ArchDaily Selects the Best New Practices of 2021

As our world evolves at an unprecedented pace, the challenges that come with it are becoming more and more complex. The questions faced by the cities and networks of our global world, the physical and virtual environments where our evolution takes place, are making architecture more relevant than ever. 

The issues of the built environment are no longer exclusive to the incumbents who build and design it and have become transversal questions in our society. From the citizens who question the quality of their public spaces to the self-trained builder erecting a tiny house in the woods, to the homeowners using an app to codesign their interiors during lockdown, we want to have a saying and we want to take action. Why does architecture have to be so uncertain, so distant? 

The need for change, combined with the rapid digitalization of our industry, has put architecture on the verge of a big revolution, and we believe that the diverse types of practices selected as part of the 2021 ArchDaily New Practices generation are catalysts of this change.

You will find their work inspiring and reflective (WHAT they do), and their models of association and engagement innovative (HOW they do it), but what sets them apart is their commitment to being an active player on the evolution of architecture: WHY they do it. 

We are also excited to announce three companies in the buildtech sector, startups that are addressing the question of scalability in architecture. Thanks to technology they make architecture accessible, open, and closer to the communities and individuals that want to engage with it.

We will showcase their work and open a window into their WHY, through a series of in-depth articles coming in the next months.  

These are the 2021 ArchDaily New Practices in alphabetic order:

a for architecture | India

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Courtesy of a for architecture

Team members: Ajay Sonar, Monali Patil, Yogendra Nikam, Vipin Gurnani, Tanmay Patil, Aniruddha Thorat, Akshay Singavi, Yashada Potnis, Yash Sethi, Heena Khabiya, Smita Patil

As an architectural practice situated in the midst of a transforming urbanization process in Nasik, India, a for architecture is aware of how they are contributing to the changing urban scenario and culture. It is in this kind of changing landscape that they see the role of contemporary architecture and particularly their contribution through relevant architectural and spatial imaginations. Imaginations that mitigate the speed of transformation, mitigate exclusions from transformation. For them, spatiality is as crucial as typological thinking. Besides their engagement with the built environment, a for architecture, as a practice, is also engaged in several professional and cultural engagements that also aspire to act as indirect interventions to the practice and discipline of architecture.

Albor Arquitectos | Cuba

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© Albor Arquitectos

Team members: Carlos Manuel González Baute, Alain Rodríguez Sosa, Camilo José Cabrera Pérez, Merlyn González García

Building in Cuba is a complex endeavor. For an architect, it is an ever-ascending challenge due to the perennial absence of materials, elevated costs, or the commissioner's reluctance to work on contemporary proposals. A Cuban architect is a utopian character, whose work is not a necessity, neither aesthetic nor conceptual. Almost naturally engendered by its particular context, Albor Arquitectos views its work as an act of interpretation and answer to their reality. Their practice in later years has been mainly about dealing with the economic limits, the acknowledgment and critique of their profession, the social reality, popular culture, migration, and the different dynamics of contemporary Cuban society. Albor Arquitectos emphasizes the relations between the center and the periphery, formal and popular culture, and the identity notions to and from their insularity condition.

Atelier Lai | China

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© Xuguo Tang

Team members: Ming Tang, Felix Xie, Yun Chen, Yu Fan, Junyi Yang, Xiaohong Guo, Eric Wang

If you don't know where you've come from, you don't know where you're going. The word "Lai" has two meanings, one is "being" and the other is "future". The architectural practice of Atelier Lai takes the original meanings of "Lai", looking back at the past, and exploring the path of contemporary local architectural art creation from the future.

baupal | Germany

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© Baupal

Team members: Alex Müller, Max Schroeren, Justus Menten, Nadine Eberhardt, Bastian Müller, George Liang, Mai Vu, Lea Conde-Wolter, Sina Tille, Axel Schimpf, Ioana Floroiu, Michel Dehn, Valentin Meyer-Marc, Maria Nesterowa, Sarah Lachmann, Berenike Faensen.

baupal's goal is to give every builder access to customized and sustainable architectural planning. They want to put an end to expensive and confusing processes. That's why they are digitizing architecture services —for everyone. With baupal, private builders with smaller construction projects can benefit from the technological advancements in the planning industry as well. Through up-to-date communication, digital processes, and transparent workflows, our clients have lower costs, full control, and ultimately more time for their projects.

Ben-Avid | Argentina

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© Jon Wallis

Director: Martín Benavidez
Colaborators: Stefanía Casarin, Emanuel Polito, Lucas Merlo, Facundo Rasch, Alen Gomez

Ben-Avid does not invent anything. They hardly pretend to continue a dialogue, sometimes with words and others with a paper, with those who faced the abyss of the blank page before them. Perhaps that is what architecture is about: doing again, but in an unusual way, what has already been done a thousand times before. Perhaps that is what the city is about: occupying with our body the space that other architects conceived as a dream and history executed as a nightmare. The practice of the project for them then takes the form of a dialogue between something that no longer exists and that which is not yet. And for this, Ben-Avid prefers to disbelieve the brilliance of the invention and insist on the opacity of the trade learned from their teachers, with whom sometimes they still have the joy of working. They write, compete and draw all day, rigorously, in AutoCad.

Canoa | United States

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Courtesy of Canoa

Team members: Ellie Cunningham, Nicolas Chaulet, Josh Emig, Margaret Marsh, Josefina Sartori, Preston Smith, Mateo Lalich

Canoa is a b2b marketplace for planet-conscious products for the workplace. Their technology allows workplace teams to design, procure and track their furniture, prefabricated units, lighting, and accessories all in a single motion. Their mission is drastically to reduce waste in the commercial interiors business by avoiding costly build-outs that will likely be demolished well before the end of their life and instead install long-lasting, well-made, and beautiful prefabricated products and furniture that are easily moved and reused when it is time to do so.

Equipo de Arquitectura | Paraguay

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© Leonardo Mendez

Team members: Horacio Cherniavsky, Viviana Pozzoli, Gabriela Ocampos

Equipo de Arquitectura's approach is very primitive and essential: primitive for its conceptual relationship to the origin of architecture and essential to evade relations with the unnecessary. They work with matter, transforming it and arranging it in different ways to create spaces. They treat light as the element that intensifies and shapes space and the materials that create it. They understand order as the generator, starting with the organization of the projects as the beginning of a process. They transform that environment, enhancing the pre-existing context that characterizes it, respecting the natural setting we all inhabit. Immersed in the paradox of our being-in-the-world, summarized as “destruct to construct”, Equipo de Arquitectura understands that the matter we build with comes from previous destructions. This is why they reconsider the use and re-use of certain materials and choose to work with those that gather relevant information for each specific situation. They are attracted to the ethics behind material sincerity. Working with natural materials, local craftsmanship, and experimenting with alternative construction techniques offers Equipo de Arquitectura the opportunity to seek an appropriate architecture for our climate and our socioeconomic reality.

ESEColectivo Arquitectos | Ecuador

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© Lorena Darquea

Team members: María Belén Argudo, Pablo Silva, José de la Torre, Santiago Granda

ESEColectivo Arquitectos is an architecture studio focused on experimentation with alternative building materials, technologies, and logic. In their design process, they seek to reconcile sustainable low-impact strategies with the specific needs and limitations of each project, so that their results are heterogeneous and differ in the type of methodological and technical approach. ESEColectivo Arquitectos' experience has been built through collaborative practices with architecture studios, cultural managers, and related projects locally and internationally, leading to developing initiatives closer to the documentation, research, and architectural dissemination. Consequently, EseColectivo created in 2019 "La Parleta"—the first architecture podcast in Ecuador— a show committed to informal, comic, and almost daily, themes around the discipline.

HANNAH Office | United States

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Courtesy of HANNAH

Team members: Leslie Lok, Sasa Zivkovic

From the ground up, digital design and fabrication technologies are intrinsic to the making of our work, facilitating new material methods, tectonic articulations, environmental practices, technological affordances, and sustainable forms of construction. HANNAH Office reclaims authorship over processes of making that influence the way we can build —or perhaps ought to build in the future. In Ashen Cabin, 3D scanning and robotic fabrication transform irregularly shaped and bug-infested “waste wood” into an abundantly available and morbidly sustainable building material. In Additive Architectural Elements, concrete 3D printing enables the elimination of wasteful formwork. In RRRolling Stones, 3D printing economically mass-customizes geometries to create a range of tailored seats for a variety of body types. At various scales, their work’s performance and architectural expression are inherently derived from materiality, digital construction protocols, robotic routines, and bottom-up design logic. At the same time, in a mix of means, they are inspired by precedent, program, ecological considerations, collective labor, personal obsessions, and the creative misuse of technology.

ICON | United States

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Courtesy of ICON

Founders: Jason Ballard (CEO), Evan Loomis, Alex Le Roux (CTO)

ICON exists as a response to the global housing crisis: construction-scale 3D printing not only delivers higher-quality homes faster and more affordably, but fleets of printers can change the way that entire communities are built for the better. The United States faces a deficit of 5 million new homes and worldwide there are 1.2 billion humans that lack adequate shelter. There is a profound need to swiftly increase supply without compromising quality, beauty, or sustainability and that is exactly the strength of ICON's technology. ICON has delivered 3D-printed homes for the homeless, delivered the first 3D-printed homes sold in the United States, 3D-printed a Martian habitat for NASA and barracks for those serving their country with the Texas Military Department, plus partnered with world-renowned architecture firm, BIG. Social housing, disaster relief housing, and market-rate housing projects are underway in addition to developing construction systems to create habitats on the Moon and eventually Mars with NASA.

llLab. | China, Germany, Portugal

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© Arch-Exist

Founders: Hanxiao Liu, Luís Ricardo, David Correa, Taichi Kuma
Team members: Fei Chen, Yihui Zhao, Lingling Liu, Yujun Yan, Lingkong Yin, Lexian Hu, Ziyu Wei, Matt Eshleman, Han Xue, Chao Zuo, Wiebke Beyer, Finn Crawford

llLab. operates within the fields of architecture, design, art, urbanism, research and development. Their work focuses on using design as a tool to improve social and cultural life through various scales, from urban projects to micro-architecture or installations. The principals are driven by an experimental and playful approach that leads to conceptually rigorous and well-executed design projects. Creating distinctive solutions adapted to a context and its users, llLab. sets up conceptual platforms for design approaches to growing in time, within their particular contexts, producing site-specific design installations and building projects that both provoke and inspire.

Matri-Archi(tecture) | South Africa, Switzerland

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© Matri-Archi

Team members: Khensani de Klerk, Solange Mbanefo, Tapiwa Manase, Tshego Mako, Aude Tollo

Matri-Archi(tecture) is an intersectional collective that empowers African women as a network dedicated to African-built development and spatial education. They focus on research and design in the spatial industry as a pluri-disciplinary collective of spatial practitioners and artists. They action their ethos through a research unit and forthcoming spatial education program, focusing on transformation in partnership with spatial practitioners. Their projects thus far have and continue to manifest across various scales applicable to communicating spatial practices and discourses overlooked by mainstream architectural education and practice, particularly looking to the Global South and blurring the boundary between North and South as formal and informal. Matri-Archi(texture) sees value in material and immaterial elements of the built environment and believes that, with a focus on uncovering African histories and contemporary spatial practices, they might be able to imagine ethically social and ecological practices for a sustainable future.

messina | rivas | Brazil

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© Federico Cairoli

Team members: Francisco Rivas, Rodrigo Messina

messina | rivas' practice seeks to clarify different knowledge through actions and relationships that, through projects and dialogues, thus constitute our communication. Based on actions at different scales, programs, contexts, and design procedures, the activity of architecture acts as a reflexive action tool, with the potential to transform the socio-environmental conditions of habitability. Thus, a practice that requires adequate attention to available resources, architectural/landscape pre-existences, the various knowledge involved in the construction technique, and economic feasibility. messina | rivas also works with several national and international partnerships in order to exercise collective practice, not only through architectural projects but also through publications, lectures, exhibitions, and workshops.

PALMA | Mexico

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© Luis Young

Partners: Ilse Cárdenas, Regina de Hoyos, Diego Escamilla, Juan Luis Rivera
Current collaborators: Carmen Bentabol, Josué Granados, Nia Jorquera, Jorge Mañas Álvarez, José Méndez, Constanza Ponce de León, Adrián Rámirez

PALMA has designed, drawn, thought, and rethought architecture, also delivering projects on time, on budget, and in —most of the time— coherence with a group of beliefs and values they have empirically grown with. They have enthusiastically taken on too many underpaid jobs, so they had the chance to work on them for so many hours, in the hopes of getting something built. They rented office space, decided on work time hours, and hired as many people as they could justly pay. In 2020, in once-in-a-lifetime world synchronicity, they were thankfully forced to rethink their practice. PALMA understands its role as humble articulators of actors, desires, and experiences. Navigating between contrasting typologies, in both urban and rural contexts, engaging in initiatives that aim to improve their communities through creative and inventive work.

Sher Maker | Thailand

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© Rungkit Charoenwat

Team members: Patcharada Inplang, Thongchai Chansamak, Nat Tangchonlatip, Akapan Kanyen

Sher Maker aims to drive the potential of local construction unit and decrease the gap of capitalism that occupy the design pool. This is achieved by developing projects from the smallest unit like a sort of material experimental and research that relate with a cultural and natural context in each specific project, and expanding the realm of result to construction system and distributing appropriate income to local. This is a way to learn more about our careers and roles as architects. They have a strong intention in the process and meaning behind architecture methodology. Sher Maker is interested in the origins of architectural formations which depend on the context of local technology and material possibility. They really pursue the design of the atmosphere that affected the significance of architecture in both spatial and ambiance.

stpmj | South Korea, United States

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© Bae Jihun

Founders: Seung Teak Lee, Mi Jung Lim
Team Members: Jeong Ho Kim, Sang Hyup Kim, Jeong Eun Kim, Seung Yeon Han, Min Young Kim, Seul Kim

With an agenda called “Provocative Realism", stpmj works in a series of synergetic explorations that occur on the boundary between the ideal and the real. It is based on the simplicity of form and detail, clarity of structure, excellence in environmental function, use of new materials, and rational management of the budget. Moreover, stpmj adds ideas generated from curiosity in everyday life as they pursue a methodology for dramatically exploiting the limitations of reality. Resulting from new perspectives, their work is nuanced yet bold and represents a reaction against architectural clichés.

Studio NYALI | United Kingdom

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Courtesy of Studio NYALI

Team members: Bushra Mohamed, Nana Biamah-Ofosu

Studio NYALI is interested in examining, challenging, and shifting architectural critiques and narratives towards a more inclusive, holistic understanding of the built environment. The practice is focused on identity, shared histories, and spaces with a strong belief that architecture must be understood as the embodiment and artifact of the human experience. As designers, their work aims to center peripheral identities, cultures, and people.

SUMMARY | Portugal

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© Fernando Guerra FG+SG

Team members: Samuel Gonçalves, Adina Staicu, João Meira

Seeking a balance between pragmatism and experimentalism, SUMMARY develops projects and construction systems taking the optimization of time and physical resources as the central topic. The challenge they chose is to make construction an increasingly simple act, responding to the demands imposed by contemporary architecture. On one hand, the need/expectation of immediacy of a society fueled by Uber- and Ikea-ish products and services; on the other hand, the need for speed in responding to a growing demand for construction —in particular, for housing— fostered by the movement and settlement of populations in cities, in a volume and at a pace never experienced before, on a world scale. Thus, SUMMARY has been developing architectural solutions and construction systems through pre-fabrication technology, allowing for greater control of projects in the design phase and the work management, reducing the margin for errors and deviations in the cost and execution.

Urban Radicals | United Kingdom

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© Luke O'Donovan

Team members: Era Savvides, Nasios Varnavas

Since 2019, Urban Radicals has grown and shrunk organically, bringing into each new project old and new friends, colleagues, and wonderful collaborators. As a collective, Urban Radicals looks to examine public space and the notion of urbanism and community from a variety of perspectives including culture, politics, economy, geography, ecology, activism, and architecture. Dedicated to the idea of collaboration with other practices, disciplines, and individuals, Urban Radicals believes that the discipline of architecture itself is changing and —as the world is becoming increasingly complex and hybridized— the profession and the traditions in which it has practiced can be rethought, reworked, redefined. As architects, thinkers, and designers, they act upon their ideas and believe in practice, application, and the potential for architecture to become an act of activism.

Various Associates | China

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© Feng Shao

Cofounders: Dongzi Yang, Qianyi Lin

Founded in 2017 as a team of designers from an international background with professional expertise in architecture, interior design, material design, graphic, and interaction design, Various Associates is developing ambitious high-end projects including boutique hotels, restaurants, retail spaces, workspaces, and galleries. They focus on enhancing spaces and developing material details using bespoke approaches to give unique visual expressions to each project. Various Associates also gives artists and designers a platform to collaborate and reimagine new ways to be creative and break down barriers between the arts.

The ArchDaily's 2021 New Practices jury was comprised of:

  • Hana Abdel, Projects Curator
  • Mónica Arellano, ArchDaily in Spanish Editor
  • Romullo Baratto, ArchDaily Brasil Managing Editor
  • David Basulto, ArchDaily Founder & Managing Director
  • Agustina Coulleri, Projects Curator
  • Fabián Dejtiar, ArchDaily in Spanish Managing Editor
  • Christele Harrouk, Managing Editor
  • Diego Hernández, ArchDaily Creative Director
  • Eduardo Leite Souza, Materials Senior Editor
  • Susanna Moreira, Projects Curator
  • Clara Ott, Projects Manager
  • Paula Pintos, Projects Curator
  • Danae Santibañez, Community and Social Media Manager
  • Han Shuangyu, ArchDaily China Managing Editor
  • Dima Stouhi, Community and Social Media Editor
  • Nicolás Valencia, ArchDaily Network Editorial & Data Manager

This article is part of the ArchDaily Topic: New Practices, proudly presented by PERI. PERI’s Future Products and Technologies’ department researches disruptive technologies that have the potential to change the construction industry fundamentally. The aim is to recognize the signs of the future and to help shape this future. Through a methodical approach, PERI thus expands its core competencies and acts as a clear pioneer on the market. Learn more about our monthly topics. As always, at ArchDaily we welcome the contributions of our readers; if you want to submit an article or project, contact us.

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About this author
Cite: David Basulto. "ArchDaily Selects the Best New Practices of 2021" 30 Nov 2021. ArchDaily. Accessed . <> ISSN 0719-8884


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