Design Vanguard 2006

From sensuous skins and vibrant colors to inventive spatial experiences, the works of this year’s emerging designers display mature skills

Intro by Clifford A. Pearson

Young architects seem to be growing up faster these days. (Or maybe I’m just getting older.) Not long ago, cutting-edge firms were in thrall to computer technologies, and much of their work seemed to have been created during heavily caffeinated, all-night sessions playing with their latest digital toys. While computers have hardly disappeared, the firms profiled in this year’s Design Vanguard are using them in less showy ways. Instead of hyperactive curves and German Expressionist angles, the architects shown here are designing buildings that get our attention with graceful proportions, elegant details, and inventive use of materials. Yes, they sometimes introduce electric colors that practically vibrate in front of your eyes, and often manipulate building envelopes into forms that wouldn’t please Mies. But there’s a discipline to the work that makes it feel real, gives it substance. Even when they’re cutting loose and having some fun with a competition entry, these firms display a mature approach to design.

This year’s Vanguard architects have built more than many of their predecessors, which may help explain their more grounded sensibilities. While the 10 firms featured here exhibit very different perspectives on design, almost all of them are exploring the nature of materials—from Kumiko Inui’s elegant essay on glass and transparency for Dior to Studio Luz’s theatrical application of common polycarbonate skylights at a restaurant in Boston, from SeARCH’s reinterpretation of wood framing on a house in Holland to UnSangDong’s folded and perforated metal scrim on a gallery in Seoul. Skin is important in all of these projects, but so are the spaces inside the inventively wrapped packages. All of the architects shown in the following pages express a commitment to the user’s experience, creating buildings that elevate the people who live, work, study, shop, dine, and play in them.



UnSangDong Architects Seoul, Korea

To the list of compelling, vertically stacked art venues—including Zaha Hadid’s Rosenthal Center in Cincinnati and Brad Cloepfils’s Museum of Arts and Design in New York City—add the Gallery Yeh in Seoul. All three buildings rely on dramatic facade treatments to announce their contemporary, not Modernist, intentions.
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Studio Luz Boston

It’s a Friday night, and Diva Lounge is jumping. Friends converge around the rustic bar made of salvaged Vermont butternut wood and decorated with the random patterns of worm holes. First dates share Indian tapas as they marvel at the walls and ceilings entirely lined with illuminated panels that look like fat pillows.
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BAR Rotterdam, the Netherlands

Can architecture be useless? The question is only half-rhetorical when posed by BAR, the Rotterdam-based architecture firm of Klaas van der Molen and Joost Glissenaar. The pair has repeatedly explored the purpose of architecture, and in particular the interaction between the building and its user. Read on >>



Studio SUMO Long Island City, N.Y.

Names can be deceiving. Studio SUMO, a decade-old practice based in Long Island City, New York, does not represent founders Sunil Bald’s and Yolande Daniels’s ethnicities, nor an interest in an exotic sport. But if SUMO were to signify anything related to Japanese wrestling, it would be heft—of the cerebral kind. Read on >>




Kumiko Inui Tokyo, Japan

Like many young architects, Kumiko Inui launched her career designing bits and pieces of buildings. But instead of churning out bathroom additions and bedroom suites, Inui made her name with eye-catching facades for luxury-brand boutiques. This comes as no great surprise since she apprenticed with Jun Aoki, Japan’s king of high-end retail designers, after studying at Yale and Tokyo’s National University of Fine Arts and Music.Read on >>



Bercy Chen Studio Austin, Texas

Thomas Bercy and Calvin Chen have found Texas the perfect venue for architects from far-flung places to come together and create a powerful design identity. Since 2001, Bercy and Chen have used Austin, Texas, as their home base and muse for a growing body of work that combines a sensitivity to local context with an innovative use of materials.Read on >>




BmasC Architects Ávila, Spain

Whether it’s a line of identical glass cases in a jewelry shop, or a row of repeated classrooms at a preschool, the designs of Arturo Blanco and Alegría Colón often involve an elegantly simple unfolding of abstract forms. Based in the small historic capital of Ávila, 70 miles northwest of Madrid, their practice, BmasC Architects, shows how Spain’s once-dormant regional centers are becoming motors of contemporary design. Read on >>




Assadi + Pulido Santiago, Chile

Chile is like an island in Latin America,” says Felipe Assadi, partner with his wife Francisca Pulido in their Santiago-based practice, Assadi + Pulido. Bounded by the Andes to the east, the Atacama Desert to the north, and the Pacific Ocean along its entire western edge, Chile is, indeed, geographically isolated. Read on >>




WORK Architecture Co. New York City

Having worked on major projects such as the Seattle Public Library, Prada flagship stores, and the master plan for Universal Studios  in Los Angeles while at Rem Koolhaas's Office for Metropolitan Architecture (OMA), Dan Wood, AIA, and Amale Andraos knew they would have to downshift scales when they opened their own firm, WORK Architecture Company, in 2002. Read on >>




No one-liners, no corporate office buildings, and no single, definable style. When you discuss SeARCH, the 32-person firm founded and led by Dutch architect Bjarne Mastenbroek, you talk as much about what it does not do as what it does do. “Rarely do we work on a tabula rasa,” Mastenbroek says firmly. Read on >>