PLAN 70: Article
Three From Mit Listed Among World's Best Young Architects

Wallpaper* Magazine's New Directory of Best Graduates

Three designers from MIT's Department of Architecture have been listed in a global directory of 110 up-and-coming graduates in art and design, produced by the international design magazine Wallpaper*.

The searchable online directory features "the finest new talent from around the world" in fields such as design, fashion, photography, art and graphics. Among the ten architects it named were two MIT graduate students – Pholkrit Sangthong (MArch'08) and Peter DePasquale (MArch'08) – and MIT alumnus Ahmed El-Husseiny (MArch'06).

Coupled with the news that MIT was recently ranked #2 among US architecture schools, the listing clearly indicates that something rather important is happening in our studios. Put simply by department head Yung Ho Chang: "We are a major design force."

In naming Sangthong, the Wallpaper* editors said "We like to hear of architects doing things differently. Pholkrit Sangthong's practice has more in common with his heroes, Gaudi, Gehry (in the early years) and Archigram than with his fellow recent graduates - or indeed with most contemporary architects."

Sangthong describes himself as a designer who likes pared-down, playful forms and works intuitively to develop them. "I like to work with forms," he said, "but I work in a very conventional way, using physical models and hand drawings. I believe in the touch of hands. I let them do the work first, very intuitively, sculpturally and freely. Using touch, I sense the qualities of space and form. Then I use a pencil. I love to do hand drawings. I can communicate better when I draw by hand, rather than by computer."

Once he has an idea and drawings, Sangthong uses anything he can get his hands on – scrap foams, paper, found objects, clay, scrap woods, candy, food – to make a 3-D physical model. Jan Wampler, professor of architecture, inspires him to focus on simplicity, he said. Meanwhile, his inspiration is drawn from "happiness and smiles". "Architecture," said Wallpaper*, "has never been so determinedly jovial."

As a child, said Wallpaper*, Peter DePasquale enjoyed politics and history as much as sports and sneaker design – "meaning that, in DePasquale, we have a socially, culturally and politically aware architect in the making".

"DePasquale is an upbeat sort of chap," said the editors, "so it is instructive that he chose to complete his year out placement in the New York studio of Tod Williams and Billie Tsien, whose own defining principle - that 'architecture is a profound act of optimism' - is equally cheerful.

"Despite being a full-time student, he has found time for commissions to design the Greene Apartment in New York (a walk-up apartment renovation) and Daron's Building in Brooklyn (an apartment building schematic design), amidst the 'messy, complicated, frustrating and enlightening' experience that has been his master's degree."

"Architecture has been a part of my everyday life for as long as I can remember," Ahmed ElHusseiny told Wallpaper*. "I grew up running around my father's studio, exploring the models and sketching crude approximations of buildings on scrap pieces of trace."

Since then, said the editors, he has gone from strength-to-strength: "he was awarded a grant to study at Takenaka Komuten in Osaka, where his winning competition entry, Symbiote Scaffold was exhibited in a group show. And in spite of his youth, ElHusseiny is already showing a knack for translating his architectural reveries into reality; while his award-winning re-imagining of Cairo’s central rail terminal may remain a pipedream, his Cairo townhouse renovation is due for completion this summer."

MIT provided El-Husseiny with many talented and supportive professors. Among them, his studio professor and thesis advisor Shun Kanda was particularly inspiring. "His guidance and subtly incisive approach to teaching were invaluable to me," El-Husseiny said.

Wallpaper* is available in over 70 countries. The Wallpaper Graduate Directory can be found here:

This article appeared in somewhat different from in TechTalk, MIT's campus newspaper; it was written by Sarah H. Wright.

Posted May 2008