Plying the boundaries between practice and scholarship, Martin Felsen blends design and data to produce uniquely progressive, site-specific built works and research, resulting in a new aesthetic for environmentally resilient architecture, landscapes, and public space.
Martin Felsen co-founded UrbanLab with Sarah Dunn as an alternative practice aiming to synthesize diverse methodologies, technical innovation, and hybrid vocabularies drawn equally from architecture and its complex urban and natural contexts. He personally directs and oversees all UrbanLab’s team-based design activities, from conceptual diagramming to on-site construction and office administration. He routinely integrates networks of fabricators, craftsmen, designers, engineers, and specialists, who work side-by-side with staff and clients on buildings and urban interventions that embrace the art of making in service to the cultural potential of architecture. His work combines hi-tech fabrication with handmade processes, often emerging at the sites of construction through collaboration and serendipity.
Martin’s work at UrbanLab integrates empirical research with analogical design. He has collaborated with geographers and computer scientists on National Science Foundation grants exploring the nature of human and natural systems through the analysis of their patterns of urban growth and movement. All UrbanLab’s work is strengthened by this confluence of art and science. Martin’s designs routinely incorporate and formalize hydrology, ecosystems, biodiversity, public health, energy, and transportation, among other factors, which led to UrbanLab’s reconceptualization of the Chicago tradition of “no small plans”—“Growing Water”—which earned UrbanLab the AIA College of Fellows Latrobe Prize.