Updated: May 2, 2021
Photo Credit: PARKROYAL Collection Pickering
Designed by: WOHA
When it seems to be tougher and tougher to innovate and integrate technology with architecture, it is best to remember humanity’s roots. Instead of taking nature for granted, the incorporation of ecology, plants, and sustainable tech is what will propel future architecture’s feats.
To be a standout architect is to wear the hats of art, design, creativity, and a thirst for long-lasting environmental functionality. Those we’ve featured do all of the above.
1. Andy Cohen and Diane Hoskins, Gensler
Two CEOs with a “one-firm” stance. Diane Hoskins and Andy Cohen serve as Gensler’s Co-CEOs and focus primarily on the seamless flow of ideas and collaboration among all the Gensler offices. Thanks to their contributions, Gensler is known widely as one of the largest architecture firms in the world. The projects spearheaded at Gensler have put them into the spotlight as one of the world’s most innovative companies.
Diane’s multifaceted background in real estate, interior design, and architecture together make for a unique and all-encompassing eye when it comes to ideas and scale. Her self-described “restless” nature is what helped her land on the leadership role at Gensler, which was the perfect size and perfect pace. Diane has led groundbreaking work in workplace style changes, as well as hefty reimaginings of older buildings that needed a careful and creative mind behind them.
Andy’s innovation goes one for one with Diane, with an equal focus on creativity as well as sustainability. Andy’s emphasis on the human experience being central to architecture projects is what drives his research and leadership at Gensler. Humans are “the only constant” in a changing world, and the idea of livable cities as the future is a cornerstone of the design projects that Gensler takes on.
Over 6,000 people across 50 offices, working in over 120 countries. Gensler’s massive reach transforms into massive impact, and the company heads are where one needs to look for resilience, work ethic, and constant delivery of fresh ideas.
Photo Credit: Globest
2. Phil Harrison, Perkins & Will
It is no easy feat to head the second-largest architecture firm in the world, as well as one of the tops in sustainability. Phil Harrison knows this and has dedicated his role within Perkins & Will to serving humans, their wellbeing, and how they move through their environment. Environmental impact is a question that cannot go unanswered, especially with projects on the scale that Perkins & Will works. Over 60% of P&W’s 1500+ employees are LEED-accredited, ensuring projects are completed to the gold standard of being “healthy” buildings and long-lasting projects that do more good than harm for the world.
Phil’s passion and drive for environmental innovation led to a National Building Museum Honor Award in 2010, recognizing Perkins & Will’s socially relevant designs and the firm’s civic responsibility. His background in visual arts has lent to a deeper and more meaningful understanding of the design and its presence in our daily lives. With Phil at the helm, Perkins & Will continues to stake its claim as a powerful force in conscious architecture.
Photo Credit: Perkins&Will
3. Jeanne Gang, Studio Gang
The mesmerizing Aqua Tower building, a huge hit on Chicago’s Architectural Foundation boat tour, is the work of Jeanne Gang. The unique structure, described as “undulating”, can be seen from miles around. It incorporates a seamless vertical landscape translated into an incredible skyscraper.
An alumni of the Harvard Graduate School of Design, Jeanne is a cornerstone of ecological advancements and sustainability steps in design and architecture. The roof of the Studio Gang’s Chicago headquarters, formerly blank, has been fully transformed into a green space under Jeanne’s tutelage as a wholly functioning prairie ecosystem. (Illinois is, after all, the Prairie State). Studio Gang’s leadership in transforming city rooftops is a massive next step in functional design that gives back to the environment.
“It is easy to imagine a future in which natural and urban environments coexist and thrive.”
Photo Credit: Dezeen
4. Ma Yansong, MAD Architects
Living and designing in a populous country like China is no easy task. Challenges in zoning, space, function, and appeal are at every step of the process from idea to execution. Ma Yansong’s projects are at the pinnacle of allure and sustainability. Urban Forest, the third skyscraper completed by MAD Architects, is a massive building with gardens and patios on every floor. It’s 385 meters high, (over 1,200 feet!). And every single level has been designed to house a garden. This urban integration of nature is a perfect display of the Chinese architectural dream. In a land that both birthed feng shui and adapted to a modern Westernized urban development plan, the callback to harmony within nature is awe-inspiring. Ma Yansong is best known for his concept of “Shanshui City”; the focus of true balance among the environment, society, and the city through architecture.
Photo Credit: ArchDaily
5. Bjarke Ingels, BIG
Rounding out our list, Bjarke Ingels is another shining example of the intersection between nature and architecture. Bjarke’s most notable project is Mountain Dwellings, a multi-level apartment building constructed above none other than a parking garage. The description, though Brutalist sounding, could not be farther off. The building has the appearance of a gently sloping hillside, though technically it would be a man-made mountain. Every apartment within Dwellings has a “backyard” that is the roof of the apartment in front/below it. The perfect clash of being above a parking garage and all the splendid greenery on the surface are an iconic picture of innovation.
Photo Credit: Inexhibit