Like many firms, Merge Architects got its start on small-scale projects, such as storefronts. A decade later, the boundary between a project and the city—the streetscape—continues to fascinate the Boston firm’s founder and principal, Elizabeth Whittaker. “We’re always trying to find ways, materially and conceptually, to frame the public,” she says. “We’re interested in how people interact in our projects.”

Merge draws people to its work by using readily available materials, such as wooden dowels and cotton straps, to create “highly custom moments,” she says. “That’s how we define the reality of the budget and further our aspirations beyond the off-the-shelf.” When the one-off design elements are too complicated or expensive for a general contractor to construct, Merge’s staff takes on the task. “We are very hands-on in terms of making the project when we can or need to be,” she says.

Textile. Well before 
FilzFelt helped bring felt to the commercial design market, Whittaker sought it out for its tactility, sound absorption abilities, and beauty. It looks great as a contrasting material to smoother finishes, such as tile, concrete, and wood, she says.

Textile. Well before FilzFelt helped bring felt to the commercial design market, Whittaker sought it out for its tactility, sound absorption abilities, and beauty. “It looks great as a contrasting material to smoother finishes, such as tile, concrete, and wood,” she says.

Credit: Courtesy Filzfelt

Flooring. The pale hues and proportion of the planks width to wood grain draw Whittaker to dub Dinesen the most beautiful oak flooring on the market, she says.

Flooring. The pale hues and proportion of the planks’ width to wood grain draw Whittaker to dub Dinesen “the most beautiful oak flooring on the market,” she says.

Credit: Anders Hviid / Courtesy Dinesen

  • Fixtures. The no-frills design behind Boffis faucets cuts to the chase for me, Whittaker says. Their minimal, pared-down detailing¦has a visual and physical weight that is lovely.

    Credit: Courtesy Aboutwatera partnership of Boffi and Fantini

    Fixtures. The no-frills design behind Boffi’s faucets “cuts to the chase for me,” Whittaker says. Their “minimal, pared-down detailing ... has a visual and physical weight that is lovely.”
Artist. Toshiko Horiuchi MacAdam appeals to Whittakers maker side. The architect admires the artists license to handcraft playful, fantastical, and colorful built environments. Shes doing the kind of projects that Id like to do, but I cant because I operate in the world of architecture.

Artist.Toshiko Horiuchi MacAdam appeals to Whittaker’s maker side. The architect admires the artist’s license to handcraft “playful, fantastical,” and colorful built environments. “She’s doing the kind of projects that I’d like to do, but I can’t because I operate in the world of architecture.”

Credit: Roberto Boccacino / Courtesy Enel Contemporanea

Toshiko Horiuchi MacAdam's Harmonic Motion / Rete dei draghi installaiton at the Museo d'Arte Contemporanea Roma

Toshiko Horiuchi MacAdam's Harmonic Motion / Rete dei draghi installaiton at the Museo d'Arte Contemporanea Roma

Credit: Roberto Boccacino / Courtesy Enel Contemporanea

For Yak & Yeti, a restaurant in Somerville, Mass., Merge integrated nine chrome-dipped light bulbs into a woven wall of cotton straps to recall the nine eyes, or lives, of Buddha and the landscape of Mt. Everest.

For Yak & Yeti, a restaurant in Somerville, Mass., Merge Architects integrated nine chrome-dipped light bulbs into a woven wall of cotton straps to recall the nine eyes, or lives, of Buddha and the landscape of Mt. Everest.

Credit: Kevin Buzzell / Courtesy Merge Architects

Design feature by Merge Architects at Yak & Yeti, in Somerville, Mass.

Design feature by Merge Architects at Yak & Yeti, in Somerville, Mass.

Credit: Courtesy Merge Architects