Top Architects Reveal The Innovation In Their Designs


A crop of leading architects demonstrates that mastery of craft transcends trends.


Los Angeles, Fleetwood Fernandez Architects

WHY WE LOVE HIM: Hunter Fleetwood believes in the power of the built environment on affecting human action and thought. His restaurants, homes and commercial projects, created in conjunction with partner Mariapaz Fernandez-Trillo, demonstrate a forward-thinking–and often whimsical–point of view.

ON THE HORIZON: At the moment, Fleetwood is thrilled about undertaking a residential project for a young family in L.A. that is involved in the arts, which is allowing him to push his creativity to the max.

IN HIS WORDS: “While we are supporters of the heightened influx of technology both in the design process and construction methods, on every project we advocate for the inclusion of artisanal quality craftsmanship. When we are successful, you will see form that is handmade and machine-fabricated in juxtaposition. We find it a captivating dichotomy.”


Miami, Brillhart Architecture

WHY WE LOVE HER: Inspired by everything from childhood woodworking projects to the Shaker structures of New Hampshire, Melissa Brillhart works in tandem with her husband, Jacob, designing homes that place a heavy emphasis on their surrounding contexts.

ON THE HORIZON: The couple is currently working on a Bahamian cottage for themselves–a 600-square-foot residence that pulls inspiration from historic Bahamian architecture as well as the Creole Cabinet-Loggia typology–and celebrating the publication of Jacob’s new book, titled Voyage Le Corbusier: Drawing on the Road.

IN HER WORDS: “As the office has grown and matured, we have taken something instinctual and transformed it into something more deliberate and conscious. We are much more cognizant of and responsive to the specific spatial and atmospheric qualities in architecture that move or affect us emotionally.”


New York, Grzywinkski+Pons

WHY WE LOVE HIM: For his architectural works, Matthew Grzywinski embraces sustainability, function and his aesthetic experience to design spaces that exhibit a sumptuous minimalism. His partnership with fellow architect Amador Pons has birthed a newfound design philosophy based on the principles of beauty, innovation and detail.

ON THE HORIZON: Grzywinski’s firm is beginning construction on a residential building in London in addition to a new apartment building in the East Village of Manhattan and a structure on the campus of Cambridge University.

IN HIS WORDS: “We try not to chase innovation or novelty for its own sake. Our struggle to marry the rigorous with the exuberant yields interesting results.”


New York, Duncan McRoberts Associates

WHY WE LOVE HIM: Duncan McRoberts pours over archeological records, measured drawings and books before building a precedent file that invokes the design principles and tectonic characters of the master works he studies. He then crafts work that aims to achieve a perfect balance in composition, beauty and proportion.

ON THE HORIZON: McRoberts is designing a boarding school–in classic Oxbridge-style architecture–and a new coastal-traditional neighborhood development on 80 acres in Oregon.

IN HIS WORDS: “The value of artistic import lies in an ability to mediate between ourselves and the schema of our life experiences. Our work is meant to promise harmony of place.”


Tucson, Dust

WHY WE LOVE HIM: Cade Hayes founded the firm Dust in 2007 with co-collaborator Jesus Edmundo Robles Jr. and worked diligently to put together a creative team that is deeply connected to its southwestern desert roots. The firm’s architecture, furniture, hardware and jewelry reflect a boundless respect for natural materials and exhibit a serene display of restraint.

ON THE HORIZON: Dust is working on its first public work: a pavilion for the Tucson Audubon Society’s Paton Center for Hummingbirds.

IN HIS WORDS: “We are not trying to keep up with current thinking or cool trends; we are simply trying to do really thoughtful, sensitive work. We’d rather be classic than new.”


Los Angeles, Gulla Jonsdottir Architecture + Design

WHY WE LOVE HER: Icelandic-born Gulla Jonsdottir has a poetic understanding of dynamic forms, leading her to create groundbreaking spatial experiences with her designs.

ON THE HORIZON: On the heels of a furniture debut at Salone del Mobile, Jonsdottir is working on projects around the world, including the Macau Roosevelt hotel in China, the Sugar Factory at the Chinese Theatre in Hollywood, California, and penthouses in San Francisco.

IN HER WORDS: “My first employer was Richard Meier, a great architect with a great sense of geometry, which appealed to my earlier studies of mathematics. Today, I prefer to be more free. There are no straight lines in the human body, so why should there be any in the spaces we occupy?”


St. Helena, CA, Signum Architecture

WHY WE LOVE HIM: With a sincere focus on sustainability, Juancarlos Fernandez and the team behind Signum Architecture create residential and commercial spaces as well as wineries that echo the landscapes in which they reside through the use of natural materials.

ON THE HORIZON: Currently, Fernandez is putting the finishing touches on a home on 40 acres in the hills of St. Helena. The client searched the valley for years to find the perfect property and enlisted Fernandez to create a house unlike any other he’s designed.

IN HIS WORDS: “Our mission is to engage the power of architecture to stir emotion while setting the stage for inspiring living.”


Colorado, Studio B Architecture + Interiors

WHY WE LOVE HIM: As design principal at Studio B Architecture + Interiors, Scott Lindenau believes in reflective architecture: He creates crafted, modern designs that aim to allow clients to view themselves differently. While Studio B’s ultramodern projects seem grandiose, the firm strives to emulate a covetable, welcoming lifestyle.

ON THE HORIZON: In conjunction with the team at Studio B, Lindenau is diversifying his work in both location and project type–producing projects in several states, as well as Costa Rica, and working on several residences, a school, a tropical boutique hotel and a recycling waste treatment center.

IN HIS WORDS: “Our work is clear, direct and devoid of frivolous materials. It’s about conveying a message of clarity and minimalism while reflecting our rigorous process of ‘distillation.’ ”


New York, Workshop/APD

WHY WE LOVE HIM: Matt Berman, along with cofounder of Workshop/APD, Andrew Kotchen, crafts public and private spaces that demonstrate a keen understanding of how people interact with design.

ON THE HORIZON: On the boards this year for Workshop/APD: a 45,000-square-foot residential tower in the West Village, a new hotel in Washington Heights and summer homes in Bal Harbour, Florida; South Beach; Nantucket, Massachusetts; and the Bahamas, among others.

IN HIS WORDS: “Our designs are deeply rooted in the human experience and we look to architects, fashion, history–or even food–for inspiration.”


Chicago, Wheeler Kearns Architects

WHY WE LOVE HIM: Dan Wheeler leads his firm, Wheeler Kearns Architects, in creating architectural snowflakes, with each design reflecting a remarkably different point of view and energy. Wheeler’s work captures a fresh, modern sensibility, but each project also has a singular focus on the clients’ desires and the overall mission of the site.

ON THE HORIZON: Having recently completed work on The Alice, a community engagement space at Goodman Theatre in Chicago, Wheeler is looking forward to a year full of projects dreamed up for a number of diverse clients, including several museum spaces, theaters, schools and homes.

IN HIS WORDS: “We just try to do good, thoughtful work and make it emotionally meaningful to a place, to people from all walks of life that encounter it, and to ourselves.”