With the context of design practice constantly changing, architecture firms worldwide are trying to develop new skill sets and models to maximize the impact of their projects. At the same time, the global pandemic has caused economic fallout, eliminating or stalling a slew of projects. Amidst these issues, numerous firms have not refrained from putting their design skills to work. 

Since the pandemic’s impact, a few firms have specifically responded to the pandemic through a social construct, while others have refined their skill sets in response to the pressing needs, and others have continued to pursue new outstanding projects that showcase the increasingly pensive work that the profession has been producing.

The following architecture firms, all established in the past decade, have emerged by experimenting with new materials and incorporating sustainability into their projects. These firms are making their mark primarily for responding to the issues at hand. Each of them is innovating the spaces by exploring new methods to impact the built and social environments. This past year, these firms have been responding in dynamic ways to the global challenges that continue to impact the daily lives of millions of people.

1. MASS Design Group

MASS Design Group, stands for Model of Architecture Serving Society advocates for architecture promoting human justice and dignity. MASS was founded in 2008 and is based in Boston, United States. The firm has grown into a team of over 140+ architects, landscape architects, engineers, furniture designers, writers, filmmakers, and researchers over the years, representing 20 countries across the globe. Their projects include sustainable, resilient, and regenerative health designs that produce diverse, healthy, and productive habitats for human, animal, and ecological growth. 

This year, MASS Design Group’s not-for-profit model has led to aspiring hospital designs in developing countries. They have applied their skills in helping hospitals to adapt their spaces to respond to peak pandemic loads. 

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The National Memorial for Peace and Justice by MASS Design Group ©Alan Karchmer 
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BaptCare Brookview, Westmeadows by CHT Architects ©Rhiannon Slatter
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Design Distill ©Courtesy MASS Design Group

2. Studio Saxe

Studio Saxe aims on bringing ideas inspired by nature to structural form. Benjamin G. Saxe set up his practice in 2004 in San Jose, Costa Rica, and over the years, the firm has grown into an award-winning international practice. Studio Saxe is an interdisciplinary team known for designing buildings by integrating technological innovation with a distinctive technique to form sustainable designs. 

This firm believes in connecting the buildings to the landscape and brings about a global attitude to solve local problems. Also, this team of Costa Rica architects tries to harness ideas and techniques from around the world to benefit communities both at home and abroad. Their designs portray a combination of local knowledge with international design.

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Jungle Frame House / Studio Saxe ©Andres Garcia Lachne
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Casa Bel-Lloc ©StudioSaxe.com
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The courtyard house ©StudioSaxe.com

3. Michael Green Architecture (MGA)

Michael Green Architecture is renowned for its innovation in sustainable architecture and developing carbon-neutral buildings with advanced wood construction. MGA is one of the most internationally acknowledged firms in Canada. Michael Green founded this firm in 2012 in Vancouver, Canada. He is known for his research, leadership, and expertise in building timber products.  

MGA demonstrates an ambition to create sustainable and meaningful spaces constructed of natural materials. Their signature aesthetics result from reductive design and careful material choices. Social and urban sustainability are also integral to their design approach.

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Catalyst Building/MGA ©Benjamin Benschneider
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T3/MGA ©Ema Peter
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Wood Innovation and Design Centre ©Ema Peter/Michael Green Architecture

4. Mecanoo

Mecanoo has colossal experience designing and realizing exceptional buildings which serve client ambitions while creating vivid end-user spaces. It is an architecture firm based in the Netherlands, founded in 1984, and comprises a multidisciplinary team of creative professionals from over 25 countries. 

Mecanoo’s each project counters to their philosophy of People, Place, and Purpose: to the client’s requirements and the user’s needs (People); the physical context, climate and culture (Place); and the present and predicted potential of a building’s function (Purpose). Sustainability is an innate aspect of their design approach. 

This firm aims to create a new identity in a world of globalization, resulting in inspiring and authentic places, socially relevant for people and communities. 

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Futian Civic Culture Center ©Mecanoo
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Hulme Living Leaf Street Housing / Mecanoo ©Greg Holmes Photography
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Konka Mixed-Use ©Mecanoo

5. noa* – Network of Architecture

This young studio follows a concept of “emergence” in its designs. noa* was founded in 2011 in Bolzano, Italy. Using an interdisciplinary approach, they allow the methods for each design to evolve in tandem with the project, resulting in a building that emerges from its surroundings. Network of architecture specializes in hospitality design, particularly a combination of tourism and modern living. Materiality is the prime language of this firm. 

This firm incorporates various woods and rock types which are less carbon-intensive than most materials. Therefore, the project results appear from their landscapes.

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Mohrlife © alexfilz
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Sudtirol Home © Alexfilz
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Floris © Alexfilz

6. LUO Studio

LUO Studio promotes using fewer materials to create more versatile spaces and focuses on sustainable construction methods. It is an architectural office firm based in Beijing, China centered around public architecture. The firm counts on construction using natural materials and uses steel-wood prefabricated construction technology for continuous research and practice. They thrive on solving social problems more creatively and focus on achieving maximum re-use of temporary buildings. 

The firm is also committed to improving the activities and learning spaces for children in vulnerable regions. LUO studio pays constant attention to the unique revamp of abandoned spaces and the re-use of waste materials.

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Longfu Life Experience Centre © Weiqi Jin
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Party and Public Service Center of Yuanheguan Village ©Weiqi Jin
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Party and Public Service Center of Yuanheguan Village ©Weiqi Jin                                

7. SETUP Architecture

This firm believes that architecture is a complex system that often requires skillful navigation. SETUP was established in 2014 in the Netherlands and Iran. This firm offers innovative design solutions and consultancy for construction approaches. Their aim to minimize waste and transform typology is seldom expressed materially. 

The firm is known for adapting digital techniques and production technologies according to geo-cultural specificities. It is also acting globally in various designs to production scales.

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Softstone ©Parham Taghioff
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Farmanieh Residential  ©Parham Taghioff

8. Sher Maker

Sher Maker is a recently-established firm that focuses on developing projects under the subculture of the local area and people. The Studio was established in 2017 in Chiang Mai, Thailand. This studio produces intricate site-specific projects that center on local participation and expertise. 

They have a keen interest in the origins of architectural formations which depend on the context of local technology and material possibility. They also aim to promote the pure understanding of the term ‘local’ without getting caught up in the traditional-versus-modern paradigm.

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Sher Maker Studio ©Shermaker.com 
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Lan Din © Shermaker 
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The Light Trap ©Rungkit Charoenwat

9. Gensler

Gensler is a global design and architecture firm that has consistently been rated as one of the largest firms in the world and continues to emerge on the top. Founded by Art Gensler in 1965, they originally specialized in corporate interiors. 

The firm has since diversified into different forms of architecture right from consulting and real estate to urban and sustainable strategies. In recent times, Gensler used the forced pause of the pandemic to beef up their internal tools for planning and computational design. These tools enable designers to quickly develop data-driven designs for neighborhoods, buildings, and interiors. One, which aids in visualizing the human scale of completed projects, includes an unusually diverse array of images to reflect the diversity of people for whom their designs will eventually serve.

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84.51°©Garrett Rowland/Gensler
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Viettel Headquarters ©Owen Raggett 
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Syracuse University S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications ©Robert Benson/Gensler.

10. HOOBA Design Group

HOOBA Design Group aims to develop projects in harmony with the cultural and geographical characteristics of the site so that each project forms a new platform for research and investigation. This firm was established in 2007 in Tehran, Iran. It has concentrated on various topics such as light, color, the connection between architecture and the city, building materials, and the development of spatial diagrams in Persian Architecture. 

At HOOBA design, one of the design criteria is to construct uniformity between the whole and the pieces. This firm employs cutting-edge design and construction technologies to create projects that are both sustainable and cost-effective. 

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Headquarters of Kohan Cerum ©dezeen.com
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Valliahdi Office and commercial building ©Masih Mostajeran / Deed studio
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Valliahdi Office and commercial building ©Parham Taghi-of


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Vaishnavi Patil is a vivacious individual who loves good wordplay. She is an architecture student with a proclivity for writing and has a keen interest in the art of minimalism. She believes that one should empower one's solid writing skills which will ensure their designs to be more successful.