Last week’s critical take on the Pritzker Laureate selection process polarized opinions across social media, but its core point remains a pertinent one: The Pritzker Prize celebrates the architecture of the past, rather than embracing the designers of the future. The honor is not accessible for any architect under the age of 40, and does not reveal anything new about the state of contemporary design. Its relevancy is therefore limited — but there are now plenty of other ways for trailblazing architects to get the recognition they deserve.
Now in its seventh year, Architizer’s A+Awards has become the premier competition for emerging architectural talent for one powerful reason — its democratic nature means that winners are selected on the merits of their work, regardless of age, location or firm status. A public voting process ensures the best new projects are rewarded — and many of those are masterminded by surprisingly young architects and designers.
In celebration of this fact, Architizer has selected 25 top young architects to watch in the coming year. Each of these talented individuals have already scooped awards (or been part of winning teams) for everything from design and innovation to advocacy and leadership — and they’re only just getting started. As you consider which of your projects to submit for this year’s A+Awards competition, take inspiration from our definite collection of emerging talents in architecture:
Chris and Fei Precht
penda took home Architizer’s Emerging Firm of the Year Award at the A+Awards Gala in 2016, thanks to a unique design language that can be seen across the world — both online and in reality. Chris and Fei Precht have now cofounded a new eponymous firm, signaling an exciting new chapter for the pair. As well as pioneering new construction techniques using vernacular materials, Chris Precht is a well-known thought leader for young architects, communicating with thousands via Instagram and multiple speaking events around the world.
Michael Riscica is an architect, and so much more besides — he is the founder of award-winning website YoungArchitect.com, which offers advice to aspiring architects looking to pass the Architect Registration Exam and succeed in practice. He also runs the ARE Facebook Group, advocating for greater support to students and young architects that want to be conscientious, hardworking professionals. As if that wasn’t enough, he’s now plotting the inaugural Young Architect Conference, launching in August this year!
Now a senior associate at S9 Architecture, Pascale Sablan was previously an associate at FXFOWLE Architects (recently rebranded as FXCollaborative Architects). She played a crucial role in the realization of 888 Boylston Street, a LEED Platinum office building that is an exemplar for sustainable design. Pascale is the Founder & Executive Director of Beyond the Built Environment, an organization focused on engaging community through architecture to advocate equitable, reflectively diverse environments. Sablan has won multiple awards for her work, including being named National Organization of Minority Architects (NOMA) member of the year in 2015. AIA Young Architects award Winner 2018. Indeed, Sablan is a leading voice for architects of color, curating a series of SAY IT LOUD exhibitions originated at the AIANY Center for Architecture focused on elevating the contributions of women and diverse designers. SAY IT LOUD has been exhibited at the United Nations Visitors Centre, A’18, NOMA Unbounded and SXSW.
Michelle Acosta is a showcase for the value of specializing in architecture. She currently works as a healthcare project manager for SmithGroup in Phoenix, Arizona, providing unique expertise that help create better environments for large medical complexes. Acosta was a 2018 Young Architects Award recipient, having played a key role in nurturing multiple local AIA chapters and offering a fresh perspective as a young female architect in a highly technical sector.
Raffaello Rosselli creates architecture through a process that redefines and reimagines neglected and waste materials. A collaborator with Luigi Rosselli Architects, Raffaello runs his own eponymous practice and was lead architect for the The Beehive, a triple A+Award-winning office with a stunning, perforated façade of salvaged terracotta roof tiles. Raffaello worked previously at Vo Trong Nghia Architects in Hanoi, Vietnam where he helped deliver the Vietnam Pavilion at the Milan World Expo.
Trần Thị Ngụ Ngôn and Nguyễn Hải Long
Trần Thị Ngụ Ngôn and Nguyễn Hải Long are the founders of TROPICAL SPACE, a Vietnamese firm that has won dozens of awards in just a few short years for its incredible use of bricks. Its design for Terra Cotta Studioscooped a double 2017 A+Award in the Architecture +Workspace category, its perforated brickwork skin following in the footsteps of inventive, vernacular projects like the stunning Termitary House.
Büro Koray Duman was named the Emerging Firm of the Year at the 2017 A+Awards for its forward-thinking vision for the role of the architect, coupled with a desire to disrupt stigmas surrounding the profession. Duman possesses a diverse perspective on architecture and urban design, having earned degrees in both Turkey and the United States. The architect constantly challenges social and political convention with creations such as the highly transparent Islamic Cultural Center in New York, intended to promote inter-religious coexistence and cultural exchange.
Helena Lucas Vieira and Pedro Miguel Ferreira
Helena Lucas Vieira and Pedro Miguel Ferreira head Plano Humano Arquitectos, a creative Lisbon-based architecture firm that envisioned Capela de Nossa Senhora de Fátima. This striking chapel won a grand total of three 2018 A+Awards in the Architecture +Wood and Religious Buildings and Monuments categories, its elegant pitched roof canopy captivating the jury and the public alike.
An associate vice president at HGA Architects and Engineers in Los Angeles, Satoshi Teshima is another pioneer in sustainable design. His work on the LEED Platinum Los Angeles Harbor College Science Complex in Wilmington, California, led to a USGBC|LA Project of the Year Award. Despite his young years, Teshima is already mentoring others to help them follow in his footsteps — he is a regular guest critic and lecturer at East Los Angeles College, Pasadena Arts Center, and Santa Monica College.
Lora Teagarden was a 2017 Young Architects Award recipient for her significant contributions to the profession. A LEED certified project architect at RATIO Architects and the Founder of L2 Design, Teagarden has also been published — her ARE Sketches series forms an insightful visual guide to the Architect Registration Exams. Teagarden was recently elected Chair of the AIA National Young Architects Forum, reflecting her growing influence in the industry — both in terms of design and thought leadership.
Wang Shuo and Zhang Jing
Wang Shuo and Zhang Jing are the founders of META-Project, the firm behind the A+Award-winning Stage of Forest pavilion in Jilin, China. This breathtaking observation platform came out on top of the competition thanks to its rich materiality, contrasting the warmth of red cedar planks on the interior with an external cladding of charred cedar shingles.
James Garrett Jr.
James Garrett Jr. was awarded 2019 Young Architects Award by the AIA for succeeding against the odds; as the AIA states: “Garrett’s journey to becoming an architect was not easy, but he was unfazed by critics — including a high school instructor and graduate school professor who told him he was unlikely to become one.” Undeterred, Garrett graduated and founded his own firm, 4RM+ULA Architecture, in 2002. He is also an advocate for a more diverse profession, and a mentor for aspiring design professionals as an adjunct professor at the University of Minnesota School of Architecture.
Sanne van der Burgh and Gijs Rikken
Sanne van der Burgh and Gijs Rikken are Associates at MVRDV, Architizer’s A+Awards Firm of the Year in 2018. They are just two of many rising stars at one of architecture’s boldest studios, with Rikken leading the design team that brought the A+Award-winning Crystal House to reality. Van der Burgh, meanwhile, has played a key role in numerous landmark projects, including The Couch, which upended convention in sports and leisure design.
Oswaldo Ortega is an associate in Gensler’s Chicago office, where he leads master planning studies, and architectural and interiors projects. Some of his most important work, though, is in empowering young people from diverse backgrounds to achieve success in architecture. In 2003, he founded of the Society of Multicultural Architects & Designers while a student at Syracuse University, and has continued to develop initiatives that serve communities and diversify the profession. He scooped a 2019 AIA Young Architects Award for his combination of community leadership and design acumen.
A project architect at Wheeler Kearns Architects, Chris-Annmarie Spencer is a talented Chicago designer with a keen interest in public interest design. Her collaboration with nonprofit Inspiration Kitchens is particularly notable — the architect transformed a 1906 building in Chicago to create a 7,800-square-foot, 80-seat restaurant serving both affordable and market-rate meals for working-poor families and the general public respectively. That project netted nine design awards, and Spencer’s incredible social impact work was recognized with a AIA Young Architects Award in 2017.
Devin O’Neill and Faith Rose
Devin O’Neill and Faith Rose are the Partners at O’Neill Rose Architects, a Brooklyn-based architecture firm that designs highly contextual buildings across the United States. The pair scooped a 2016 A+Award for Choy House, a beautifully proportioned residence in Queens, New York that cleverly combines three separate dwellings under one roof.
Iranian architect Reza Najafian is principal of ReNa Design, recipient of a 2016 A+Award in the Low Rise Multi-Unit Housing category for the splendidly sculptural Afsharian’s House. The wood-fronted apartment building is just one of a long line of eye-catching designs coming from Najafian’s studio, and the designer’s skills extend beyond architecture — he has also completed branding projects for more than 70 offices and organizations.
Haifei Dai and Yanping Zhang
Haifei Dai and Yanping Zhang are the founding partners of Wee Studio, a young firm specializing in micro-architecture. One of their very first projects was the crowdfunded Treehouse, a tiny A+Award-winning retreat in a forest at the foot of Mount Wuling in Miun, Beijing. The architects’ website states their simple but noble mission: “We want buildings to intervene in the environment with a humble attitude, and think about how the buildings blend with the environment.”