Ronald Rael and Virginia San Fratello

Emerging Voices 2014
Rael San Fratello
Ronald Rael and Virginia San Fratello
Recorded: March 13, 2014
Running time: 50:22

Ronald Rael and Virginia San Fratello, principals of the Oakland firm Rael San Fratello, shy away from working within a set philosophy, trying “not to define, but rather to constantly redefine ourselves.” Their work ranges from full-scale projects to folly-like experimental structures to materials development. Throughout, they aim to discover overlooked places and strive to “do the most with the least.”

In 2014, The Architectural League named Rael San Fratello an Emerging Voice. The annual Emerging Voices award spotlights individuals and firms based in the United States, Canada, or Mexico with distinct design voices and the potential to influence the disciplines of architecture, landscape design, and urbanism. Each year, winners are invited to participate in the Emerging Voices lecture series. In their presentation (embedded above), titled “Material Provenance,” Rael and San Fratello investigate how materials can be active instruments in revealing political, social, and ecological questions through design. Current and recent projects they discuss include Hedge Gallery; Sukkah of the Signs, built for the Sukkah City competition; Emerging Objects, an ongoing project to develop strong and inexpensive structural materials through powder 3D printing; Saltygloo, a structure built from 3D-printed salt panels and lightweight aluminum rods; and SOL Grotto, an installation in the Berkeley Botanical Garden using glass solar rods discarded by Solyndra.

More information about the 2014 Emerging Voices, including an interview with Rael and San Fratello about their practice, is available at

Rael San Fratello was founded in 2002 by Ronald Rael and Virginia San Fratello. Their diverse collection of work ranges from full-scale projects—such as the Museum of Nowhere in Antonito, Colorado; The Mud House in Marfa, Texas; and the art installation Prada Marfa—to folly-like experimental structures such as Saltygloo, a semi-structured shell comprised of 336 3D-printed panels made of salt harvested from the San Francisco Bay supported on lightweight aluminum rods; and Sukkah of the Signs, a.k.a. the Homeless House, built for the Sukkah City competition. Both Rael and San Fratello earned M.Arch. degrees from Columbia University. Rael is currently Associate Professor of architecture at the University of California, Berkeley, and San Fratello at San Jose State University. They have also taught at Clemson University and Southern California Institute of Architecture. They are past winners of the Metropolis Next Generation Competition, the Sukkah City International Design Competition, and received first place in the Van Alen Institute “Life at the Speed of Rail” competition. In 2013, the firm was the winner of Design Lab: Next Nest competition sponsored by SITE Santa Fe, and P3: People, Prosperity, and the Planet Competition sponsored by the Environmental Protection Agency.

Click here for more on the other 2014 Emerging Voices, or see the complete list of past winners here.