It's time. After weeks spent accepting nominations and sifting through hundreds of talented designers, builders, and architects, Curbed is ready to announce the finalists of Young Guns 2014. All week long we'll be rolling out the nominees. Today: the Community Builders.
Today we kick off the revelation of this year's Young Guns 2014 finalists by introducing a group of designers whose work, be it housing and revitalization in rural areas or landscape design in places particularly vulnerable to the effects of climate change, directly impact the public. There's an agrarian housing pioneer, an urban dweller battling the perception that architecture is "an accessory professional pursuit" to be dismissed when funds aren't available, and an L.A. denizen looking to better connect architecture and academia with the communities they serve. For them, it's about building and nurturing society first and foremost.
Location: Green River, Utah
What he does: Co-Founder, Citizen Architect, and Principal of Housing at The Epicenter
As someone with a design background, what are the nontraditional ways in which you serve your local community?
"Rural places always struggle with having enough resources, enough services, and enough people to attract businesses and professions. It's hard to promote a story without the big shiny building. A lot of what we do is not glossy images, it's getting business managers to sit down at a table and talk about how they can work together, what they can ask the city to do, and what we can do for them to make the economy improve. It's mentoring a youth from the high school."
What is an overarching trend in landscape design that you think will become more prevalent over the next decade?
"A lot of people were woken up by Hurricane Sandy and the potential for damage and devastation that can happen in our urban environment. Landscape architects are really at the forefront of the circulation of all these conversations about resiliency and how to anticipate the next global challenge. We deal with land, we deal with water, and we deal with people and how to integrate communities. We educate them about the new solutions that are being developed, which are sometimes aesthetically not the same as conventional landscapes that they may be used to. They're fuzzier, or more naturalistic - which is a nice way of saying they may look like weeds. Natural spaces are actually really good for defending ourselves against the climate challenges that are coming."
Location: San Francisco, California
What she does: Associate Landscape Architect and Urban Designer at Bionic
How do you incorporate the needs and desires of the individual into your larger-scale projects?
"It's fascinating to meet people from the community to see what their day-to-day lives are like, and to understand how their environment can be improved. The ability to capture, reuse, and store water, and thinking creatively about landscapes that can do that while still providing the open space amenities that we want them to, will be increasingly important in the future. It keeps it interesting and invigorating to be working at those different scales."
Location: Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
What she does: Founder, Urban Designer, and Developer at Scout
What is the advantage of combining urban design and development in one organization?
"For a long time design has been very siloed, in terms of who can touch it and who can't. Now there's a calling for understanding how interdisciplinary these approaches actually are. Oftentimes, designers go and they design the most stunning approach for a building, but if it's not financially viable, it will never be built. If we really want to see design innovation in our cities this needs to be thought about by people who have a broader understanding of how the pieces are interrelated. I do hope the practice moves in that direction, and that architecture and development start to speak a bit more of the same language. I think that would be a great thing for both sides of the practice."
Location: Los Angeles, California
What she does: Architect, "sensitive activist," and intellectual contractor at LA-Más
How does your approach to building urban environments differ from more conventional strategies?
"I see society and architecture as inseparable. As designers, we've put a lot of investment into talking about the overlap between gentrification, displacement, and development. The process-heavy discourse of academia goes into lower income neighborhoods and promises things and gets plans and walks away. And the outcome driven profession of architecture comes into neighborhoods and builds things and never talks to one person. So there's a real disconnect from thinking and doing in our practice. The role that I love to be in is on the ground, working with my hands, with people, and with communities."
Location: Brooklyn, New York
What she does: Principal Architect at INABA
Do you enjoy the ever-increasing levels of collaboration in the design process made possible by new technologies?
"I love having the opportunity to work with other designers and artists and to have the architectural design process be more of a collaboration with the client. Whenever that's possible it's incredibly enjoyable. Our design process always starts with a pretty serious research and observation phase. It's really about listening and observing and trying to understand the way people live and work. And then through the design process, identifying opportunities to enhance people's lives and to provide innovative solutions to their needs. I think it's a reality that you're never working in isolation as an architect. I certainly believe in a very collaborative approach and a community of designers who inspire one another and evolve a body of work as a group rather than as an individual."
· All Young Guns 2014 posts [Curbed National]