Boston Home Spring 2010: Next Generation Design

Introducing the up-and-coming design pros who will shape the way we build our homes, decorate our living rooms, spend our free time, and think about the city in the decade to come.

Loft Guru
Elizabeth Whittaker, 39, Merge Architects

Three years out of graduate school in 2003, Elizabeth Whittaker, then 33, decided to end her tenure at Brian Healy Architects and strike out on her own. Thus began round-the-clock design sessions in the office of her Fort Point Channel home, which yielded a series of elegant, moderately priced loft interiors for friends of friends of friends. Using her own loft as a laboratory, Whittaker was able to find ways to divide up space without using studs and drywall. Innovative designs featuring glass as walls, movable partitions, and plenty of custom-built storage furniture earned Merge Architects a slew of awards and an expanding list of clients. (If you’ve ever walked into a MiniLuxe nail salon or Central Square’s Middlesex Lounge, you’ve seen Merge’s unique, minimalist work.) Now a mother of three, Whittaker has a sunny office just a few blocks from home, and increasingly prominent projects.

THINKERS

The Writer
Michael Kubo, 31

Pursuing a Ph.D. at MIT; educator (most recently at the University of Buffalo); former editor at architectural publisher ACTAR. Degree: Architecture, Harvard. Résumé: Office for Metropolitan Architecture, Rotterdam; Kennedy & Violich Architecture, Boston. Focus: Publishing, architectural history and criticism. "Books are more agile than buildings—they’re faster to produce, more mobile in their reach, and can have a more immediate impact on how people think about architecture." Design hero: Critic Reyner Banham. Why teach? "I can work through topics that interest me. There’s no inherent reason for architecture, so all of our choices will determine whether it survives as a profession." Why Boston? "With so many design schools, the city has a strong intellectual climate and a rich architectural legacy." How can Boston foster the next generation of designers? "The city needs more places outside of academia where designers can meet, exchange ideas, publish, and debate."

The Theorist
Mariana Ibanez, 35

Cofounder of architecture firm I|Kstudio; assistant professor of architecture, Harvard. Degree: Architecture, University of Buenos Aires and the Architectural Association, London. Résumé: Zaha Hadid, London. Focus: Finding a synthesis between academic theory and practice. Why teach? "Architecture is a very complex field, but academia gives me the opportunity to experiment, which then informs my practice." Why Boston? "There are a lot of very talented, forward-thinking designers here, thanks to the strength of the institutions in the area." How can Boston foster the next generation of designers? "In Europe and Latin America, the work of young designers is much more visible in the fabric of the cities and in events. We need more competitions and grants to support budding architects and urban planners."