Welcome to the Future of the Design Professions

Metropolis‘s March/April 2021 issue features the inaugural Future100, alongside projects, practices, and products that aspire to a better built environment.

Mccoy Paul Germaine Image 5
University of Pennsylvania graduate student Paul McCoy’s expressive visual strategy allows views of his proposal for the Socrates Park Culture Center from multiple scales and sets of orthography. Courtesy Paul McCoy

“We just can’t afford to lose another generation,” SANDOW Design Group’s executive vice president and design futurist AJ Paron told me last September, as the graduating class of 2021 was starting the fall semester. Paron was a teacher during the last economic cataclysm in 2008 and remembers seeing her best and brightest students struggling to gain a foothold in our industry. Many of them switched tracks to marketing, business, technology, and other fields. They no doubt flourished in those careers, but the brain drain in the A&D industry was palpable. Now, as graduates face a similarly challenging professional landscape, how can we help?

The issue you hold is the result of a six-month-long search for North America’s top architecture and interior design students from the class of 2021. We are proud to present our inaugural Metropolis Future100.

Students are often described as idealistic (sometimes a kinder way of saying “naive”). But in reviewing 260 portfolios from the United States and Canada, I was struck instead by their pragmatism. Whether in reimagining the public sphere (“Rethinking the Commons,”) designing spaces for children on the autism spectrum (“Accommodating Neurodiversity,”), or developing new symbioses between structure and environment (“Green Theses,”), these students have acutely diagnosed the broken relationships in society and nature. Their ambition is expressed both in their goals and in their craft. Guided by their instructors, they provide well-considered prescriptions for the ills of our world, helping us imagine a better built environment through fresh visualizations (“Frontiers in Visualization,”) and innovative design details (“On the Surface,”).

No less encouraging are the demographics of the Future100, which closely mirror those of North America at large. While we encouraged applications from students who identify with groups that are underrepresented in the A&D professions, the portfolios were judged on their creativity, rigor, and professionalism. Once Paron and I had made the final selections, we were thrilled to discover that a third of our honorees identify as BIPOC, and a fifth of them as LGBTQIA+. You can find other analyses of this year’s cohort in our Future100 report.

More content, including videos from many of our honorees, can be found at metropolismag.com/future100. By showcasing the next generation of architects and designers, we encourage you to hire them, collaborate with them, or simply reach out to them with a word of support. We need their brilliance to tackle the challenges that lie ahead!

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