May 14, 2015

Recorded: March 19, 2015

The Architectural League’s Emerging Voices program annually spotlights North American architects, landscape architects, and urban designers who have significant bodies of realized work and the potential to influence their field.

Elizabeth Whittaker of Merge Architects is a 2015 winner of the award.

Working at the intersection of digital fabrication and the handmade, Merge Architects seeks “invention in the ordinary.” Principal Elizabeth Whittaker, who founded the firm in 2003, describes her Boston home as a “challenging” place for contemporary architecture, resulting in a practice that seeks design innovation while remaining contextual to the city’s historic and industrial fabric. Working at scales from furniture to multi-family housing, the firm participates in the construction of nearly all its projects even as the scope and geography of the work expand.

In her Emerging Voices lecture, Whittaker offers an overview of the practice and early work before focusing on five recent projects. The firm’s first building, the Penn Street Lofts in Quincy, MA, sought to create an identity for a normally anonymous typology — multi-family housing — by “puzzling together” single- and double-height spaces that are expressed through the window and cladding treatments on the façade. The Marginal Street Lofts in East Boston is a nine-unit building adjacent to an operating shipyard with a steel mesh façade hand-sewn by a fisherman; when in season, plants crawl the front to create a vertical garden. A proposal for a health and wellness center at a YMCA summer camp respects the surrounding forest by using the location of existing trees to guide the massing and mimicking the patterns of the forest on the building envelope. The Grow Box, a single-family house in Lexington, MA, has a series of courtyards that weave the surrounding garden inside, conflating the interior and exterior. A proposal for the renovation of an urban village in China employs a matrix of interventions for the ancient neighborhood to create new opportunities for gathering and tourism.

Recorded: March 19, 2015

Merge Architects was named an Architectural Record 2014 Design Vanguard and one of “15 Young Firms to Watch” by Residential Architect. The firm has been awarded twelve AIA/BSA design awards and a Best of Year Award from Interior Design Magazine for the Lightwell project, among other honors. Whittaker is Assistant Professor in Practice of Architecture at the Harvard Graduate School of Design and has also taught at MIT, Northeastern University, and Boston Architectural College. She received her M.Arch from the Harvard Graduate School of Design and her B.Envd from North Carolina State University.