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RECORD may be the longest-running international architecture magazine out there, dating back to 1891, but we editors run a small outfit. Perhaps because of this, up-and-coming practices have always held a special place in our hearts, and for years—25 to be exact—we have honored the very best with the Design Vanguard designation. On this anniversary, we reflect on the origins of the accolade and spotlight a selection of its brightest stars.

In 1999, RECORD editors Suzanne Stephens and Clifford Pearson invited nine upstarts—Kolatan/MacDonald Studio, Asymptote, Michael Sorkin Studio, Hariri & Hariri, Greg Lynn, Guthrie + Buresh, Mockbee/Coker, Reiser+Umemoto, and Krueck & Sexton—to propose designs for the new millennium. The group’s provocative schemes, ranging from a biomorphic residential tower to a sleek waterfront museum of “technology culture,” garnered widespread interest from readers, leading to an annual showcase of young architects. The following year, in 2000, Design Vanguard was born. Ever since, the editors have assembled a roster of (usually) 10 offices, each about 10 years old or less, and presented their work in the magazine.

Design Vanguard 2024.

Image © June Lee

To date, the 249 Design Vanguard winners, listed in full here, have hailed from over a hundred cities scattered across 36 countries on six continents—with Japan, China, Spain, Mexico, the United Kingdom, South Korea, the Netherlands, and Chile consistently supplying top international talent, including Sou Fujimoto (2007), Tatiana Bilbao (2007), Barozzi/Veiga (2014), and even literal rock stars like Michel Rojkind (2005). Within the United States, most of them have called New York, California, and Massachusetts home. While these architectural hot spots might be longstanding, the search for the forefront of design has also taken us from the hinterlands of Scandinavia and the plains of the American Midwest to the savannas of West Africa.

Some recipients, especially early ones with the benefit of more time, have sustained successful practices and contributed significantly to the profession, including one Pritzker Prize laureate—Alejandro Aravena (2004). From the inaugural class, SHoP Architects has grown from a studio of nine to a globe-spanning firm of about 150. Chicagoan John Ronan, who had barely completed a handful of projects at the time of his selection, also in 2000 (and, to this day, still runs a relatively small operation), has appeared and reappeared in RECORD’s pages with compelling new work, as Design Vanguards often do.

Others who deftly balanced practice and academia have gone on to take the reins of prominent architecture schools and departments: Hernán Díaz Alonso (2001) at SCI-Arc; Evan Douglis (2005) at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute; Amale Andraos of WORKac (2006) and Andrés Jaque (2014) at Columbia University; Meejin Yoon of Höweler + Yoon (2007) at Cornell University; Rossana Hu of Neri&Hu (2009) at the University of Pennsylvania; and Lisa Iwamoto of IwamotoScott (2011) at UC Berkeley, among many more. From these positions, they have been able to shape discourse within the profession in different ways.

Although the last 25 years have seen economic booms, there have also been busts, and not all Design Vanguards have endured. Some quietly disappeared, while others, for one reason or another, reached bittersweet forks in the road and splintered into separate endeavors. Risk has always been a factor for young practitioners—and it is also one RECORD assumes when betting on new talent.

But perhaps the most striking takeaway is how architects organize themselves. Partnerships, increasingly common in recent years, outnumber solo practices two to one—a testament to the fact that sharing burdens, whether financial or creative, has become a valuable proposition.

So, who is making waves this year? Readers who look back at any given class of Design Vanguard will not see a ringing endorsement of any single philosophical imperative but rather a breadth of possibility, which is especially true in 2024. This cohort includes artful, scientific, and activist thinkers, but none shy away from building.

For a quarter of a century, Design Vanguard has offered RECORD readers a glimpse of the future—and from the looks of this year’s and so many other recent alums, there is plenty in store.