AD—WO seeks to challenge architecture’s ingrained approaches to image making and its value systems more broadly

This article is part of our series of profiles on The Architectural League of New York’s 2024 Emerging Voices winners published in the March/April issue of AN. The full list of winners can be found here.

Jen Wood and Emanuel Admassu founded AD—WO in 2015. The studio is based in New York, but its projects span the globe. Whether working in Ethiopia, Tanzania, Germany, Italy, or the United States, AD—WO seeks to challenge the discipline’s ingrained approaches to image making and its value systems more broadly. The Emerging Voices award is a major milestone for the office. “We have a lot of respect for previous winners,” Jen Wood told AN. “It feels great to be recognized in this way.”

AD—WO recently completed 100 Links: Architecture and Land, in and out of the Americas, an installation designed with the Buell Center at Columbia University for the fifth iteration of the Chicago Architecture Biennial. 100 Links delivered a chilling critique of settler colonialism by repurposing Gunter’s chain, a rudimentary measurement tool used by settlers to carve out the Jeffersonian Grid, for art. “For some time now we’ve been trying to figure out how to translate our experiments with image making into occupiable space. The installation in Chicago and some other projects underway demonstrate that,” Admassu said. “We make images, sculpture, and architecture,” Wood added. “For example, we create tapestries that explore value systems and rituals that are not typically centered by the discipline.”

sightlines by AD–WO
AD–WO worked on the exhibition design for SIGHTLINES, a show at the Bard Graduate Center exhibiting African objects and artists. (Da Ping Luo)

Dear Mazie is the name of AD—WO’s next major exhibition design. At Virginia Commonwealth University’s Institute of Contemporary Art, with support from the Graham Foundation, Dear Mazie centers Amaza Lee Meredith, a queer Black architect born in 1895 who established her practice in the Jim Crow South while living with her partner. In parallel to Dear Mazie, an apartment building in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, is slated to open this year as well. “It’s been really productive to have a porous border between the practice and teaching,” Admassu offered. “This notion of ‘emerging’ for us is really interesting. We want to stay in that interstitial space by refusing the hierarchy between built form and built images, and continue to introduce new value systems.”

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