Hearing Voices

Hearing Voices

Now in its 23rd year, the Architectural League of New York’s Emerging Voices program names eight talents with something to say.

The Architectural League of New York’s Emerging Voices program has come to be regarded as an important benchmark in the profession. Launched in 1982 by Emilio Ambasz and Marita O’Hare, the League’s then president and executive director, respectively, the idea was to create a public forum for young architects to share their work and ideas–an especially valuable opportunity in a late-peaking profession such as architecture. Said Craig Konyk, an Emerging Voice in 1996 and juror for the 2004 cycle, "Emerging Voices was quite instrumental in my career, a kind of ‘coming out’ where you become accepted among the ‘arrived’ architects."

For most of the program’s history, the process of selection has begun with the League staff compiling names, culled from magazine articles, editors, past winners, and other advisors. "Usually we start out looking at around 40 firms and then narrow the field to about 15 to 20, from whom we request portfolios," said Anne Rieselbach, program director. "A committee, usually made up of past Emerging Voices, League board members, and maybe a critic or journalist, then selects the best work that reflects a distinctive ‘voice.’"

"The crucial point is that the candidate has developed a voice that’s driven not by styles or trends but by authentic commitment," said Michael Manfredi of Weiss/ Manfredi (Emerging Voices, Class of ’97), who also served on this year’s jury. "A ‘voice’ signifies a level of authenticity rather than maturity or finality. We looked for firms that are still experimenting, even making mistakes. Winning the award gave Marion [Weiss] and me a rare opportunity to say, yes, this is our voice."

Some of this year’s choices might not seem as "emerging" or risk-taking as has come to be expected of the program. But, observed Konyk, "What has probably changed since I was selected is the amount of completed projects that architects have to achieve in order to be considered ’emerging.’" Still, a look at past winners shows that the Emerging Voices selection committees have been prescient more often than not. It might be a matter of a self-fulfillment: "After winning we felt we had to sustain a high level of quality," said Manfredi. "It was the best kind of burden.">

Preston Scott Cohen (Cambridge)

Harvard GSD professor Preston Scott Cohen hardly seems emerging, given that hismonograph, Contested Symmetries and Other Predicaments in Architecture (Princeton Architectural Press) came out in 2001 and he was named an emerging talent at the 1996 Venice Biennale. But it’s true that he is just now putting the finishing touches on the long-publicized Goodman House (top), a rewrapped 19th-century

Dutch barn structure inspired by a torus or donut shape. Another major recent development in Cohen’s career is his winning the competition to design a $45 million addition to the Tel Aviv Museum of Art (above). The design, which includes a geometrically complex atrium that draws light three stories below grade, is slated to break ground this summer.

John Friedman and Alice Kimm Architects
(Los Angeles)

John Friedman and Alice Kimm Architects, founded in 1993, has quickly developed into a flourishing practice in Southern California. In its recently completed Los Angeles Design Center (above) and Cisco Brothers Showroom renovation, partners Friedman and Kimm transformed an unused courtyard into a vibrant urban space with a deftness and subtly that will surely give the car-dominated city a taste of vibrant pedestrian urbanity. The partners are currently designing a golf club and commercial building in Korea and a 47-unit SRO for senior citizens in central Los Angeles.

Rand Elliott
Elliott + Associates Architects
(Oklahoma City)

Oklahoma architect Rand Elliott has been scattering striking modern buildings across the midwestern landscape for 27 years. His designs of residences, offices, and industrial buildings are plainspoken yet elegant, such as his makeover projects for ImageNet, a scanning and imaging company, and his Will Rogers World Airport Snow Barn (below), an economical structure built to house the airport’s snow removal equipment. The Snow Barn features a winglike overhang that is apt in its airport setting, and provides extra shelter in a harsh climate.


Tom Kundig
Olson Sundberg Kundig Allen Architects

In most architecture award programs today, the winners always include a predominance of firms doing intelligent, admirable modernist work–and then there’s often the one architect with an idiosyncratic edge. The 2004 Emerging Voices awards are no different and this year’s funky architect is Tom Kundig of Olson Sundberg Kundig Allen. His Chicken Point Cabin in northern Idaho, is a refreshing example of contemporary thinking that makes a nod to Northwestern vernacular (left and below). It has a spectacular 20×30-foot glazed wall that opens to the adjacent lake by a giant, hand-turned metal wheel apparatus. The house can sleep ten, and must be fun when they stoke up the huge bong fireplace for guests.

Pierre Thibault
Pierre Thibault Architecte

Since establishing his practice in 1988, Pierre Thibault has striven to balance building with installation. At all scales, his projects contain strong archaeological references–tapping into geographic or material histories while remaining deeply sympathetic toward the temporal nature of constructions. The Museum of the Abenakis (above), a 2,000-square-meter addition to a former convent, is currently under construction near Nicolet on the St. Francis River in his hometown, Montréal. The building’s steel frame construction and glass envelope are tempered by an opaque slat system, which harkens to sun shades found on vernacular buildings.

Lorcan O’Herlih
Lorcan O’Herlihy Architects
(Culver City)

Lorcan O’Herlihy’s notoriety last year jumped when neighbors protested his construction of a condominium next door to the Schindler House, which houses the MAK Center. Ultimately, however, his project was accepted as an admirable descendent of the tradition of Southern California modernism. Like Schindler and Neutra, O’Herliihy respects rigorous geometry, a minimal material palette, and rich details. The recently completed 4,400-square-foot Jai House (left) overlooking the Santa Monica Mountains exemplifies his approach. The multi-use U2 Landmark Tower competition entry (above) was conceived for the Dublin Docklands regeneration plan.

Larry Scarpa
Pugh + Scarpa
(Los Angeles and Charlotte, North Carolina)

Recently, Pugh + Scarpa has been spreading its innovations with sustainable building beyond its base in Southern California and North Carolina. Following up on its 2001 Colorado Court in Santa Monica–one of the first 100 percent energy-independent single resident occupancy housing projects in the country–the firm has partnered with Office dA to design a sustainable housing project in Cambridge (left). And now it’s constructing Solar Umbrella (below), a private residence in Venice, California, (slated for completion this spring) that uses, almost entirely, recycled building and landscaping materials, and will be completely independent from the power grid.

Ken Smith
Ken Smith Landscape Architect
(New York)

This year’s only New York Voice, Ken Smith made his mark on the city by turning Queens Plaza dumpsters into planters in 2001, reinterpreting the unbuilt Isamu Noguchi design for the Lever House terrace last year, and splashing color into the schoolyard of New York’s largest elementary school, P.S.19 in Queens, in 2003. He is currently collaborating with the Boston-based Kennedy Violich Architects on self-irrigating "container landscapes" for seven new commuter ferry piers along the East River (above). The $10.5 million project for the city will be completed in 2005.