• Austin + Mergold's House in a Can.

    Credit: Austin + Mergold

    Austin + Mergold's House in a Can.

Jason Austin, LEED AP, and Aleksandr Mergold, AIA, LEED AP, founded their firm in 2007, a bad time for architects that was about to get worse. “We decided that if we were going to survive, we would have to do everything,” Mergold says. “Not turn down any kind of work.” Since then, Austin + Mergold has executed projects ranging from architecture, landscape design, and urban planning, to museum installations and graphic design—generating in the process a dynamic, innovative, and sustainable model of practice.

Recipients of the 2012 AIA Philadelphia Emerging Architecture Prize, Austin and Mergold are drawn to the interplay of opposites, often marrying high-concept design with workaday materials. “Old tech is a resource that one cannot ignore,” Mergold says. “Using it in a different way became our modus, out of necessity, but also out of curiosity. We like to stay interested.”

The partners both teach—Austin at the University of Pennsylvania and Temple University, Mergold at Cornell University and Parsons the New School for Design—maintaining offices in Philadelphia and Ithaca, N.Y., respectively. While research and travel stirs the creative pot, Austin says, the firm’s work builds its own momentum. “Now, whatever we come across, we have expertise from doing a similar project.”