Overall Rank: 75th 
Rank in Each Category:
• Business: 148th
• Sustainability: 88th

Flip through NADAAA’s 2012 portfolio and you see a practice skilled in designing for all scales. For instance, a 600-square-foot retail space in San Francisco for skin care brand Aesop, in which a seemingly simple wall of randomly stacked recycled boxes utterly transforms a narrow, deep space into a dynamic interior. Or two new schools of architecture in Canada and Australia, both of which challenge the traditional assumptions of academic buildings with creative uses of material and assembly.

“The work of this firm is fresh and innovative at all scales,” said the portfolio judges. “Well detailed and beautifully drawn, the projects are simultaneously adventuresome and controlled within the project language.”

This ability to balance adventure with control comes from NADAAA’s attention to form and space-making. “Historically, we’ve been very material focused,” says Nader Tehrani, the firm’s principal and founder. “We look at material behavior and study the means and methods of how buildings are put together. We are also looking at building typologies and radicalizing the formal, cultural, and organizational possibilities.”

NADAAA, hailed for its innovative technology use, tempers design exploration with critical pragmatism, Tehrani says. “In these times it seems you can draw almost anything and you can build almost anything. But we’ve also witnessed a precipitous fall in judgment,” he says. “It’s not about what’s technically possible, and it’s not about the power to do whatever you can. [It’s] cultural relevance that makes it smart architecture and urbanism.”

Rank Firm Name Score
1 NADAAA 100.00
2 Richärd+Bauer Architecture 97.05
3 John Ronan Architects 93.37
4 ikon.5 architects 91.84
5 Payette 91.11
6 SmithGroupJJR 91.02
7 WRNS Studio 90.81
8 Studio Sumo 90.64
9 H3 Hardy Collaboration Architecture 90.10
10 Machado and Silvetti Associates 89.87
11 CO Architects 87.31
12 Miller Hull Partnership 85.96
13 Studio H:T Architecture 85.67
14 THA Architecture 85.25
15 LMN Architects 85.19
16 Boora Architects 83.98
17 Architecture Building Culture 83.31
18 Ross Barney Architects 82.63
19 Behnisch Architekten 82.13
20 Julie Snow Architects 81.96
21 William Rawn Associates 81.92
22 Freelon Group 81.53
23 Ennead Architects 80.94
24 ZGF Architects 78.88
25 Clark Nexsen 78.14
26 Meyer Scherer & Rockcastle 77.34
27 Ann Beha Architects 76.71
28 Cannon Design 76.13
29 NC Office 75.56
30 Skidmore Owings & Merrill 75.08
31 Architectural Resources Cambridge 74.33
32 Marlene Imirzian & Associates Architects 73.94
33 BNIM Architects 73.80
34 HOK 73.75
35 NBBJ 73.64
36 Cunningham Quill Architects 73.46
37 Perkins+Will 73.07
38 Eskew+Dumez+Ripple 72.21
39 Valerio Dewalt Train Associates 72.09
40 Sasaki Associates 71.80
41 Little Diversified Architectural Consulting 71.80
42 Ehrlich Architects 71.70
43 Westlake Reed Leskosky 70.16
44 Leddy Maytum Stacy 69.69
45 Gensler 69.56
46 Ayers / Saint / Gross Architects + Planners 68.15
47 HGA Architects and Engineers 67.43
48 Cambridge Seven Associates 67.34
49 Goody Clancy 66.87
50 Mithun 66.86

Design Portfolio Judges 

Stephen Chung, AIA, is a Boston-based architect. In 2009, Casas Internacional published a monograph dedicated to his residential projects. Chung has taught at such institutions as Syracuse, Cornell, RISD, and Yale. He is the host for a public television series titled Cool Spaces: The Best New Architecture (see

Merrill Elam, AIA, is a principal at Atlanta-based Mack Scogin Merrill Elam Architects. She has taught, lectured, and served as a design critic at countless institutions, including Yale, the Harvard University Graduate School of Design, and SCI-Arc. With Mack Scogin, she received the 2012 Cooper-Hewitt National Design Award for Architecture.

John Peterson, AIA, is the founder and president of Public Architecture, which mobilizes designers to drive social change. The nonprofit has built a network of over 16,000 design professionals, providing $45 million of pro bono services annually across the country. The principal of Peterson Architects in San Francisco, he was a Loeb Fellow at the Harvard University Graduate School of Design. 

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