ArchDaily Selects the Best Young Practices of 2020

ArchDaily is proud to announce the 2020 Young Practices selection. This premier edition highlights emerging offices that are providing innovative approaches, proposals, and solutions to some of the main challenges Humankind is facing right now. From climate crisis to racial and gender issues. From technological disruption to social cohesion. These challenges are shaping the evolution of architecture, leading the discipline towards a new society and a new economy.

Chosen from over 350 submissions from 72 countries and 215 cities, all over the world, the selected firms reflect the sequential changes architecture has been navigating through over the last twenty years, with the rise and latter consolidation of new technologies, tools, formats, topics, scales, and interdisciplinary approaches.

The emergence of the Internet has led towards a disruptive decentralization of architecture production and discussion. Moreover, it has prompted new languages to express our ideas through images, photo essays, critical writing, visualization tools, multimedia platforms, and social media networks. By requesting a website link, an Instagram account, and a description along with a portfolio, the jury could understand how these young practices are conveying their message through different media. A photography essay can’t be literally extrapolated to a physical model without having in mind the format. Neither an Instagram post into a Ph.D. thesis. The same way a book is not just a sum of articles.

Nevertheless, even if some practices might have an amazing body of work, their statement helps to understand what they stand for and what they are working towards. The statement then fits any scale, any context, any exploration, any investigation, any built project. Not the other way around.

Even though we face global challenges that require global efforts, the selected offices understand the magnitude of their interventions: common issues, complex challenges, diverse approaches. From China to Lebanon to the United States to Brazil, we are proud of how diverse the selection is. However, one of our challenges for the next edition is to promote even more applications from Africa.

As a sign of what the century awaits from architects and designers, we have included an architects-led startup among the selected firms. These offices introduce new ways of practicing, by understanding architecture as both a toolkit and a methodology rather than just a job description. Nevertheless, for the 2021 edition, we look forward to receiving more submissions related to architectural theory, critical writing, media, and technology field.

Meet the selected ArchDaily's 2020 Young Practices in alphabetic order:

Ad Urbis Arquitectos | Cuba

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Santa Clara Residence / Ad Urbis Arquitectos. Image © Nestor Kim Enríquez

Team Members: Kiovet Sánchez Alvarez, Samuel Puente Fernández, Celia García Acosta, Carmen Díaz Acosta

Having the opportunity to insert contemporary architecture in a context of high heritage value such as Havana requires a detailed study of urban regulation, to find what those small interstices are, and to be able to develop projects, considering that the independent practice of the architecture in Cuba is not authorized. As an archeology of knowledge exercise, Ad Urbis Arquitectos builds a set of tools to face different challenges, contextualizing the adaptations, attachments, and adjacencies, as pillars of the conceptual assumptions, in order to revitalize and re-signify the city. We understand that recycling old buildings is innovation, and our proposals are based on the circular criteria of economic, human, and material resources, generating opportunities for our community of entrepreneurs.

Atelier Mozh | China

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Re-construction of Water Tower in Shanghai / Atelier Mozh. Image Courtesy of Atelier Mozh

Team members: Keigo Mori, Jie Zhang, Jingru Xu, Zhuo Chen

Our work ranges from small scales such as furniture and tea house design, to hotels with over 4,000 m2. When we crossover different scales, we make sure that ‘the character of the whole image of architecture’, and ‘the rich experience that it generates’ coexist. In many cases, those are disconnected. For instance, the exterior photos are very beautiful, but when you go inside, it's a poor experience. We are trying every possible way to overcome the situation. For example, in our park gate and two bridges project in the Jinshan district of Shanghai, the entire building was designed to be knitted with a Corten steel mesh structure; allowing the powerful and delicate existence of the construction to be experienced. 'The former is the attitude of the building toward the surroundings; the latter is the consideration for the people who experience the space'. We want to create an architecture that has an appropriate relationship between the whole and its different parts.

Azócar Catrón | Chile

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Banca Infinita / Azócar Catrón Arquitectos. Image © Patricio Zeiss

Team members: Ricardo Azócar, Carolina Catrón

Azócar Catrón operates in valuable and natural urban places, which, despite their location, are invisible or undervalued by the community. We believe that the lack of public space does not translate into a lack of “free spaces”, but rather in the lack of configuration of the empty spaces trapped in the urban stain. For this reason, landscapes such as hills, wetlands, or lagoons are at the mercy of businesses, or close to vulnerable groups who see these spaces as an opportunity to settle despite the risks that it entails. On the one hand, these spaces of high natural value are inherent public spaces with the potential to improve the quality of life of their inhabitants; and, on the other hand, the residents of these places have organized groups that can access public funds for the benefit of their environment. Our work articulates these two conditions, promoting the creation of new public spaces through specific and limited interventions, aligning different social actors with the objective of socializing the landscape.

Carl Gerges Architects | Lebanon

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Cana Guesthouse / Carl Gerges Architects. Image © Carl Gerges Architects

As we look at how we may live in the future, it is important that our solutions as architects and designers respond to our culture, context, and heritage. The world pandemic and the multiple lockdowns reminded us of the importance of having a well equipped and pleasant home; it has also brought us closer to nature. The devaluation of our currency in Lebanon made us realize that we did not develop the market for locally available resources. Instead, we mostly relied on imported construction materials that were used without proper consideration for context and tradition which now became extremely expensive and unaffordable. Finally, the massive explosion in Beirut has further crippled an endangered and shattered old city fabric, leaving it to the mercy of real estate developers. The road to the future runs through adopting a new approach to design and architecture, a more human scale manner of work, whereby each project aims to consider and preserve its relative social, environmental, and historical aspects. The new world doesn’t need just another new building, it needs developments that can be truly sustained.

CAUKIN Studio | United Kingdom

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Evergreen School in Zambia / CAUKIN Studio. Image © CAUKIN Studio

Team members: Joshua Peasley, Samantha Litherland, Harry Thorpe, Cassie Li, Harrison Marshall

CAUKIN Studio is a social enterprise that believes that human beings should have the opportunity and tools to shape the spaces they inhabit. We should all benefit from the quality of life that is achieved through informed design, and construction has to reduce its environmental impact on our planet. Since its inception, CAUKIN has worked on more than 25 design and construction projects worldwide, educating over 500 international participants and local people through the process of these projects. Our processes add value to our projects and achieve an economical build that also has a big impact. Well-designed buildings, built with integrity, to have a lasting impact don’t need to be expensive. Constantly evaluating the impact our work has on its communities is highly important in progressing our vision of democratic education, quality design, and accessibility to all.

Corpo Atelier | Portugal

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Exposed Concrete / Corpo. Image Courtesy of Corpo

Team members: Filipe Paixão, Laura Correia, Laura Bação

Corpo Atelier is an architecture and art atelier focused on the exploration and expansion of architectural anatomy. The practice is based on the tradition of hand-made drawing and redrawing. Architecture is as much grounded on conceptual thought as it is in concrete reality. In such logic, every convincing depiction of a possible architectural composition, regardless of the selected medium of representation, should be informed and inclusive of both of these aspects, juxtaposing them into a single, complementary, and expressive narrative. If one accepts the premise of this logic, an architectural drawing or sketch necessarily starts with the selection of a photo fragment that contains in itself critical information about a specific site or material, manipulated and glued into a piece of paper, to which, after careful contemplation, one reacts through a series of consequential added marks. The process then repeats moments of contemplation and (re)action, that is, searching and finding, until something either good, truthful or beautiful can be found.

Form Found Design (FFD) | United States

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MARS Pavilion for Amazon / Form Found Design. Image Courtesy of Form Found Design

Team members: Joseph Sarafian, Ron Culver, Steve Fuchs

FFD operates at the intersection of technology and nature. Our work bridges this gap, exploring advancements in robotics, material science, and project workflows. FFD has developed a robotically-reconfigurable mold for concrete casting in which industrial robots stretch sleeves of fabric into various positions for casting Ultra-High Performance Concrete. Our MARS Pavilion for Amazon was the first robotically-cast concrete pavilion in California and a proof of concept for the technology. FFD is currently partnering with a non-profit to build humanitarian housing in the impoverished rural communities in Armenia. With over 4,000 families still living in shantytowns following the earthquake in ’88, housing demand has reached desperate levels, and the 2020 Nagorno-Karabakh war has only skyrocketed this need. This has created a refugee crisis with an estimated 90,000 Armenians currently displaced. Using the FrameCAD machine, a home can be framed out of light gauge steel in under a day. This machine not only allows for rapid generation of shop drawings, but it also allows for rapid job-site production.

Mínimo Común Arquitectura | Paraguay

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Oficinas Nordeste / Mínimo Común Arquitectura. Image © Federico Cairoli

Team members: Solanito Benítez, Verónica Villate, Sergei Jermolieff

Far from creating selective knowledge, Mínimo Común Arquitectura wanders in search of new approaches to the largest number of people. Building with materials and local labor is seen as an opportunity for us: we see endless possibilities to summon matter and material. Based on the tests, we overcome the trial and error method to assume our fears as something beautiful, where erring should be the daily thing. We must embrace experimentation to produce new ideas that allow us to build more just societies. As a studio, we question the role of architecture in its various aspects —economic, environmental, social— and as time goes by we build our answers in stone, metal, brick, and earth in a process of constant growth in order to provide new replicable and expandable ideas to all sectors of the population.

MoKim | South Korea + Japan

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The Garden / MoKim. Image Courtesy of MoKim

Team members: Hyunsoo Kim, Seongbeom Mo

MoKim is a Seoul-Tokyo based design studio, working in architecture, art, and urbanism, and seeking ideas for contemporary architectural and urban issues. We conceive architecture as a medium that connects us to the community and explores how it can inspire social engagement and improve living environments. We work collaboratively with clients, the community, and experts from early on in the design process. Our interdisciplinary approaches enable us to generate great results in our cities and landscapes, in order to develop a better future.

New Office Works (NOW) | Hong Kong

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Growing Up / NOW. Image Courtesy of NOW

Team members: Evelyn Ting, Paul Tse

New Office Works creates projects that build upon the vocabulary accumulated “then” while satisfying the needs and desires of “now.” From buildings and interiors to art installations and furniture, each project encompasses an exploration of detail and material. The design process is a rigorous search for surprising results through hands-on crafting and making of models and prototypes, and careful studies of textures and finishes. NOW received 1st prize in the inaugural Hong Kong Young Architects & Designers Competition, and recently completed projects include the West Kowloon Pavilion, Hong Kong Design Centre, and a retail pavilion for DFS Group in Vietnam.

Noelia Monteiro | Brazil

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Reforma e ampliação Castanhas de Caju no Nova Vida, Maranhão / Noelia Monteiro, Christian Teshirogi. Image Courtesy of Noelia Monteiro

More than half of the world's population lives in urban centers and the migratory movement from rural areas to precarious and densely populated urban settlements is constant —many located in areas at risk of landslides and floods. In this context, the focus of my professional practice and academic research centers on the development of socio-environmental architectural projects in rural areas to strengthen opportunities in the local economy and income generation. As well as understanding and strengthening the urban systems of small and medium-sized towns in the study of territory and geography. This study and practice permeate the different scales of architecture and urbanism in order to create resilient structures and ways of living in harmony with the environment in which they operate. The study of constructive solutions focuses on remote and difficult to access places, in natural conditions that are sometimes adverse and of social vulnerability, based on actions and purposeful investigations that mirror and mobilize the local reality, generating inputs for public policies from a decolonial perspective.

ODDO Architects | Vietnam

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Pizza 4P's Restaurant / ODDO Architects. Image Courtesy of ODDO Architects

Team members: Mai Lan Chi Obtulovicova, Nguyen Duc Trung, Marek Obtulovic, Marek Obtulovic, Nguyen Duc Trung, Nguyen Viet Anh

Our work aims to improve our living environment and emphasize cultural backgrounds. We mainly focus on sustainability, implementation of greenery in cities, and community projects with the local spirit. We attempt to make ideas and projects about re-creating links between humans and nature no matter the project size. With the current global support of media, there is a much better chance to introduce positive less harmful projects into our environment in order to respond to many issues generated by fast urbanization and growing populations. In general, architects most of the time have an urban approach —logically because we are trained in cities—, although our work impacts a much larger context [in]directly than just the city itself. Our work is to understand the local climate and environment before making any physical architectural statement.

Office Off Course | China

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Shadow Garden in 10th Jiangsu Horticultural Expo / Office Off Course. Image © Bowen Hou

Team members: Zhe Huang, Li Huang, Yao Zhang, Jieying Yu, Sunhui Ye, Shengfan Zhu, Yifan Wang, Lilin Bao, Jiaxi Du, Suyue Zhang, Renxiang Li, Haodong Yu, Shuqing Zhan

Architects often bring up the phrase “problem-solving,” yet in many cases, problems do not really exist in the site itself but are shaped by subjective observation and experience –different values and goals would lead to distinct problems. Two primary themes drive our practice. First, nature is a classic motif throughout the history of architecture. In many projects, we blurred the boundaries between the interior and the exterior, introducing interactions between nature and architecture. Another subject is focused on how to deal with history. We aim to bridge the history and contemporary life, by transforming the historical site into a public space, which becomes a fragment of history embedded in the present life. Walter Benjamin suggests that if we regard architecture as knowledge, then its greatness lies in the possibility of materializing world history. This kind of knowledge appears in material form but doesn’t exist merely in materiality... we try to make our work a part of it.

Salon Alper Derinbogaz | Turkey

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Fitas Passage Adaptive Re-use / Salon Alper Derinbogaz. Image © Marc Goodwin

Team members: Alper Derinbogaz, Egemen Onur Kaya, Pinar Komurcu, Emmy Bacharach, Ekin Cem Tumbek, Rana Irmak Aksoy, Enise Burcu Derinbogaz, Izel Besikci, Ezgi Isik, Bilge Zeyrek 

Salon is an architecture practice focusing on tactical and experimental innovation in cities through architecture, art, interior design, and urbanism. By focusing on research processes as the catalyst for an evolving engagement with the constructed world, we speculate on critical solutions for architecture. We believe that architecture should create empathy between humans and nature —a deep understanding of the site, and the ecology and social context is important in our work. We believe the current crisis is an opportunity to rethink our cities and to seek a better architecture, for the present and future generations. With our landscape team Praxis, we create spaces that create fluid relationships between interior and exterior and integrate buildings with their surrounding landscapes.

sauermartins | Brazil

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Tin House / sauermartins. Image © Cássio Sauer

Team members: Cássio Sauer, Elisa T. Martins, Tomás Culleton, Antonio Cornely

Our office's production is associated with an exploratory and investigative practice that uses models, drawings, analog photographs, and construction itself as tools of the design process. Our work seeks to approach the place and the cultural, social, and economic contexts, their characteristics and restrictions —often related to the territory, to the materials and available labor— in an effort to produce architectures that interact positively with these contexts. The projects investigate interactions between industrialized elements and traditional, local, and experimental construction strategies, in a possible dialogue between artisanal and industrial. The link between research and professional practice seeks to understand the approximations between architecture, memory, landscape, culture, and identity. In this sense, we are in a permanent search, throughout our projects, to understand the contemporary role of the discipline.

studiolibani | Lebanon

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Minor Paradises Public Land Art Intervention / studiolibani . Image Courtesy of studiolibani

Team members: Dima Rachid, Leah Moukarzel 

Our interventions fall on three core pillars —enhanced quality of space, social inclusion, and ecological performance— while valuing the notion of openness and exchange, with six collaborations across disciplines and geographies completed in only two years’ time. By balancing teaching, design research, critical writing, cartography, and practice, we seek to push forth the agency of landscape architecture and landscape planning in shaping ecologically-sensitive, people-based environments that are resilient to contemporary challenges. Lebanon and MENA region at large face a critical water shortage crisis and lack of open space, exacerbated by climate change and unregulated urban growth; also governed by obsolete approaches to planning and infrastructure. Our visions revolve around water and climate, challenge the idea of a design for drought, pushing for nature-based solutions while enhancing ecological diversity. Through our public project proposals, public installations, and critical publications, we find opportunities to advocate for ecological infrastructure and contribute to pushing forward at the design and policy level.

Taller KEN | United States

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Saúl Bistro Madero / Taller KEN. Image Courtesy of Taller KEN

Team members: Ines Guzman, Gregory Melitonov

Taller KEN (a cross-cultural mash-up of the Spanish word “Taller” for “workshop” and an English word “ken” meaning “knowledge”) is a New York and Guatemala based practice focused on playful design with social relevance. The firm embraces the collaborative nature of making partnerships and connections. We see it as our responsibility as designers to create a framework for participation, bringing people together across societal divides in pursuit of a more equitable future. Incorporating a multitude of diverse voices, our work goes beyond merely elevating elements of design to create an architecture with broad appeal. The work of Taller KEN is rich with detail and materials, carefully calibrated to its locales. The MWBE firm often works in developing countries and urban areas defined by an imbalance of growth and social inequities. Realizing projects in this context has helped the practice establish its approach to advocacy-through-architecture, working in the public realm through community engagement. To this end, the firm established in 2016 the nonprofit organization FUNdaMENTAL, which invites students and young designer to participate in an annual self-initiated, design-build public space improvement project.

The Urban Conga | United States

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The Hangout / The Urban Conga. Image Courtesy of The Urban Conga

Team members: Ryan Swanson, Maeghann Coleman, Martina Ciccia, Juan Esparza

This multidisciplinary design studio focuses on sparking community activity and social interaction through open-ended play. We achieve this by designing, fabricating, and installing inclusive, memorable, and site-specific work within the built environment worldwide. As Plato once said, “You can discover more about a person in an hour of play than a year of conversation,” and these are the exact moments we strive to create and advocate for all demographics to share through our work. As a critical component of our studio, we are exploring the idea of play to exist in everyday spaces and encouraging people to think about these spaces that could become PLAYces: like a crosswalk, park bench, street light, building façade, bus stop, or just the everyday space in-between. We believe that the value of play in creating more equitable cities and communities should begin to be a key component in significant discussions surrounding urban development and city change.

UMWELT | Chile

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Transmission Central 1 / UMWELT. Image © Felipe Fontecilla

Team members: Ignacio García Partarrieu, Arturo Scheidegger, Lucas Ormazábal, Alexa Napp

UMWELT is an office for research and practice in architecture and territorial design. By combining built and research work we have been able to move between the pragmatic and the speculative, understanding projects as prototypes and tools to envision scenarios of possible common futures, redefining concepts and frameworks that no longer stand up by themselves, both to understand and to rethink the critical contemporary phenomena that lie ahead of us. We are interested in operating on different scales, from the architectural to the territorial, avoiding a reductive and idealized vision of reality based on old dualities such as the natural versus the artificial, the rural versus the urban, or the public versus the private. We understand all our work as one big project that includes not only buildings —permanent or ephemeral— but also academia, editorial production, and participation in exhibitions and media. We believe in the need to build strong positions in each and every case, independent from its program, scale, or even commission: maximizing opportunities to influence and transform reality, even if in a modest way and from a peripheral position.

Wallmakers | India

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TeaseMe Cafe / Wallmakers. Image © Wallmakers

Team members: Vinu Daniel, Archana Nambiar, Fawas Thengilan, Srivarshini JM, Oshin Varughese, Preksha Shah, Dhawal Dasari, Prateeka Bandiwadekar, Shri Viji Nachimuthu, Ayush.

Today less than thirty percent of the world’s population live in buildings made of earth, even though it is a more sustainable and durable material; the blame of which may be solely placed on the advent of industrialization and widespread demand for "cement” houses. We have devoted ourselves to the cause of using mud and waste as the chief components, to make structures that are both, utilitarian and alluring. As Wallmakers, we have always believed in being true to materials in our designs. It’s an art to use the natural properties of materials to our advantage rather than covering them up and destroying their natural appearance and qualities. Speaking the language of the site and the materials, the buildings are reasonable to the maker, the user, and the natural setting. The biggest challenge is to construct while sustaining whatever is remaining as construction materials on mother earth and if at all they are used, use them in such a way that future generations can also see the earth as good as or better than what we see today.

Honorable Mention: Monograph | United States

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Monograph dashboard. Image Courtesy of Monograph

Team Members: Robert Yuen, Moe Amaya, Alex Dixon, Ailyn Mendoza, George Valdes, Dan Knisley, Mark Janzer, Eileen Li 

For decades, architects used nothing more than spreadsheets to oversee a building's completion. As architects themselves, the founders of Monograph are about providing a better practice operations solution for managing time and talent. Rather than piecing together various tools that treat cost, resource, and project management as separate activities, Monograph aims to be a system of record for building that brings everything and everyone together into one integrated, collaborative platform—think the G Suite for the AEC industry. Ultimately, Monograph offers a more streamlined, visual, and effective way to manage projects, collaboration, and the financial health of the teams that design and build the world around us—putting an end to the disorganized, untrackable use of spreadsheets for architects. To date, Monograph has helped firms manage over $250 million in projects of all scales.

The ArchDaily's 2020 Young Practices jury for the final stage was comprised of Projects Curator Hana Abdel, ArchDaily Brasil Managing Editor Romullo Baratto, ArchDaily in Spanish Editor Santiago Baraya, ArchDaily in Spanish Managing Editor Fabián Dejtiar, Materials Content Manager José Tomás Franco, Managing Editor Christele Harrouk, Projects Curator Clara Ott, Projects Curator Han Shuang, Community and Social Media Editor Dima Stouhi and ArchDaily Network Editorial & Data Manager Nicolás Valencia.

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Cite: Nicolás Valencia. "ArchDaily Selects the Best Young Practices of 2020" 02 Dec 2020. ArchDaily. Accessed . <> ISSN 0719-8884


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