Winners of 2022 Architectural League Prize respond to design complexities rooted in place

Grounding Forces

Winners of 2022 Architectural League Prize respond to design complexities rooted in place

Palimpsesto, Tamayo Pavilion, Museo Tamayo, Mexico City (2021) by Mexico City-based TO, one of six emerging firms awarded the 2022 Architectural League Prize for Young Architects + Designers. (Photo by Arturo Arrieta)

The interplay between design tethered to a physical place and “placeless pervasive processes” served as the thematic thrust for the 41st edition of The Architectural League of New York’s annual Architectural League Prize for Young Architects + Designers. Announced today, the winners of the 2022 Architectural League Prize are eight architects and designers spanning five dynamic emerging practices (plus one New York City–based collective) who submitted projects that react to the Grounding theme in fresh and provocative ways.

Representing New York, Michigan, Texas, and Mexico, the winners are: Citygroup; Nathan Friedman and Francisco Quiñones (Departamento del Distrito), Isaac Stein and Maggie Tsang (Dept.); Farzin Lotfi-Jam (Farzin Farzin); Xavi Laida Aguirre (stock-a-studio), and Jose Amozurrutia and Carlos Facio (TO).

The theme, as is the case with League Prizes past, was developed by the Young Architects + Designers Committee, a rotating cohort comprised of past League Prize winners. For the 2022 cycle, the Committee included Luis Beltrán del Río García, Tei Carpenter, and Gabriel Cuéllar. Joining Committee members on the competition jury panel (also selected by the Committee) this year was Chris T. Cornelius, Carla Juaçaba, Lola Sheppard, and Mabel O. Wilson.

In its prompt, the Committee asked entrants to respond to the competition’s Grounding theme by “reflecting on the substance of design’s foundations:”

Through grounding, designers come to terms with complex material realities, sociocultural contingencies, and more fundamental ways of being. Although grounding suggests locality, contemporary environments are invariably embedded in global systems that complicate architecture’s relationship with place. Grounding thus means, on one hand, making vital connections to what is already there—materially, socially, and otherwise—and, on the other, contending with placeless, pervasive processes. Navigating the remote and embodied, the nonlocal and local, architecture requires methods of retooling, reappropriation, and transformation to find its grounding. How do young architects tether their work and practices to the grounds upon which they design? How can designers respond to both the particularities of location and the ubiquity of global forces? What are intentional approaches to and forms of grounding?

Organized by the Architectural League, the prestigious portfolio competition is open to designers and architects who are ten years or less out of a bachelor’s or master’s degree program and full-time residents of the United States, Canada, or Mexico. The winners will present their work as part of a virtual lecture series kicking off on June 15. In addition to the three-part lecture series, each part moderated by a member of the Committee, recipients of the 2022 League Prize will also participate in a digital exhibition featuring original work. Per the League, the installations can either be created onsite at the winners’ respective locations or in wholly digital formats.

Below are images of past works by the winners of the 2022 League Prize accompanied by short practice profiles as provided by the League. Following that is further information about the 2022 League Prize Lecture series.

Citygroup (New York, New York)

exterior view of a gallery space located down a flight of stairs
Citygroup Storefront Space, New York, NY, ongoing. (Courtesy Citygroup)

Citygroup is an architecture collective founded in 2018 in New York City. Headquartered in a Lower East Side storefront, it partners with a wide variety of local organizations to develop and promote equitable design solutions to some of New York’s most pressing issues. Through design projects, public events, and grassroots activism, Citygroup aims to “interrogate the conditions that subjugate, alienate, and appropriate architects, architecture, and inhabitants of architecture,” according to its website. Recent projects include an exhibition and teach-in focused on proposed rezoning in Manhattan’s Chinatown, and a debate series exploring issues related to architecture and the city.

Nathan Friedman and Francisco Quiñones | Departamento del Distrito (Mexico City)

En-Medio by Departamento del Distrito, Mexico City, ongoing (Courtesy Departamento del Distrito)

Departamento del Distrito is a Mexico City–based design practice founded in 2017. Its work operates at the intersection of politics, identity, and the built environment, spanning a wide variety of topics and forms. Across its diverse projects, Departamento del Distrito synthesizes design and research “to expand upon local sites of interest, linking them to geographies, time periods, and subjects that reach beyond their immediate bounds,” according to the firm. Recent projects include a house in northern Mexico that integrates historic stone ruins, and a free publication series that explores modernist architectural preservation in Mexico City.

Isaac Stein and Maggie Tsang | Dept. (Houston)

Prairie Plots by Dept., Houston, 2022. (Courtesy Dept.)

Founded in 2019, Dept. is a landscape architecture and urban design studio based in Houston, Texas. The practice operates at a wide range of intersecting scales, from temporary site-specific installations to urban-scale masterplans. Through careful research into each project’s web of social and ecological contexts, Dept. aims to produce “creative, useful, and adaptive design responses for the public and the environment,” according to its website. Recent projects include a 10,000-square-foot “living installation” featuring native prairie species in Houston, and a plan for a network of small stormwater retention parks in flood-prone North Miami.

Farzin Lotfi-Jam | Farzin Farzin (Ithaca, New York)

view of artist works in a gallery
Modern Management Methods by Farzin Farzin, The Shed, New York City, 2019. (Photo by Kunning Huang)

Farzin Farzin is an Ithaca-based collaborative multidisciplinary design studio founded in 2008. The practice works across architecture, urbanism, computation, and media to investigate the technologies that govern contemporary life. Through varied modes of research and fabrication, Farzin Farzin produces architectural exhibitions that “creat[e] opportunities to pose important questions to the public and make new urgencies evident,” according to the firm’s website. Recent collaborative projects include an installation that revisits an archive of documentary films produced for a 1976 United Nations conference, and an exhibition that exposes and critiques Rio de Janeiro’s smart city control systems.

Xavi Laida Aguirre | stock-a-studio (Detroit)

Outdoorsy Media Rig I by stock-a-studio, various locations, ongoing (Courtesy stock-a-studio)

stock-a-studio is an architectural design practice founded by Xavi Laida Aguirre in 2015. The practice blurs the boundaries between the physical and the digital, creating mixed-reality spaces that interrogate the circular movement of contemporary commodities. Through iterative experiments in materials reuse, temporary architectures, and product manipulation, stock-a-studio “links material resources to the immaterial systems that proliferate and qualify them,” according to the firm’s website. Recent projects include a public-facing digital catalog of customizable parts for small architecture and furniture design projects, and a 20,000-square-foot scenic architecture installation for an immersive live performance in Berlin and Los Angeles.

Jose Amozurrutia and Carlos Facio | TO (Mexico City)

view of a large hill in mexico through a portal
TO’s Kithara Project, Mexico City, 2022. (Photo by Santiago Arau)

TO is a Mexico City–based architecture and design practice founded in 2015. Often located in public spaces, TO’s projects deploy simple tectonic solutions using local vernacular construction methods and materials. According to the firm’s competition portfolio, it engages in frequent “dialogue with the people that use their knowledge, culture, and hands to build: masonry workers, carpenters, ironworkers, artisans, and anyone who is driven by the wish of turning ideas into built and inhabitable environment[s].”Recent projects include an open-air music classroom built of recycled masonry materials in a suburb of Mexico City, and an outdoor museum pavilion that converts construction rubble into roof tiles.

The 2022 League Prize Virtual Lecture Series

June 15:

Nathan Friedman, Francisco Quiñones | Departamento del Distrito
Moderated by Gabriel Cuéllar

June 22:

Isaac Stein, Maggie Tsang | Dept.
Jose Amozurrutia, Carlos Facio | TO
Moderated by Luis Beltrán del Río García

June 29:

Farzin Lotfi-Jam | Farzin Farzin
Xavi Laida Aguirre | stock-a-studio
Moderated by Tei Carpenter

All lectures begin at 6:30 p.m. EDT.  Admission is free and advance registration via Zoom is required.