Winners of the 2023 Architectural League Prize respond to discomforts within our environments

Out of the Comfort Zone

Winners of the 2023 Architectural League Prize respond to discomforts within our environments

Chicago Sukkah Design Festival, Chicago 2022. (Brian Griffin)

The Architectural League of New York Prize for Young Architects + Designers asked applicants to respond the theme Uncomfortable, prompting architects and other creatives to consider climate change, labor practices, and other distressing aspects of our environments that leave us unsettled. Today the League announced the nine designers, who comprise five studios and one design duo, who have received the prize.

Recipients span the globe, hailing from New York; Boston; Illinois; Milwaukee; Charlottesville, Virginia; New Mexico; Toronto; and Madrid. The winners are: Katie MacDonald and Kyle Schumann of After Architecture, Miles Gertler of Common Accounts, Joseph Altshuler and Zack Morrison of Could Be Design, Sarah Aziz and Lindsey Krug, Daisy Ames of Studio Ames, and Sean Canty of Studio Sean Canty.

The annual portfolio competition is open to architects, designers, and studios with less than 10 years of experience outside of an undergraduate or graduate degree program, and who live and work in North America. The submitted work is reviewed by a jury that included designer Germane Barnes; Los Angeles architect Barbara Bestor; Wonne Ickx of PRODUCTORA; Kyle Miller, architect and professor at Syracuse University; Jennifer Bonner, professor of architecture at the Harvard University Graduate School of Design; and Tya Winn, Director of Project Planning for Habitat for Humanity in Philadelphia and a professor at Syracuse University.

The 2023 theme, Uncomfortable, prompted applicants to examine discomforts:

As young designers, we are wrestling with numerous uncomfortable responsibilities: dismantling architectural legacies, challenging traditional paradigms, grappling with the costs of comfort, responding to ecological concerns. Our many discomforts range in scale, context, and urgency. […] From climate change to labor practices, the sources of our discomfort demand both critical reflection and collective imagination. Are you restless within the discipline’s status quo? How do you respond to discomfort? Whose comfort matters?

The prize winners will showcase their work in June through an online lecture series and exhibition.

Below are images of past works by the winners of the 2023 League Prize accompanied by short practice profiles as provided by the League, and further information about the 2023 League Prize Lecture series.

Camp Barker Memorial, Washington D.C., 2019. (Sam Oberter)

Katie MacDonald and Kyle Schumann | After Architecture (Charlottesville, Virginia)

Katie MacDonald and Kyle Schumann founded After Architecture in 2012 as undergraduates at Cornell University. In response to the construction industry’s complicity in the environmental crisis, the Charlottesville, Virginia-based studio advocates for resurfacing and advancing sustainable preindustrial building techniques and materials. Simultaneously low- and high-tech, it pairs emerging computational technologies with locally sourced biogenic materials to produce a distinct formal language “reframing the relationship between biology, technology, and authorship,” in the words of the firm.

Closer Each Day: The Architecture of Everyday Death, The Canadian Centre for Architecture, Montreal, Canada, 2020. (Common Accounts)

Miles Gertler | Common Accounts | Miles Gertler (Toronto and Madrid)

Miles Gertler founded Common Accounts with Igor Bragado in 2016. In its own words, the Toronto- and Madrid-based experimental design studio is “tethered more to networks of peers, politics, and file storage than we are to traditional notions of place and practice.” Through a variety of media, it engages with the everyday—though sometimes taboo—spatial and technological protocols surrounding self-design and the human body. Exploring subjects from fitness and cosmetic surgery to funerals and deathcare, the studio’s bold experimentations push both design and public discourse beyond their comfort zones.

Gary-goyles, Gary, Indiana, 2022.

Joseph Altshuler and Zack Morrison | Could Be Design (Chicago and Urbana, Illinois)

Joseph Altshuler and Zack Morrison founded Could Be Design in 2015. The Chicago- and Urbana, Illinois-based design practice imagines the built environment as an animate being with agency of its own. Using vibrant colors and whimsical shapes, Could Be Design’s projects celebrate this animacy, inviting users “to find comfort (and even delight) in the discomfort and humility integral to a world in which humans do not claim a privileged dominance,” in the studio’s words. From exuberant commercial interiors to interactive public art, the practice embraces the joy of creative placemaking.

Going Nowhere Fast, Lake Forest, Illinois, 2021. (Sarah Aziz/Lindsey Krug)

Sarah Aziz and Lindsey Krug (Albuquerque, New Mexico; Chicago; and Milwaukee, Wisconsin)

Based in Albuquerque, Sarah Aziz is a designer who researches patterns of migration across scales and contexts. Lindsey Krug, based in Chicago and Milwaukee, is a designer who focuses on the role of the built environment in reifying bodily taboos and inequities. Since 2020, Aziz and Krug have shared a long-distance design and research practice. They investigate and unsettle the overlooked and the everyday, from dollar stores to tumbleweed, through provocative graphics, research, and installations.

Supportive Housing Project, Bronx, New York 2022. (Studio Ames)

Daisy Ames | Studio Ames (New York)

Daisy Ames founded Studio Ames in New York City in 2017. The architectural research and design office responds to two of the built environment’s most pressing crises: the housing crisis and the climate crisis. Intervening at the nexus of the two, the practice’s work examines housing policy, segregation, and repression as well as sustainable construction materials and techniques. The results illuminate often-invisible elements of the built environment and offer a challenge to traditional domestic paradigms.

Block, House, Commons (unbuilt), Philadelphia 2021. (Studio Sean Canty)

Sean Canty | Studio Sean Canty (Boston)

Sean Canty founded his eponymous practice in Boston in 2017. The studio engages in geometrical explorations, asking social questions of traditional housing typologies and architectural forms. In its own words, Studio Sean Canty aims “to help establish a new normal in residential design, one that foregrounds collectivity, communal living, and higher density.” Through spatial contortions and remixes, Canty’s designs embrace both the social and formal tensions internal to each project.

The 2023 League Prize Virtual Lecture Series

June 15:

Common Accounts
Sarah Aziz and Lindsey Krug

June 22:

Studio Ames
Studio Sean Canty

June 29:

After Architecture
Could Be Design