As one of the first organizations to implement a regular award for young architects, The Architectural Review has had its eye on youth for over a decade and a half. But with awards, exhibitions and media coverage of those conspicuously labeled as "Young Architects" proliferating in the years since, has the concept now been co-opted by those who merely seek to monetize and exploit architecture's most precarious practitioners? In this polemical article, originally published by The Architectural Review as "The problem with 'Young Architecture'," AR Assistant Editor Phineas Harper and Phil Pawlett Jackson unpick how the cult of "Young Architecture" has been absorbed into the profession, with potentially harmful ramifications.
When the romantic notion of the architect as auteur, a high priest in the cult of culture, is married to the virginal myth of untainted youth, a potent marketable commodity is brewed: the "Young Architect". All but invisible when the AR launched its Emerging Architecture prize at the end of the 20th century, this breed is now celebrated in numerous awards, exhibitions and published collections. But beware the cult of youth − there is a broad landscape of risks as well as opportunities facing designers who choose this identity willingly or have it thrust upon them.