Emerging Voices winner profile


INABA | Little Tokyo Design Week Info Center, Los Angeles, CA, 2011. Credit: Joshua White

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

INABA won a 2012 award.

It would be a misinterpretation to regard INABA as multidisciplinary. Rather, they are a firm that applies architectural design at multiple scales. Beside the ‘form-content’ commissions, they have completed small constructions, large installations, and master plans. Their designs are similarly analytical in conception. If the form-based research projects break down information and construct containers for ideas, these break down the constraints of the commission to conceptualize construction solutions. INABA gives form to form, in the sense that they problem solve in order to realize formally robust proposals within the limits of budget and context.

A great amount of INABA’s thinking goes into conceiving forms. There is nothing straightforward or inevitable in the shape their works take. Whether a diagram, book, installation, or urban plan, the works are laboriously considered as an idea about form (its economy of effect, legibility, and disciplinary insight). The work is highly aestheticized with the specific intent to call attention to the analytical nature of the ideas behind it.

Since starting in 2005, a good number of INABA’s commissions have been research-oriented. But collecting content is just partly what they do. Their goal is to give form to content. The bulk of their effort is not in finding data, but analyzing, conceptualizing, and communicating them. They distill what they determine to be relevant information, such as emergent patterns of use, and transform it into thought propositions by way of objects they devise. In other words, they make form. INABA gives shape to facts through design: they determine the media and format best suited to the context; explore typological options in that medium; and refine the selected version, testing and retesting its formal effects. Projects in this vein include a feasibility study book for Red Bull, an installation on global philanthropy at the New Museum, and a speculative urban plan for Los Angeles involving illustrations of the Hollywood Sign.