Charles Renfro | Diller Scofidio + Renfro
The Diller Scofidio + Renfro-designed High Line altered New York, drawing art and commerce to those formerly disused elevated rail tracks. Since then, Charles Renfro and his New York-based firm have tackled some of the splashiest new museums in the world, from LA’s must-visit Broad to the forthcoming Museum of Image and Sound in Rio de Janeiro. But Renfro is also starting to think “longer term about the effect of projects on inequity and gentrification, which is a new way to think about architecture,” he tells Alexa. One solution: putting untapped space to work. “If there is a way that landlords could make their rooftops available for camping or tiny homes, we could increase the density and fend off developers,” he says. “It could be an interesting way to get people to come for a time and have artists’ studios or other spaces that don’t need a lot of program in the design … like a blanket of Burning Man.”
Koray Duman | Büro Koray Duman
This Turkish transplant relishes finding solutions in the face of constraints. Witness his NYC-based firm’s proposal to convert disused space beneath the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway into a “civic commons”, or his Urban Canopy, which turns scaffolding into works of beauty. Duman’s breakthrough was a design for the American Society for Muslim Advancement (a Midtown glass tower punctuated by an inner layer of six-point white stars), which won the Best of 2015 Award from the Architect’s Newspaper and led to a commission for a New York museum expansion (to be announced). He’s currently focused on projects that reconsider old zoning rules that give preference to high-density dwellings, thus discounting the huge number of New Yorkers who live alone. “The aging and young population living on their own — singles, artists, roommates — are pressure points that need to be addressed,” he says. “Creative thinking about building should go into policy-making.” He envisions developers working with the mayor and architects to devise fixes, such as allowing for more studios.
Stanley Saitowitz | Natoma Architects
Known for the New England Holocaust Memorial, comprised of six illuminated towers, and the Yerba Buena Lofts in San Francisco, which envisioned each unit as an “urban lot” that is transformed by its occupants, Stanley Saitowitz’s San Francisco-based firm specializes in site specificity. The South African takes issue with architecture as exterior wallpaper “that has nothing to do with climate, quality of life or use,” he says. His firm is focused increasingly on projects that optimize private space and take advantage of the public realm. He believes that private quarters will continue to shrink and become multifunctional, like the supercompact examples found in Paris and Tokyo. “That will create density, and density enables engagement,” he says. Two Natoma residential projects in Hollywood reflect this future-forward aesthetic, with public green spaces and cantilevered terraces.
Elaine Molinar | Snøhetta
This Oslo-based firm burst out of the gate in 2002 with its design for a library in Alexandria, Egypt, then won the competition for the Oslo Opera House, which opened in 2008. Since then, Snøhetta has built the National September 11 Memorial & Museum Pavilion in NYC and spruced up Times Square with benches and bike paths. The firm’s MO is to create places that empower people and promote “a more civilized society,” says partner and managing director Elaine Molinar. She’d like to see metropolises repurpose existing structures for modern use — just as her firm is transforming industrial buildings in Oregon City, Ore., into the Willamette Falls Riverwalk.
Rafael de Cárdenas | Architecture at Large
You’ll recognize his work from his NYC Nike concept store and the etched-glass triangles on the facade of Baccarat’s Madison Avenue flagship — although Rafael de Cárdenas is equally excited about the Italian yacht and the Cartier exhibit in Tokyo he’s also created. His work looks at culture both high and low, and attempts to inspire a powerful impact on visitors. “There is a growing trend of spaces that hybridize functions of living, working and all the rest, in fascinating ways,” he says. His Noho firm aims to further blur the lines between public and private space with, say, internal courtyards and black-painted buildings that melt into the streetscape.