Principals: Álvaro Martín Fidalgo, Arantza Ozaeta Cortázar
A great deal of duality can be found in TallerDE2’s work. The Spanish firm’s Haus der Tagesmütter daycare centre in Selb, Germany, is a mélange of playful colour and cladding, inside and out. Yet the real ingenuity, which has earned the project multiple awards in Europe since its 2012 completion, lies in how it has revived a shrinking town. By adding shots of vibrancy to the streetscape, it has attracted a younger demographic and triggered a social revitalization. Now TallerDE2 is working on three more buildings, part of a larger scheme.
The centre’s genesis also marked the firm’s. Principals Álvaro Martín Fidalgo and Arantza Ozaeta Cortázar opened up shop in Madrid in 2008, as soon as they won the international competition for Haus. Therein lies another duality: they often partner with other practices to broaden their experience in addressing various project types. For the daycare, they collaborated with Gutiérrez-de la Fuente Arquitectos, also of Madrid.
As the firm develops its portfolio, which includes private residences in Spain, the partners are focused on working out adaptable systems that can bring everyone into the discussion at the planning stage. “Systems that are understandable can be powerful communication tools,” says Martín. “If experts and the users can discuss their needs together, everyone can participate in a project’s development.”
To realize the most recent phase of Selb’s ongoing revitalization plan, a youth hostel, the pair worked closely with the town council, the local developer, community members and youth. “We don’t believe in imposing genius ideas,” says Martín. “We prefer flexibility and seeing obstacles as challenges rather than problems.”
Principals: Lukasz Kos, Andrei Zerebecky
Location: Shanghai, China
For a fledgling firm, the best-case scenario is to gain recognition right out of the gate. That’s what happened to Lukasz Kos and Andrei Zerebecky, who in 2011 captured media attention for their furniture designs before they had even chosen a name. Their partnership, though, was years in the making. They met during architecture school at the University of Toronto, and afterwards Zerebecky moved to Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam, to work for B+H Architecture, while Kos landed at Frank Gehry Architects in Los Angeles. When they both found themselves in Shanghai, they decided to work together, eventually choosing Four O Nine as their moniker, after the Toronto street address where they once lived.
They have since used the fabrication expertise they acquired from their former employers to venture beyond building into interior design, furniture and rugs. In a recent project, the duo retooled a living room into a tiny fashion boutique in Ho Chi Minh City. Called the Twins, the 20-square-metre shop displays designer dresses in cubbyholes set into the walls. The entire interior is smartly clad in salvaged wooden planks, which conceal the AC unit and other utilities. While the boards remain rough hewn, they follow a strict geometric grid. “It’s high-concept formalism using low-tech materials,” says Zerebecky.
They view the shop’s reclaimed-chic approach as a direct result of living in Shanghai. “It’s a double-edged sword: We’ve met some amazing, creative people, and we can find excellent manufacturing capabilities here. The flip side is China’s unprecedented pollution; it’s alarming,” says Kos. In response, Four O Nine has started to think sustainably. Zero Waste table, made from a powder-coated steel sheet folded five times to create a fan-like base, has no offcut residue and is stackable for easier shipping.
The firm has numerous projects underway, including a hotel interior and a Japanese restaurant. “Andrei tends to come up with the concepts that have an affinity for detail, materiality and texture,” says Kos of his teammate. “I tend to come up with the big dumb ideas.” The combination appears to be working.
Principals: Sam Chermayeff, Johanna Meyer-Grohbrügge
Where do you go after you’ve worked at SANAA for your first job out of architecture school? “It was an immersive experience,” says Johanna Meyer-Grohbrügge of the five years she spent with the renowned Tokyo firm, where she met her partner, Sam Chermayeff. “On the other hand, we forgot about life, who we were and who other people were,” she adds. The architects decided to move to Berlin in 2010 to set up June 14, named after the day they officially opened for business. Their blossoming portfolio now includes innovative furniture pieces and concepts for some unique habitats, including an “introverted” single-storey dwelling where all of the light comes from skylights and a narrow slit provides a discrete entryway.
So far, most of their projects have remained studies, though they are working on a 25-unit apartment building in Berlin, commissioned by the future inhabitants. The duo crafted the units to overlap and interconnect in unexpected ways, which allows for a mix of intimate spaces and open volumes within each. “There will be 10 different ways to get from A to B,” says Meyer-Grohbrügge. “Most of what we learned from SANAA slipped into our thinking without our knowing it. There was a lot of pressure to come out with something that’s not already out there. We hope that remains in our own thinking and designs forever.”
Principals: Yuki Hyakuda, Maki Onishi
The home-for-all for children, which looks more like a toy village than a daycare, is one in a series of emergency housing projects built after the Tohoku earthquake devastated parts of eastern Japan in 2011. A collaboration between O+H Architects and 2013 Pritzker laureate Toyo Ito, the project started out as a simple idea, but quickly evolved into a much more playful structure that deals directly with children’s needs.
Such responsiveness is integral to Maki Onishi and Yuki Hyakuda’s approach. They started their Tokyo practice in 2008 after meeting at Kyoto University, where Ito taught both of them. Like their mentor, they have actively sought ways to respond to human needs in post-disaster zones, and to work collaboratively with everyone involved. The Satoumi gas station in Kesennuma, for example, came about after the pair helped a steel fabricator and former shipbuilder clean up rubble after the earthquake. This inspired them to use Corten steel, curved in the manner of a boat’s hull, as Satoumi’s main feature. “Architecture is never built by one person,” says Onishi. “We like to create environments where no one hesitates to give their ideas.”