By necessity, young architects do whatever is needed to keep themselves going and pay the bills—teach, serve as general contractors on small projects, fabricate lighting fixtures and furniture, and chase after jobs no matter how far away. It’s a tough way of working. But the ad hoc nature of such emerging practices keeps them nimble, which is especially valuable in an age of challenging economics and limited resources. Some of this year’s Design Vanguard firms aren’t waiting for clients to approach them, but are initiating projects and serving in multiple capacities—as designer, developer, contractor, consultant. Others have set up satellite offices in distant places, even if their firms are small. Blurring roles, disciplines, and national boundaries is all part of the young architect’s kit of survival strategies these days. —Clifford A. Pearson
Yuko Nagayama and Associates

Yuko Nagayama & Associates
A rising young architect manages her own successful practice'and family'breaking ground in design and as a professional woman.

Pictured: Urbanprem Minamiaoyama, Tokyo;

Photo ' Daici Ano

Garcia Studio

Gracia Studio
Jorge Gracia, who has located his office in the infamous town of Tijuana, is giving it a reputation for strong Modernist design.

Pictured: End'mico Resguardo Silvestre;

Photo © Luis Garc'a

Envelope Architecture Design

Envelope Architecture+Design
A San Francisco Bay Area firm deploys a minimal style to unsettle architectural expectations.

Pictured: Clipper Street House;

Photo © Todd Hido

Vo Trong Nghia Architects

Vo Trong Nghia Architects
Applying Japanese training to the vibrant but chaotic conditions of Vietnam, a firm makes the most of two cultures.

Pictured: Stacking Green;

Photo © Hiroyuki Oki


Jinhee Park and John Hong take on an age of austerity with a collection of carefully crafted projects that don't skimp on aesthetics.

Pictured: White Block Gallery;

Image courtesy SsD /' Chang Kyun Kim

Trace Architecture Office

Trace Architecture Office
A busy firm layers a commitment to social and environmental issues onto its projects in many different parts of China.

Pictured: Gaoligong Museum of Handcraft Paper;

Photo courtesy Tao

Easton Combs

A husband-and-wife team has gone back to basics, studying the material and structural innovations of centuries past to create new systems for building.

Pictured: Changing Room;

Photo ' Barkow Photo

Hironaka Ogawa and Associates

Hironaka Ogawa & Associates
A Japanese architect doesn't lose sight of his rural roots'integrating notions of the landscape and nature into his built work with skill and respect.

Pictured: Forest Chapel;

Photo ' Daici Ano

Rodriguez and Oriol Architecture

FRPO (Rodr'guez & Oriol Architecture)
A pair of Spanish architects pulls apart programs, then assembles designs with repetitive elements that create rich compositions.

Pictured: OS House;

Photo ' Jos' Hevia

MMX Studio

MMX Studio
Four designers use context as a springboard and animate their projects with suprising material applications.

Pictured: Casa Santa Catarina;

Photo ' Yoshihiro Koitani