THE OPEN WORKSHOP | The Center Won’t Hold, Chicago Architecture Biennial, Bronzeville, Chicago, IL, 2021. Image credit: Neeraj Bhatia

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.

Neeraj Bhatia of THE OPEN WORKSHOP won a 2024 award.

Neeraj Bhatia founded THE OPEN WORKSHOP in 2013 in Toronto, Canada. Now based in San Francisco, the multidisciplinary practice produces a diverse range of research projects and built works that bridge speculative research and formal design. The studio investigates how architecture and urbanism can foster social, racial, environmental, and economic equity, engaging frequently with issues of housing justice and public space. Often created collaboratively with communities, institutions, and other designers, these projects both propose and represent what the firm describes as“a collective ethos of design and forms of exchange.”

Projects include:

  • The Center Won’t Hold, a research project and advocacy initiative focused on the Bronzeville neighborhood of Chicago resulting in an intercommunal paper, a community assembly space, and an installation at the 2021 Chicago Architecture Biennial 
  • Garden of Framed Scenes, a sculptural pavilion situated in a public park in Viseu, Portugal, transforming the intersection of two paths into a gathering space
  • Commoning Domestic Space, an exhibition of case studies and speculative designs examining the physical forms of domestic spaces and their social and governance structures

THE OPEN WORKSHOP’s work has been published and exhibited widely, including at the Chicago Architecture Biennial and Venice Biennale. The firm won the Prix de Rome from the Canada Council for the Arts in 2019.

Neeraj Bhatia is an associate professor at the California College of the Arts where he also directs the urbanism research lab, the Urban Works Agency. He holds a Master’s in Architecture and Urbanism from MIT and a Bachelor of Environmental Studies and BA from the University of Waterloo.


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