Hailing from Europe, North America, and Asia, this year’s roster of emerging firms represent diverse backgrounds and attitudes toward design and the profession. But a few threads run through much of their work, even as the expressions vary greatly: complex layering, nature, engagement. Just a few years ago, “complexity” often meant convoluted forms generated by fancy new software. Today, it’s less obvious and emerges from a search for multiple meanings. It also flows from an interest in the rules of nature, which support a rich growth of ideas. Underlying most of the projects here is a sense of engagement—with the places and people served by these architects.


Héctor Fernández Elorza Architects
Rooted in Spain but influenced by Sweden, a Madrid-based architect combines the rugged and the refined.

Pictured: Architectural Documentation Center and Lecture Hall;

Photo © Roland Halbe

William O’Brien, Jr.
A teacher and practitioner challenges accepted notions of balance, reality, and narration as he establishes his small firm.

Pictured: Hendee-Borg House;

Rendering © Peter Guthrie for William O'Brien, Jr.

Rural Urban Framework
A nonprofit firm tackles the needs of China’s forgotten countryside, designing projects that help communities come together.

Pictured: Taiping Bridge, Shangzhou;

Photo courtesy RUF

Akihisa Hirata Architecture Office
An imaginative architect is inspired by nature to link people and places.

Pictured: Masuya;

Photo © Nacása & Partners

Marc Fornes/TheVeryMany
A small studio deploys computational design and digital fabrication to make inventive structures that define space.

Pictured: Double Agent White;

Photo © Guillaume Blanc

JOHO Architecture
Returning to his native country after years in Europe, an architect finds ways of spanning borders and making traditional elements feel modern.

Pictured: Herma Parking Building;

Photo © Sun Namgoong

Grupo Aranea
A firm rooted in hand-drawing adapts natural forms to create a flowing architecture.

Pictured: Casa Lude;

Photo © Francisco Leiva

Oyler Wu Collaborative
After learning the ropes with a series of installations, a husband-and-wife team is building up to larger and more permanent projects.

Pictured: Centerstage;

Photo © Scott Mayoral

Living off the fat of the land: four designers tap into the abundance of local materials and labor.

Pictured: Casa de Madera;

Photo © Ana Cecilia Garza

A firm obscures views and distorts perspectives to challenge the familiar and produce the unexpected.

Pictured: Haffenden House;

Photo © Nathan Rader