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Meet the Young Guns Finalists: the Young Traditionalists

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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 Young Traditionalists.

Today we explore the thoughts of some Young Guns 2014 finalists who maintain a reverence for the traditional route to success: architects working at major firms and designers crafting spaces that are just plain lovely. Finalists range from an empathetic interior designer whose dream is to see "everyone housed so I'd be completely out of a job" to a structural engineer who's winning the fight against gravity.

Brit Epperson

Age: 29
Location: San Francisco, California
What she does: Director of Interiors at David Baker Architects

Of all your diverse project types, in which discipline do you enjoy working most?

"I feel really passionately about the affordable work that we do. It's not necessarily where I thought I would land, but I'm totally addicted to the human kindness of designing for underserved people. Interiors really speak to my desire to touch the places where people live, work, and stay. Typically the inspiration comes from working with the end user and understanding what they desire, what a home would feel like to them. Everybody has a right to really beautiful design. It shouldn't be a privilege that's only offered to people with a big budget."

Her work:

Amanda George

Age: 26
Location: New York, New York
What she does: Associate Project Manager at Michael Kors Asia

What drives your desire to create built environments all over the world?

"Since I can remember I've always wanted to meld together fashion and architecture. From a very young age I knew this was what I wanted to do. My parents are huge contributors to that. My mom is in interiors and introduced me to the world of design through her youthful, fun, and graphic aesthetic. And my dad inspired me with his work ethic. They are such a unique team. Because I traveled at a young age and lived in many countries on different continents, their inspirations really put me on this path. To this day those experiences influence me and my designs."

Her work:


Lindsay Hu

Age: 35
Location: San Francisco, California
What she does: Associate Professional Engineer with an emphasis in structural at Skidmore, Owings & Merrill (SOM)

What are some common ideas threaded throughout all of your work?

"There's a large focus in sustainability over here, but we've tried to push the envelope. From day one of a project there's a lot of carbon invested in the structural system of a building. By avoiding future damage, an enhanced structural system can reduce your carbon footprint and your effect on the environment. In San Francisco and regions of high seismicity, we're always trying to make sure that we provide a structurally sustainable design that in a seismic event will perform even better than what the code requires. We have a patented environmental analysis tool which looks at probabilistic damage to buildings. Making sustainable buildings, architecture, and in some cases, art for the public to use has always been of strong interest to me."

Her work:


Adam Jordan

Age: 29
Location: Sag Harbor, New York
What he does: Project Architect at Bates Masi Architects

How do you resolve the conflict between respecting a contextual environment while addressing a residential client's individualized needs?

"The Hamptons is known for smaller barns and family houses. We like to look at the local vernacular and how we can incorporate it into the design. We really take our time looking at those small details. However, we also deal with some very unique people who want unique properties, and that's what's amazing about it. We really pride ourselves on infusing the client into their house, too. Some clients will give us reference materials for inspiration. A lot of times in modern architecture you lose that contextual and personal focus, and it can become really cold and sterile."

His work:


Katie Martinez

Age: 32
Location: San Francisco, California
What she does: Founder and Principal Interior Designer at Katie Martinez Design

What's your creative process like?

"I work when I'm working, and when I'm with my daughter, I'm with her. What I think has been nice in terms of my new schedule [since becoming a parent] is that I have more time during the day to be outside rather than in the office, and I've found that when I let my mind stop, a lot of ideas come that way. I'm learning more and more about the creative process as I get older and gain experience. But I think that's a really important thing for me to understand—how I can be the most creative, and the best at my job, and to me that's not sitting at a desk all day, every day."

Her work:


Chad McPhail

Age: 34
Location: Los Angeles, California
What he does: Founder and Principal Interior Designer at Chad McPhail Design

How do you manage clients' expectations as people become increasingly impatient but good trades maintain steady lead times?

"I'm adamant about being very honest in terms of budget and timeframe. If potential clients want the world and they want it for no money, I tell them I don't think it's possible, or that I'm not the right person to work with on the project. What we do is very logistical, very on-the-ground and practical, but it's also something that is difficult to quantify in terms of the artistry of it. If I don't properly manage expectations, if someone's disappointed for any reason, then I haven't done my job right. I like all of my client relationships to continue on and become friendships, and hopefully we'll work together again, too. And if they have a good experience, they may want to talk to their friends and associates about working together. If I were hiring a designer in this kind of capacity I would want someone who I knew and trusted to make the recommendation. But I did get one project through Instagram, which I thought was pretty remarkable!"

His work:


Jennifer Park

Age: 35
Location: Chicago, Illinois
What she does: Architect Principal and Design Director at Forum Studio, Adjunct Professor at Illinois Institute of Technology

What originally drew you toward architecture?

"When I was younger, I was surrounded by architects who knew so much about everything. You had to know politics, what was happening culturally, and all kinds of things outside of the typical material palettes and how to build things. It was all these ancillary things that you wouldn't think an architect would be influenced by, or even want to know. Yet they knew, and they had a foot in everything. I'm not a pure academic in many ways. I enjoy talking about societal issues beyond architecture, and then I reflect back and think about how to make it relevant to my profession. Architects are connectors to people. They become this center of knowledge."

Her work:


Dave Swetz

Age: 29
Location: San Francisco, California
What he does: Project Manager at Butler Armsden Architects and LEED AP

How does the start-up culture influence your work?

"Being in San Francisco, the market here is kind of unique. Everything is tech heavy. There are a lot of young professionals who are incredibly successful, out here driving Teslas. There's an expectation in this city that it doesn't matter how old you are or how much experience you have, you have to get your job done. It's very different from a place like Boston or New York where you're expected to take your lumps, grow, and wait for your opportunity. Here it's a very different philosophy. Age doesn't matter. You work here, you're a professional, and we're going to rely on you. I'm appreciative of that. I'm fairly tech-savvy, but even I learn about new systems and products every single day because that's how quickly they're developed. There's an expectation out here just to keep up."

His work:


· All Young Guns 2014 posts [Curbed National]