2022 Architecture League Prize Winners Respond to Design Complexities Rooted in Place

The interplay between design tied to a physical place and “ubiquitous placeless processes” served as the central theme of the Architectural League of New York’s 41st Annual Architectural League Award for Young Architects + Designers. Announced today, the winners of the 2022 Architecture League Prize are eight architects and designers representing five dynamic emerging practices (plus a New York-based collective) who submitted projects that respond to the Grounding theme in a fresh and provocative way.

Representing New York, Michigan, Texas and Mexico, the winners are: Citygroup; Nathan Friedman and Francisco Quiñones (Departamento del Distrito), Isaac Stein and Maggie Tsang (Department); Farzin Lotfi-Jam (Farzin Farzin); Xavi Laida Aguirre (stock-a-studio), and Jose Amozurrutia and Carlos Facio (TO).

The theme, as with past League Awards, was developed by the Young Architects + Designers Committee, a rotating cohort of former League Award winners. For the 2022 cycle, the Committee included Luis Beltrán del Río García, Tei Carpenter and Gabriel Cuéllar. This year, Chris T. Cornelius, Carla Juaçaba, Lola Sheppard and Mabel O. Wilson were part of the competition jury (also selected by the Committee).

In its invitation, the Committee asked the participants to answer the questions of the contest Grounding thematic by “reflecting on the substance of the foundations of design”:

Through grounding, designers come to terms with complex material realities, socio-cultural contingencies, and more fundamental ways of being. Although rootedness suggests locality, contemporary environments are invariably embedded in overarching systems that complicate architecture’s relationship to place. Grounding therefore means, on the one hand, making vital connections with what is already there – materially, socially and otherwise – and, on the other hand, coping with placeless and pervasive processes. Navigating remote and embodied, nonlocal and local architecture requires methods of retooling, reappropriation and transformation to find its foundation. How do young architects relate their work and their practices to the bases on which they design? How can designers respond to both the particularities of place and the ubiquity of global forces? What are the intentional approaches and forms of rooting?

Organized by the Architectural League, the prestigious portfolio competition is open to designers and architects who have ten years or less of a bachelor’s or master’s degree program and who reside full-time in the United States, Canada or Mexico. The winners will present their work in a series of virtual lectures starting on June 15. In addition to the three-part lecture series, each moderated by a member of the Committee, the winners of the Prix de la Ligue 2022 will also participate in a digital exhibition presenting original works. Depending on the League, facilities can be created on-site at the winners’ respective locations or in fully digital formats.

Below are images of past works by the 2022 League Prize winners along with short training profiles provided by the League. Below is more information on the 2022 League Prize Lecture Series.

Citygroup (New York, New York)

Citygroup Storefront Space, New York, NY, in progress. (Courtesy of Citygroup)

Citygroup is an architecture collective founded in 2018 in New York. Based in a Lower East Side storefront, it partners with a wide variety of local organizations to develop and promote equitable design solutions to some of New York’s most pressing issues. Through design projects, public events, and grassroots activism, Citygroup aims to “interrogate the conditions that subjugate, alienate, and appropriate architects, architecture, and architecture-dwellers,” according to its website. Recent projects include an exhibit and workshop focusing on proposed rezoning in Manhattan’s Chinatown, and a series of talks exploring issues related to architecture and the city.

Nathan Friedman and Francisco Quiñones | Department of Distrito (Mexico City)

In-Medio by Departamento del Distrito, Mexico City, in progress (Courtesy of Departamento del Distrito)

Departamento del Distrito is a Mexico City-based design practice founded in 2017. Her work operates at the intersection of politics, identity and the built environment, covering a wide variety of subjects and forms. Through its various projects, Departamento del Distrito synthesizes design and research “to develop local landmarks, connecting them to geographies, time periods, and topics that extend beyond their immediate boundaries,” according to the company. Recent projects include a house in northern Mexico that incorporates historic stone ruins and a series of free publications that explores the preservation of modernist architecture in Mexico City.

Isaac Stein and Maggie Tsang | Department (Houston)

Prairie plots by Dept., Houston, 2022. (Courtesy of the department)

Founded in 2019, Dept. is a landscape architecture and urban design studio based in Houston, Texas. The practice operates at a wide range of intersecting scales, from site-specific temporary installations to urban-scale master plans. Through careful research into each project’s network of social and ecological contexts, the department aims to produce “creative, useful and adaptive design responses for the public and the environment,” according to its website. Recent projects include a 10,000 square foot “living installation” showcasing native prairie species in Houston and a plan for a network of small stormwater retention parks in flood-prone North Miami.

Farzin Lotfi-Jam | Farzin Farzin (Ithaca, New York)

Modern management methods by Farzin Farzin, The Shed, New York, 2019. (Photo by Kunning Huang)

Farzin Farzin is an Ithaca-based collaborative multidisciplinary design studio founded in 2008. The practice works across architecture, urban planning, computing, and media to study the technologies that govern contemporary life. Through various modes of research and fabrication, Farzin Farzin produces architectural exhibitions that “create[e] opportunities to pose important questions to the public and make new emergencies evident,” according to the company’s website. Recent collaborative projects include an installation that revisits an archive of documentary films produced for a United Nations conference in 1976, and an exhibition that exposes and critiques Rio de Janeiro’s smart city control systems.

Xavi Laida Aguirre | stock-a-studio (Detroit)

Outdoorsy Media Rig I by stock-a-studio, various locations, ongoing (Release stock-a-studio)

stock-a-studio is an architectural design firm founded by Xavi Laida Aguirre in 2015. The firm blurs the boundaries between the physical and the digital, creating mixed reality spaces that question the circular movement of contemporary products. Through iterative experiments in material reuse, temporary architectures, and product manipulation, stock-a-studio “connects material resources to immaterial systems that proliferate and qualify them,” according to the company’s website. Recent projects include a publicly accessible digital catalog of customizable pieces for small architecture and furniture design projects, and a 20,000 square foot stage architecture installation for immersive live performance in Berlin and Los Angeles. .

José Amozurrutia and Carlos Facio | TO (Mexico City)

TO Kithara Project, Mexico City, 2022. (Photo by Santiago Arau)

TO is a Mexico City-based architecture and design firm founded in 2015. Often located in public spaces, TO’s projects deploy simple tectonic solutions using local vernacular construction methods and materials. According to the company’s competition portfolio, it engages in “frequent dialogue with people who use their knowledge, culture and hands to build: masons, carpenters, ironworkers, craftsmen and anyone driven by a desire to transforming ideas into constructed elements”. and living environment[s]Recent projects include an outdoor music classroom built with recycled masonry materials in a Mexico City suburb and an outdoor museum pavilion that converts construction rubble into tiles.

The Prix de la Ligue 2022 virtual conference series

June 15:

Nathan Friedman, Francisco Quinones | Distrito Department
Moderated by Gabriel Cuellar

June 22:

Isaac Stein, Maggie Tsang | Dept.
Jose Amozurrutia, Carlos Facio | FOR
Moderated by Luis Beltrán del Río García

June 29:

Farzin Lotfi-Jam | Farzin Farzin
Xavi Laida Aguirre | stock-a-studio
Moderated by Tei Carpenter

All lectures begin at 6:30 p.m. EDT. Admission is free and prior registration via Zoom is required.

Abdul J. Gaspar