January 15, 2020
Fala Atelier: Filipe Magalhães, Ana Luisa Soares, and Ahmed Belkhodja.
Fala Atelier: Filipe Magalhães, Ana Luisa Soares, and Ahmed Belkhodja.

Rice Design Alliance announces Portuguese firm Fala Atelier as the 2020 Spotlight Award recipient. The award recognizes the work of exceptionally gifted national and international architects in the early stages of their professional career who have demonstrated design excellence and curiosity through their body of work. As part of their award, Fala will present the annual Spotlight Lecture at the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, on Wednesday, February 19.

“What excited me most about seeing Fala’s remarkable drawings and built work for the first time was the interrelationship between the earliest conception and the realized project in a clearly visible process of abstraction to reality. The work is at once funny, serious, irreverent, quirky, fresh, and unlike any I know of,” said John J. Casbarian, interim dean of Rice Architecture and the Harry K. and Albert K. Smith Professor of Architecture.

Founded in 2013 in Porto, Portugal, Fala Atelier is led by Filipe Magalhães, Ana Luisa Soares, and Ahmed Belkhodja. The studio prides itself in taking lightness and joy very seriously, a quality that the selection committee particularly valued.

“Our projects often happen within very limited means and imperfect conditions. A certain breed of optimism is necessary in such context, a certain kind of resilient lightness, too. We are thrilled and honoured to see these aspects getting such a distinguished international attention as the Spotlight Award,” said Belkhodja, on the team’s behalf.

The fim’s work has been exhibited at the architecture biennials in Venice and Chicago, the Serralves Foundation, and the Pavillon de l’Arsenal in Paris, and in single exhibitions in Panama, Italy, Macedonia, France, and Portugal. Fala’s work has been widely published in international media platforms, including Domus, Engawa, Baumeister, Zeppellin, Plot, and The Architectural Review. Fala has published “01,” a collection of early projects, and the international architecture magazine 2G is publishing a monographic issue on Fala’s work.

The Spotlight Award was founded in 2009 under the leadership of Rice Architecture alumnus Lonnie Hoogeboom with Interim Dean John J. Casbarian, Rice Architecture Professor Carlos Jiménez, and University of Houston Professor of Architecture Rafael Longoria, who form the core of the selection committee together with RDA Executive Director Maria Nicanor.

Every year, the Spotlight Award Committee, formed by architects, academics, and design practitioners, convenes to consider local, national, and international architects. This year the selection committee also included Rice Architecture Wortham Fellow Amelyn Ng and University of Houston Assistant Professor of Architectural History, Theory, and Criticism Michael Kubo.

“We were inspired by the combination of playfulness and rigor in Fala Atelier’s work and captivated by their ability to achieve a unique sensibility in their drawings through a rich palette of colors, textures, and materials,” said Kubo.

The Spotlight Award, which also carries a monetary prize, is by invitation only and is celebrating its 10th anniversary of selecting young, unconventional and thought-provoking architectural practices from around the globe.

For event details and to register, click here.

About RDA

Rice Design Alliance is the public programs and outreach arm of Rice Architecture. We curate public programs, architecture tours, design competitions and publications that communicate the importance of design in our everyday lives and its ability to make our lives better. We are based at and work from the Rice Architecture school as an advocacy group that believes that multidisciplinary and research-based design can improve our cities and the way we live in them. 

RDA was established within Rice Architecture in 1972 by the school's first dean, David Crane, together with alumni and other civic-minded community members who believed that quality design thinking should be available to all in our community and that Houston’s citizens – experts and non-experts alike – should feel empowered to act and transform our city through design.