Architects and educators alike are invested in the exploration of cutting edge construction technology, material sciences, circular economies, experimental sustainability, and above all, a good foundation for a universal design pedagogy that allows professionals to branch out into multiple allied areas of expertise.
Since the golden age of the Renaissance, the words ‘art’, ‘architecture’ and ‘technology’ have been inextricably linked. In the past, we saw master architects who were also skilled artists, philosophers and scientists in their own right. Their interests and advances in other fields often bore fruit as architectural inspiration, breakthroughs in material innovation, or the creation of new structural systems.
As architectural education became more organized and streamlined, the number of these multidisciplinary masters dropped, with architects choosing to delve deep into the nuances of their specific field. With the cyclic rise and fall of trends and patterns, we now see more architects calling for an integrated, multidisciplinary approach again.
Architects and educators alike are invested in the exploration of cutting edge construction technology, material sciences, circular economies, experimental sustainability, and above all, a good foundation for a universal design pedagogy that allows professionals to branch out into multiple allied areas of expertise. That said, here’s a list of architecture firms that are pioneering interdisciplinary practice.
1. Zaha Hadid Architects + Design
A firm that works at all scales in all sectors, ZHA is one of the world’s leading practices in architecture, urban planning, industrial design and high fashion. Known for their extensive exploration of parametric forms, this studio has redefined the concept of scalability and shattered all notions of what can be achieved with conventional base materials.
2. Bjarke Ingels Group
Armed with a philosophy that reflects the shifting, pulsating character of contemporary life, culture and technologies, BIG ambitiously attempts to fuse utopian ideas with pragmatism. A playful attitude is converted into groundbreaking buildings, products and urban scale interventions that sensibly address global-level environmental, societal and economical concerns.
3. Foster & Partners
With sustainability as the driving force behind every design, Foster & Partners reevaluate widely accepted norms of what eco-sensitivity means. A global, diverse team of designers, structural and environmental engineers come together as a cohesive unit to produce comprehensive resolutions. Buildings, furniture, master plans and extensive research – there is nothing Sir Norman Foster hasn’t dabbled in.
4. Heatherwick Studio
A team of over two hundred ‘inventors and problem solvers’, Heatherwick Studio creates buildings, spaces, master-plans, objects and infrastructure that look to have profound, positive social impact. The studio’s innate curiosity and problem-solving outlook have enabled them to churn out unique architectural and engineering solutions that seamlessly blend art and technology.
Founded by architect Thom Mayne in 1972, Morphosis is a dynamic practice that evolves in response to the shifting social, cultural, political and technological conditions of the modern world. They remain committed to the practice of architecture and design as a collaborative, integrated one.
6. Skidmore, Owings and Merrill
SOM is an international collective of architects, engineers and planners with an impressive portfolio containing some of the world’s most environmentally and technologically advanced buildings, and equally significant public spaces. A highly collaborative environment here allows the team to work across disciplines to craft mindful interventions.
7. Michael Graves
Founded in 1964, this illustrious studio takes every project from concept to completion in a comprehensive manner. Their portfolio of services starts with design research and strategy, leading to innovations in product design, interior design, architecture and urban planning. Further value addition comes in the form of astute branding strategy development and graphic design for the same.
8. PLP Architecture + Labs
A unique fusion of heritage, traditional practices and the culture of a young startup, PLP works across multiple domains to bring ideas to tangible fruition. The studio, among several other exciting projects, is also responsible for SenseScape, a research program that operates at the intersection of culture, technology, and spaces to explore how technologies embedded in environments can facilitate interaction and imagination.
9. UNStudio + UNSense
An international architectural design network founded by Ben van Berkel in 1988, UNStudio specializes in architecture, interior architecture, product design, urban development and infrastructural projects. The daughter company of UNSense focuses on developing and using cutting edge technology to create spatial solutions to large scale world crises. They firmly believe that with the aid of knowledge, we can ‘future-proof the future’.
10. Steven Holl Architects
The founder himself a prolific artist, Steven Holl Architects is a firm that treats every space as a phenomenon of a profound relationship between the elements that make it – light, material, color and volumes. This view transforms the design process into a journey that starts anew with every new site, ecological, and cultural context.
11. Renzo Piano Building Workshop
RPBW was established in 1981 by Renzo Piano and now employs over 150 people worldwide. With no strict methodology to curtail, designers freely engage and collaborate to create human-centric spaces where lives and stories unfold organically. The founder’s pet project is the Fondazione Renzo Piano – an organization dedicated to the conservation, enhancement, and dissemination of architectural knowledge.
Founded by Sir Nicholas Grimshaw in 1980, the studio takes every new project as a challenge to innovate, while creating meaningful designs that last through in-depth analysis and exploration. This outlook traverses across domains such as architecture, planning, industrial and interior design as well as infrastructure development.
13. Santiago Calatrava
Architect, structural engineer, painter, sculptor – Santiago Calatrava is a master of many trades. Speaking about his style and philosophy, he says “My major interest is the introduction of a new formal vocabulary, composed of forms adapted to our time.” Many of his notable works are sculptures later realized as built spaces.
14. OMA + AMO
OMA is an international studio dedicated to the field of architecture and planning. Its twin venture, AMO, applies the methods and principles of design thinking to realms beyond. Together, they are a formidable force to be reckoned with in the design world, with projects of all scales across the globe.
15. Ateliers Jean Nouvel
A multicultural, multilingual team of over a hundred designers, Ateliers Jean Nouvel has garnered attention for their prestigious work across the design fields of architecture, planning, interior, and product design, branding, and graphic design. They are especially noted for their work with cultural landmarks and institutions.
While these are the big names that make headlines for their larger-than-life projects and proposals, a movement towards interdisciplinary studies and practices in architecture cannot be possible without a fundamental change at the micro-scale. Several such regional firms are creating exciting possibilities using techniques such as origami, additive manufacturing, and prototyping, entering into obscure allied fields such as neuroarchitecture and whatnot. This space is set for a revolution that will redefine the profession for decades to come.