orthner orthner & associates

March 2020 Issue Supplement

The first edition of Best architecture firms, published by Domus last year, was an attempt to canonise the 100 most important architecture practices in the world. Endorsed by architects and scholars who are former editors-in-chief of Domus, the list was a kind of vade-mecum of the crème de la crème of contemporary architectural design. It named mostly maestri of consolidated celebrity. This second edition has a different scope:that of identifying the world’s 50 most creative, interesting and promising emerging architecture practices. This means that the ambition was even greater, and the task more
arduous. We rose to the challenge by involving or rather counting on five international experts of good repute: Wowo Ding, Luis Fernández-Galiano, Lesley Lokko, Rahul Mehrotra and Sarah M. Whiting. For different reasons, each commands an extremely wide and in-depth view of today’s architectural culture. Each has a privileged observation point over specific geographic areas that complement one another, always including a cosmopolitan outlook. Each possesses critical instruments allowing them to make tough choices in an informed, impartial and shareable manner.
All five of them accepted our invitation with contagious enthusiasm and touching generosity. We started out with a very broad overview of qualifying
architecture studios, in an attempt to avoid overlooking or forgetting any. We gradually reduced the number by engaging in a cruel, gruelling whittling
process. Finally, in the last phase of winnowing, we sought to balance the selection of survivors to the best of our ability. We balanced it without
applying ill-advised quotas relating to age, gender or nationality. Rather we maintained the imbalances that seem to us to distinguish the current
playing field of architecture, and indeed architectural culture in general. Almost by definition, the result of our efforts is imperfect. But at least
it is a conscious imperfection, agonised over and shared. How does one predict which young architects, which new offices will succeed in standing out for their creativity, coherence, visibility and determination above their numerous and often highly talented colleagues and competitors? How does one decide who is about to delineate the profile of architecture in the near future? One cannot, obviously. What one can do is what we have done,  documented here: reasoned hypotheses on who will enter the Valhalla of architecture in our era. In other words, these are 50 small, reckless wagers with history. We do not know if we will win them. We do not know if history will prove us wrong. But we are confident that right or wrong, our speculation will be able to contribute to critical consideration of contemporary architecture and its role. It could lead to thoughts on what our houses and cities can and should do to represent and improve a world whose dramatic fragility no longer eludes us.

Vittorio Magnago Lampugnani
Head of the editorial board