola Sheppard & Mason White, Lateral Office, Toronto

Lola Sheppard and Mason White lead Lateral Office, an experimental design practice challenging accepted notions of architecture, landscape and urbanism. Committed to design research as a means to discover new typologies and relationships, they’ve been awarded a 2016 National Urban Design Award, a 2013 Progressive Architecture Award and a 2011 Emerging Voices award from the Architectural League of New York. Brazenly confronting contemporary issues through quick wit and finesse, they are known for imaginative design solutions that tackle a host of contemporary conditions across the world.

Michael Ford, BrandNu Design, Detroit

Michael Ford has become widely recognized in architecture as a galvanizer and pioneer of a new era of architectural practitioners. Known as “the Hip Hop Architect,” Michael is a Detroit designer who has dedicated his career to stimulating dialogue on the social and cultural impacts of architecture and urban planning. His firm, BrandNu Design, focuses on community engagement, pre-development strategies, and capital campaigns for new developments. A keynote speaker at the 2017 American Institute of Architects National Conference, Ford co-founded The Urban Arts Collective, where he created The Hip Hop Architecture Camp to increase the number of minorities in architecture and urban planning.

Derek Pirozzi, Derek Pirozzi Design Workshop, Sarasota

Established in 2015, DPDW is known for fantastic, captivating designs. Created across international markets, the projects range from residential and hospitality work to incredible mixed-used towers. Winner of the 2013 Evolo Skyscraper competition, Derek’s work is derived from a rich understanding of context and environment. Building upon history and tradition to redefine regional typology, he is the recipient of the Morpholio Award for Emerging Talent and the Well Tech Smart City International Architecture Award. Aiming to unify manmade and the natural elements, DPDW pursues authentic design narratives to speculate, entice and excite.

Molly Hunker & Greg Corso, SPORTS, Syracuse

Highlighted as a Firm to Watch by Architectural Record and as Next Progressives by Architect Magazine, SPORTS was founded by Molly Hunker & Greg Corso in 2010 to “balance rigor and research with amusement and curiosity.” Taking a playful and serious approach to design, their work creates unexpected experiences that challenge traditional understandings of the built environment. SPORTS is the recipient of a “Best of Design” Award from Architect’s Newspaper and a 2017 Arch League Prize from the Architectural League of NY. Fresh, creative and on-point, SPORTS engages issues outside the traditional architectural purview.

William O’Brien Jr, WOJR, Cambridge

William O’Brien Jr. is principal of WOJR, an organization of designers approaching architecture as a form of cultural production. In 2013 Architectural Record awarded him with the Design Vanguard Award, and in the same year, Wallpaper* named him one of the top 20 emerging architects in the world. WOJR work is characterized by subtle moves that radically transform spatial experience and perception. From the widely acclaimed Mask House to the Fortress pavilion in Brazil, O’Brien leads critical investigations into typology, form and spatial narratives.

Katherine Darnstadt, Latent Design, Chicago

Architect Katherine Darnstadt is the founder and principal of Latent Design, an office that directly engages stakeholders and the city to create inspiring design solutions. Formed with a “collaborative user focused design method,” Latent works across disciplinary boundaries to create everything from temporary popup shops and urban interventions to guerilla gardening plans. Since founding her practice in 2010, Katherine and her firm have been recognized as an emerging leader in the profession and received the 2013 American Institute of Architects Young Architects Honor Award. Celebrating diversity, needs and the potential to stimulate transformation, Katherine’s office focuses on impact beyond the building.

Jimenez Lai, BUREAU SPECTACULAR, Los Angeles

As a self-defined “operation of architectural affairs”, BUREAU SPECTACULAR was founded by Jimenez Lai in 2008 and is based out of Los Angeles. Focusing on narrative, the bureau imagines other worlds, developing rich relationships and fake realities that conflate, entice and excite. Exploring the potential of cartoons, installations, models and small buildings, the office happily operates at the intersection of disciplines to produce stunning stories, characters and plots.

Heather Roberge, Murmur, Los Angeles

Recently appointed chair of the department of architecture and urban design in the UCLA School of the Arts and Architecture, Heather Roberge is principal of the design practice Murmur. Emphasizing the potential of manufacturing, materials and computation on building assemblies, she explores digital technologies through theory and practice. Recipient of the 2016 Emerging Voices Award from the Architectural League of New York and named a Next Progressive in Architect magazine in 2015, Heather is focused on rethinking spatial, structural and atmospheric ideas of the built environment.

Elizabeth Whittaker, Merge Architects, Boston

Elizabeth Whittaker is the founder of Merge Architects, recipient of the 2015 AIA Young Architects Award and the 2014 Design Vanguard Award from Architectural Record. The firm has quickly carved out a design process known for innovation through making. Exploring the potential of digital fabrication and the hand-made, the office subverts expectation at multiple scales, from cable mesh to social nodes in the urban fabric. Elizabeth’s work incorporates low and high tech processes to realize nimble, forward-looking architecture grounded in craft.

Jennifer Bonner, MALL, Boston

Think hats, sandwiches and twins. If you haven’t heard her name yet, you should know that Jennifer Bonner is taking the architecture world by storm. As critical as she is inventive, Jennifer founded MALL to create projects that “reappropriate history, hack typologies, reference cultural events, and invent representation.” A self-defined Southern architect, she attended Auburn University and her thesis project, Cedar Pavilion, was designed and constructed at the Rural Studio. Jennifer is a recipient of an AR Award for Emerging Architecture from the Architectural Review and an Emerging Voices Award from the AIA Young Architects Forum.


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