Emerging Voices winner profile

Onion Flats

Onion Flats | Rag Flats, Philadelphia, PA, 2005. Credit: Don Weston

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.

Onion Flats won a 2008 award.

Formed in 1997 in Philadelphia by brothers Tim McDonald and Pat McDonald, who were later joined by Johnny McDonald and Howard Steinberg, Onion Flats is a collective combining the roles of developer, architect, and builder. The firm’s mission is to bring architecture not only “beyond the drawing board and into the building process,” creating a dialogue between the often disparate worlds of architecture and building, but also to integrate buildings with communities and culture.

In projects such as Rag Flats, Capital Flats, E Flats, and Thin Flats, Onion Flats has taken derelict and deteriorating structures in Philadelphia, rehabilitating them to create buildings and communities built to self-sustain.

Onion Flats has been featured in Architectural Record, Metropolis, and the Philadelphia Inquirer, among other publications.

Tim McDonald received his BArch from Penn State University and a MA in architectural history and theory from McGill University. Pat McDonald, a registered master plumber and certified operating engineer, spearheads the firm’s mechanical systems and use of sustainable technologies. Johnny McDonald is a licensed realtor and leads land acquisition, project financing, and investment. Howard Steinberg received his BA in environmental design from the University of Pennsylvania and masters degrees in architecture and construction management from Washington University in St. Louis.