Maggie Tsang and Nathan Friedman didn’t know they were competing for this year’s Young Architects Award. It turned out they had nothing to worry about.
Rice Architecture’s two Wortham Fellows are among half a dozen winners of the prestigious competition announced today by the Architectural League of New York. The awards are given to designers with no more than 10 years of education who live in North America and whose portfolios address the theme of the year, “Grounding”.
“It’s a complete coincidence that we were both selected, and we’re very happy to be able to share the experience,” Friedman said.
The judges were also unaware of the connection between the two, at least during the process. “It’s an anonymous submission,” Tsang said. “So it’s even more fortuitous that we were both selected.”
As part of their lap of honor, winners will give lectures at the league (Friedman at 6:30 p.m. June 16, Tsang at 6:30 p.m. June 22) and participate in a digital exhibition of their work on the league’s website. Like that of last year’s Rice laureate, guest critic Liz Gálvez, lectures will be delivered virtually and exhibitions normally held in New York will take place at sites chosen by the architects. Winners also receive a cash prize of $2,000. (Free lectures are open to the public. Register at archleague.org.)
Each approached the theme in a unique way.
Tsang and his departmental partner Isaac Stein readily identify with the concept of ‘anchoring’, as their practice integrates architecture, landscape and urban planning. Tsang’s research focuses on the relationship between buildings, soil and water; in particular, she examines the floodplain landscapes of the Gulf region and explores water management strategies at the lot, neighborhood, city and regional scales.
One of eight projects in its portfolio submission was already award-winning: The Good Neighbor Stormwater Park, a community park in North Miami, was a finalist for a 2020 Fast Company “Best Urban Design Award” and won an award from innovative design. award from the Florida Gold Coast Chapter of the American Planning Association.
“The South Florida project addresses the impacts of stormwater flooding and sea level rise,” Tsang said. “As part of this, Good Neighbor Stormwater Park is rethinking the potential for ‘repeating loss properties’ that flood frequently.”
The solution, already built in a North Miami neighborhood, transforms the land under a former flooded property into a community park that incorporates a stormwater retention pond. “The project considers the soil material itself and how it can be transformed or modified to reduce flooding and benefit the community,” she said. “Beyond the individual park, the idea that stormwater infrastructure can transform flood-prone land into public space is tied to a larger vision of the city.”
Firm of Friedman, Departamento del Distrito based in Mexico City, co-founded with Francisco Quiñones in 2017, offered a different approach to the theme. Drawing on his broader research at the intersection of architecture, identity and politics, the submission focused on “public architecture”, with a portfolio grounded in history and architectural culture of Mexico and its capital. One featured project was conceived as a new archive of mid-20th-century federally-funded buildings, which the practice cataloged and documented to engage broader conversations around “speculative preservation.”
“It’s a way to reintroduce Mexico City’s public structures to contemporary audiences, to ask questions about their future, and to debate the value placed on city fragments in the public realm,” said Friedman, who uses this data to inform the company. projects, including a municipal market, a library, a sports complex and a fire station.
“There is a huge amount of urban and regional development in Mexico that is driven by the federal administration,” he said. “For a practice interested in both archival research and contemporary practice, it helps us design a future that is grounded in some degree of historical awareness.”
“It’s something we often discuss with students: the need to avoid romantic ideas about the permanence of architecture or even that a designer can entirely dictate how a space functions once built,” said said Friedman. “For public buildings, it is essential to design with the populations who will end up managing and inhabiting the projects. This inevitably incorporates some flexibility that allows the architecture to adapt over time.
“Their success is a testament to our school’s success in attracting top faculty talent, a process made possible by the deep involvement of my colleagues in all faculty searches,” said Igor Marjanović, Dean of Rice’s William Ward Watkin. Architecture.
“Friedman and Tsang’s work on ‘public architecture’ and ‘grounding’ is relevant in Houston and around the world. Rice Architecture remains committed to supporting practicing architects in academia, especially those who push the boundaries of our discipline by working across national scales and borders to pursue topics that are both locally and universally relevant, advancing the shared humanity of our diverse and interconnected world. ”