Six emerging firms take home the 2020 Architectural League Prize

Acclaim in the Time of COVID

Six emerging firms take home the 2020 Architectural League Prize

The Vrtical-designed Tlaxco Artisan Market, Tlaxco, Tlaxcala, Mexico, in 2017. (Rafael Gamo)

Prepare your accolades accordingly: The Architectural League of New York has released the recipients of its 39th annual Architectural League Prize for Young Architects + Designers. Judged through a juried portfolio competition, the prize recognizes architects ten or less years out from the completion of their undergraduate or graduate degrees.

This year, the competition’s theme was Value, a somewhat nebulous term encompassing everything from economic value, to measurements, to broader engagements with the world at large. In their prompt, the League asked:

“In a time of political and social precariousness when all cultural value sets seem publicly permissible, this year’s Architectural League Prize competition asks how notions of value operate in your work. How are your values mediated by the processes of design? What are the discursive contexts, forms of representation, and/or spaces of action in which these values manifest themselves?”

A committee of former League Prize winners, including Kutan Ayata, Mira Henry, and Kevin Hirth, developed the competition theme and selected this year’s jurors. Lucia Allais, Paul Lewis, Anna Puigjaner, and Nanako Umemoto served alongside the committee to judge the competition, and six emerging firms from across the United States and Mexico were chosen.

Those include:

Image of a mountain of carboard
d.esk’s Slump Model at the Wedge Gallery, Woodbury University, Los Angeles, in 2019. (Courtesy d.esk)

David Eskenazi of the Los Angeles-based d.esk, founded in 2014. D.esk has worked at all scales, with an aim to “Its aim is to contribute to the history of ideas in architecture through a close look at contemporary conundrums.” Eskenazi, currently part of the design studio and visual studies faculty at SCI-Arc, has also contributed written research to a number of outlets, and at the time of writing, his work has been shown at 12 different exhibitions across the U.S.

a pile of salt covered by a tent, designed by Architectural League Prize winner Formlessfinder
Formlessfinder’s Tent Pile, Miami, in 2014. (Courtesy Formlessfinder)

Garrett Ricciardi and Julian Rose of the Los Angeles and New York-based Formlessfinder, founded in 2010. Formlessfinder “is a laboratory for methodological experimentation oriented toward the introduction of moments of formlessness into architecture,” bridging the gaps between each stage of the architectural creation process and remixing ideas to find novel solutions. Ricciardi currently lectures at UCLA.

Looking at Ashen Cabin, concrete on the bottom and slivered wood facade up top
The northeastern corner of Ashen Cabin. (Andy Chen)

Leslie Lok and Sasa Zivkovic of the Ithaca, New York-based HANNAH, which was founded in 2012. The duo’s work focuses heavily on robotic fabrication and digital design (Zivkovic leads Cornell’s Robotic Construction Laboratory), and their projects have intertwined material research with novel structural uses; see the recently-completed Ashen Cabin for a perfect example. Both Lok and Zivkovic are currently assistant professors at Cornell University.

A brick social housing building
Michan Architecture with Grupo Nodus’s Z53 Social Housing, Mexico City, 2012. (Rafael Gamo)

Isaac Michan Daniel of the Mexico City-based Michan Architecture, which was founded in 2010. The studio’s work ranges from large-scale residential projects to experimental installations, and self describes as “a laboratory of architecture, exploring possibilities within the discipline. We see architecture as a flirtation towards the built environment; a question towards the norm, a speculation of what the future can be.”

Photo of a Vermont cabin at dusk set against a green landscape
New Affiliates’ Tunbridge Winter Cabin Exterior Photo. (Michael Vahrenwald/Esto.)

Ivi Diamantopoulou and Jaffer Kolb of New York’s New Affiliates, founded in 2016. New Affiliates, as the League noted in their press release announcing the winners, are no strangers to scavenging for ideas and materials, finding new uses for research or materials or forms uncovered during previous projects. Diamantopoulou is currently a visiting critic at Syracuse University and Kolb teaches at Columbia University GSAPP as an adjunct professor.

A low-slung white brick building designed by Architectural League Prize winner Vrtical
Vrtical’s Casa Estudio Pallares in Mexico City, 2020. (Rafael Gamo)

Luis Beltrán del Río García and Andrew Sosa Martínez of Mexico City’s Vrtical, founded in 2014. Vrtical’s work focuses heavily on the public realm and self-describes as “a design workshop dedicated to the democratization of architectural service.” Accordingly, the team has a number of public-facing projects under its belt, including the Tlaxco Artisan Market in Tlaxcala, Mexico, seen at the top of the page. Del Río currently teaches at the National Autonomous University of Mexico and Universidad Iberoamericana, while Sosa teaches at CENTRO in Mexico City.

Each winner will receive $2,000 and the opportunity to promote their work online throughout the month of June 2020. Because New York City will be locked down for the foreseeable future because of the novel coronavirus, the League will instead launch a digital exhibition on June 22, followed by a lecture series. The schedule is as follows:

June 22: Ivi Diamantopoulou and Jaffer Kolb, Isaac Michan Daniel
June 24: Leslie Lok and Sasa Zivkovic, David Eskenazi
June 26: Luis Beltrán del Río García and Andrew Sosa Martínez, Garrett Ricciardi and Julian Rose