We look at the young to make out the profiles of the world to come. Nevertheless, the projects of the last generations harbor desires rather than predictions. Driven by a system in which acknowledgment is based on singularity, the majority of emerging architects strive to make themselves known in the middle of a cluttered landscape where only the exceptional guarantees an ephemeral popularity. In this alphabet soup, fed also by media that revere novelty as a fuel for an accelerated change in fashion and trends, young studios try to consolidate their brand name as the only path towards professional or personal stability, and this process rewards distinctive traits rather than shared ones, the original rather than the serial, and cries rather than whispers. Though they belong to a chronological generation, the works and projects of recent architects do not outline a collective landscape and, in the absence of a choral objective, basically reflect the extreme diversity of their intentions.

Selecting a representative group of emerging offices is always a risky bet, and throughout this journey in the dark we have guided ourselves by several arbitrary boundaries and some uncertain hints. The boundaries have been the inevitable one of age – set at the usual forty years – and the decision to publish one single team per country, independently from their economic and demographic dimension, a dubious criterion that however permits creating a manageable list, having in mind that this number extends its geographic reach (restricted to Spain or Europe in prior compilations on young architects in our magazines) to the whole planet. For their part, the hints used to prepare the list have been the many awards given to new offices and the condition of their having completed at least one work. So this is how our summary has been prepared: feeling the walls limiting ages and countries, and half-closing our eyes to perceive the weak clarity of the distinctions and the accomplishments.

As a result of this demanding and random process, the list of teams presented – each illustrated with one work and one project – is marked by inconsistencies, and perhaps also by findings. Significant countries are missing, and others are represented by teams of equivocal location; there are architects that have been emerging for a decade, and others that, being officially young, lead sizeable offices; there are firms that are fully local in terms of members and commissions, and others that are as cosmopolitan in their composition as in the geographic dispersion of their works. These wrinkles and holes blur the Cartesian list of merit, but also give texture and thickness to this portrait in smoke: in it we discern evanescent shadows and vague dreams along with flint sparks and steel reflections. It is not easy to know whether the overall result heralds fog or fire, but its gauzy penumbra composes a pixelled depiction of a world in fragments, and in those mirror shards we see not what is coming but what we are.

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