Architects design buildings and infrastructure that will define our cities for years to come. Their creativity, artistic drive, and commitment to innovation shapes the way we interact with the places we call home — whether that be urban center or rural retreat.

Yet, while anyone can gaze upon an impressive building and appreciate the hard work that went into it, it’s not always as easy to know who was responsible. After all, most architects don’t sign their work in the corner, or hang their name in big letters over the door for all to see. To obtain that knowledge usually requires an extra degree of effort — even if it is only a quick Google search — one that many casual observers fail to follow through.

With that in mind, we’ve taken the opportunity to compile a list of 10 young architects we think are worth paying attention to right now. A couple of them you might already know, some of them might be new to you entirely. Yet, whether they’re fresh on the scene or have already begun climbing the ladder to international superstardom, all their work is worthy of recognition:

David Adjaye

Born in Tanzania and raised by Ghanaian parents, London-based designer David Adjaye is known for incorporating African aesthetic influences into contemporary architecture. Inspired by textile design, Adjaye is known for creating intricately patterned facades with a modern edge — just take a look a the stunning Sugar Hill Housing Complex in Harlem and the Moscow School of Management, SKOLKOVO.

Having spent eleven years traveling around Africa, he is often called on by museums to offer his expertise on how best to present objects from the continent, encouraging the art world to rethink what it categorizes as “ethnographic.” Adjaye’s forthcoming National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington DC will be his highest-profile project yet.

Thomas Heatherwick

Remember the Olympic Cauldron design for the 2012 London Olympic Games? Or the New Bus for London created in time for the big event? Their designer was the always versatile Thomas Heatherwick, and he is making an impression outside of the United Kingdom with two new projects right now.

The first of these is Pier55, a new public park in New York City; the second is the new Google Headquarters in Mountain View, California (in partnership with Bjarke Ingels). Known for his playful style, Heatherwick has completed a wide range of projects over the years, from the needle-sharp UK Pavilion in Shanghai to London’s forthcoming Garden Bridge. He even designed a Longchamp purse made entirely out of zippers! It’s safe to say his next project is anyone’s guess.

Assemble

Winners of this year’s prestigious Turner prize, London architecture collective Assemble was the first design studio ever to receive the honor. 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.

The band of architects started out building a temporary cinema in an abandoned petrol station in London’s Clerkenwell area, then another next to a canal underneath a motorway. 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.

Kjetil Thorsen & Craig Dykers / Snøhetta

Led by Kjetil Thorsen and Craig Dykers, Norway-based architecture and design firm Snøhetta never fails to impress. In addition to their graphic designs for Norway’s new bank notes, the firm has completed numerous jaw-droppingly gorgeous buildings — from the stunning Norwegian Wild Reindeer Pavilion overlooking a mountain range, to artist José Parlá’s new Brooklyn studio to the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art’s new building.

Their sleek aesthetic is the embodiment of Nordic cool, using icy whites and metallic materials that feel distinctly modern in their austerity. Two of their most exciting upcoming projects involve reimagining the modern use of transportation. Just take a look at their new design for an underground station in central Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, and their cable car and viewing platform in the Italian Alps.

Moreau Kusunoki

Paris-based architecture firm Moreau Kusunoki stepped into the limelight with their contest-winning design for the new Guggenheim Museum in Helsinki. Selected out of 1,715 submissions from more than 77 countries, their successful proposal stood out for its use of local materials and openness to the adjacent city harbor.

The finished museum will be made of nine distinct pavilions, each clad in charred timber and glass. The sloping shapes mirror the waves of the sea, taking inspiration from nature and offering museumgoers a view of the environment from inside the galleries.

With this design Mooreau 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.

Alejandro Aravena

Chilean architect Alejandro Aravena is having a good year. After being appointed curator of the architecture section of the Venice Biennale, he won the hugely coveted Pritzker Prize (arguably the top award in the entire industry).

Aravena has focused on building low-cost social housing options and reviving cities in the wake of natural disasters. His Santiago-based firm, Elemental, creates socially conscious architecture as its primary focus, not as a charitable side-project to more commercially minded commissions.

Aravena strongly believes that low-income residents deserve the time and attention of top design talent, and his impressive low-income housing complexes around Latin America reflect that conviction. Perhaps Elemental’s most celebrated initiative is the “half of a good house” project, in which Aravena successfully rejuvenated a slum in Chile housing 100 families by building each one just half a house. The second half was left down to the families themselves, helping instil a real sense of ownership and community in the resulting neighborhood.

Diller Scofidio + Renfro

Elizabeth Diller and her top partners, Ricardo Scofidio and Charles Renfro, have unveiled several major projects in just the past few months, solidifying their place at the top of their game.
The Broad, a stunning new museum in downtown Los Angeles, opened in September, and both the BAMPFA UC Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive opened their doors to the public last month. Later this year the firm’s designs for a new expansion to New York’s Museum of Modern Art will be revealed, to much anticipation.

One thing you can confidently say about the work of Diller Scofidio + Renfro — each museum they’ve created is a work of contemporary art in itself. In fact, sometimes it’s worth visiting them just for the buildings themselves, regardless of the art housed inside.

Rafael Viñoly

Uruguayan architect Rafael Viñoly made his mark on the Manhattan skyline with a new apartment building that looks more like a commercial glass tower than an upscale residential complex. The 96-story skyscraper has a gridded concrete façade and glass walls, giving the appearance of identical blocks laid on top of one another. As the tallest residential building in the Western hemisphere, the view is unlike any other.

Elsewhere, Viñoly has demonstrated his versatility with another new project that came earlier this year: the Laguna Garzon Bridge in Uruguay. The circular road-bridge spans a lagoon where pedestrians can stop to peer into the water, delineating a kind of lagoon inside a lagoon. The elegant design encourages its users to stop and appreciate the beautiful landscape surrounding them.

Next up for Viñoly: a pair of skyscrapers in downtown Chicago that are sure to amaze in similar fashion.

Ma Yansong / MAD Architects

Beijing studio MAD Architects’ futuristic, sinuous design for the Harbin Opera House in China has caught the attention of envious cities around the world. Led by Ma Yansong, the firm has since been hired to design the George Lucas Museum of Narrative Art on Chicago’s lakefront.

A tent-like structure with two peaks, the museum galleries will house George Lucas’ own private collection of art and cinematic memorabilia. Hugely anticipated by architecture fans and Star Wars fans alike, the future building evokes a sense of space travel entirely appropriate to its purpose.

Perhaps even more futuristic, the Chinese firm has also proposed the idea a “vertical village” — a set of towers connected by sky bridges and gardens — for Los Angeles. Stay tuned to see if that one gets a green light. We sincerely hope it does.

Bjarke Ingels

Young Danish architect Bjarke Ingels stepped into the spotlight when he won one of architecture’s most prestigious commissions: 2 World Trade Center. The new skyscraper design will seamlessly integrate the tall glass towers of Manhattan’s Financial District with the historic charm of the adjacent TriBeCa neighborhood (take a look at the firm’s cool video renderings for an idea of the finished result).

Bjarke’s firm, playfully referred to as BIG (Bjarke Ingels Group), has brought its strikingly modern approach to several new high-profile projects. These include New York’s new Dryline, a raised park designed to protect downtown Manhattan from future hurricane damage, and W57, a pyramidal residential development that combines the fantastic height of New York’s towers with a European communal courtyard setup.

Oh, and Bjarke will also design the new campus for the Smithsonian Museum in Washington DC and the Serpentine Gallery space in London, so it’s pretty safe to say you might stumble across some of his work up close in the not-too-distant future. We can’t wait.

  • Author: Zoe Cooper
  • Main Image: Diller Scofidio + Renfro / Iwan Baan

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