The New York Dozen: 12 Working Architects to Watch


The New York Dozen is not a cohesive group. Collectively, this assortment of 12 architects can't be seen as a "New York School"; Gotham is too complex, too diverse, too rich in its architectural history and enticements for the work of a "school" to be distilled. The members of the New York Dozen have a strong sense of the role New York plays in their practice. For the Dozen, the city functions as an incubator, a battery, a prompt, a laboratory, a stimulant, a distraction, an exhilaration, an escape, an endless dichotomy. Or, as one of the Dozen puts it: New York is important for its physical, intellectual, and cultural density.

The title "New York Dozen," of course, is a play on "Five Architects," the book published in 1972 that presented the work of architects Peter Eisenman, Michael Graves, Charles Gwathmey, John Hejduk, and Richard Meier. The Five were a self-appointed group whose members saw connections between their own work and the architecture of Le Corbusier. Sometimes referred to as the "New York School," the architecture of the Five really had nothing to do with the city and made little or no comment on it. It just happened that the Five were practicing in and around New York.

Nearly 40 years on, it seemed like a good time to dip a net into the architectural waters of the city that never sleeps and see what one might catch. The members of the Dozen were selected from a variety of sources. A number were winners in the Museum of Modern Art's Young Architects program, which each year (since 1999) selects a young firm to design a project for MoMA's P.S.1 in Long Island City. Others had been published in Oculus, the journal of the New York Chapter of the American Institute of Architects, which regularly identifies emerging talent. Observers of New York's architectural landscape, such as New Yorker architecture critic Paul Goldberger, provided leads to young firms doing interesting work. After visiting their websites and reviewing their portfolios, I invited these 12 firms to be part of the collection. I wanted a cross-section of young talent, architects approaching their discipline from different directions, with contrasting values and agendas. The New York Dozen is a slice through the city's strata of architectural talent, taken at a moment challenging architects globally.

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Demographically and geographically, the members of the Dozen are more diverse and expansive than the Five of 40 years ago. This is certainly not a white-boys-only club. Women architects have principal positions in about half the firms, and many of the firm founders are ethnically and culturally diverse -- just like New York. Many of the Dozen pursue or have built projects on other continents, a reflection of the global stage upon which architecture is practiced today.

As a group, the members of the Dozen are interested in the collaborative nature of architectural design, fabrication, and practice. I think this is a generational trait, a product of the "social media" milieu in which these architects operate. Many of the firms identify themselves less as corporate entities (with a roster of names on the front door) than as workshops, clusters, and platforms for collaboration with other architects, fabricators, software designers, and material scientists. The architects of the New York Dozen approach architecture less as an abstraction, and more with hands-on engagement, an opportunity to work with others on a problem, teasing out a solution collectively.

Presented by

New York Dozen author Michael J. Crosbie is an architect and chair of the Department of Architecture at the University of Hartford. He writes frequently about architecture and design for a variety of print and online publications.

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