Oana Stanescu and Dong-Ping Wong
Brigitte Lacombe Oana Stanescu and Dong-Ping Wong


New York–based design firm Family couldn’t have a more appropriate name. Partners Oana Stanescu and Dong-Ping Wong collaborate and communicate seamlessly, as if each was an extension of the other. Although they often approach projects from different angles, they arrive quickly at the crux of a problem together. “We understand what a partnership is,” Wong says, adding that the duo also share a goal of producing “architecture as a productive piece of the city”—not architecture for its own sake, nor esoteric architecture, but ambitious architecture that makes a difference and “has a point to it.”

Wong grew up in San Diego and studied architecture at the University of California, Berkeley, received his M.Arch. from Columbia University, and worked at OMA, EHDD, and REX. Stanescu, who hails from Romania, earned her architecture degree from that country’s Polytechnic University of Timișoara, before working at OMA, Herzog & de Meuron, Architecture for Humanity, SANAA, and REX.

Wong and Stanescu met at REX in 2006, where the two were emboldened by the experience of working on major projects—such as Museum Plaza in Louisville, Ky., and Oslo Vestbane in Norway (projects about which Wong jokes, “We had no right to be doing those sorts of things at our ages”)—to form Family in 2009. Since then, the firm has completed a number of design experiments to test what’s possible, both in architecture itself and in the agency needed to make it happen.


Plus Pool’s two successful crowd­funding efforts have pushed the idea toward fruition, allowing Family and collaborator PlayLab to build prototypes and develop its filtration systems.
Courtesy Family Plus Pool’s two successful crowd­funding efforts have pushed the idea toward fruition, allowing Family and collaborator PlayLab to build prototypes and develop its filtration systems.

The most well-known example of Family’s audacity is Plus Pool, a speculative plus-sign-shaped structure that will float in New York’s East River, filtering river water through a three-level purifying system for safe swimming. Designed in partnership with PlayLab, a New York firm with which Family will soon share office space, Plus Pool’s cross shape allows for different uses in each leg, from lap swimming to lounging.

The project is also, not coincidentally, visually stunning. “We knew we’d never be asked to do something like this,” Wong says. But their initial public relations blitz—they debuted the project with a website and marketing campaign in 2010—resulted in worldwide media attention and was followed by two successful Kickstarter campaigns, raising more than $300,000. The pool is now essentially a done deal, with enthusiastic backing from the city and its residents. Site selection will happen next year, and completion is set for 2019. Major international cities, from Berlin to Sydney, are now clamoring for their own Plus Pools.


A circular Central Bridge in Maribor, Slovenia, was part of Family’s 2010 proposal.
Courtesy Family A circular Central Bridge in Maribor, Slovenia, was part of Family’s 2010 proposal.

The initial seed money to conceive Plus Pool came from Family’s win of a 2010 competition to design a contemporary art museum and pedestrian bridge in Maribor, Slovenia. The building turns the conventional museum courtyard inside out, pinching the exterior in several places to carve out intimate public spaces. The walking bridge is not straight, but circular, creating its own unique waterfront in a city that’s largely lacking one.

Family designed a 50-foot volcano stage set for Kanye West’s 2013–14 Yeezus tour.
Virgil Abloh Family designed a 50-foot volcano stage set for Kanye West’s 2013–14 Yeezus tour.

The duo’s ambition also extends to residential design and entertainment. Family created the dynamic mountain-and-sun stage for Kanye West’s 2013–14 Yeezus tour, and their next venture is to reimagine the suburban lifestyle and banal housing developments by creating a contemporary, environmentally conscious, 40-unit housing block in San Diego.

Worms, an installation for the New Museum’s inaugural Ideas City festival in 2011 in New York, rethought the typical street fair tent as a colorful, tube-shaped structure made of parachute fabric and bent steel frames to hold a variety of programs.
Courtesy Family Worms, an installation for the New Museum’s inaugural Ideas City festival in 2011 in New York, rethought the typical street fair tent as a colorful, tube-shaped structure made of parachute fabric and bent steel frames to hold a variety of programs.

By holding fast to the notion that “family” extends to cities at large, the firm has been able to “work on things [we] believe in,” Wong says. It also takes discipline: Several developers approached Family to create Plus Pools for private use, but Stanescu and Wong refused, determined to see their contribution made in the public realm.

“It always comes back to how our work can be generous, give back, and relate to a much larger audience than the people in a single building,” Stanescu says.

Iterations of Worms.
Courtesy Family and PlayLab Iterations of Worms.


The firm submitted Gösta’s Ring, a series of single-story galleries wrapped by a glass-walled circulation corridor, to a 2011 competition to expand the Serlachius Museum in Mäntäa, Finland.
Courtesy Family The firm submitted Gösta’s Ring, a series of single-story galleries wrapped by a glass-walled circulation corridor, to a 2011 competition to expand the Serlachius Museum in Mäntäa, Finland.
The Off-White boutique in Hong Kong mimics the city’s diametric nature with a lush, jungle-like garden in the front, and a layered accretion of concrete cubes in back.
IT Hong Kong The Off-White boutique in Hong Kong mimics the city’s diametric nature with a lush, jungle-like garden in the front, and a layered accretion of concrete cubes in back.
Plan perspective rendering of the Off-White boutique in Hong Kong.
Courtesy Family Plan perspective rendering of the Off-White boutique in Hong Kong.