Plan B Architecture & Urbanism is an interdisciplinary design and research collaborative founded in 2008 by Joyce Hsiang and Bimal Mendis, currently based in New Haven. Hsiang and Mendis explore urbanization and sustainable development in multi-faceted, research-based projects.
Plan B won the 2013 AIA Latrobe Prize for research on their project City of 7 Billion, which examines and models the condition of continuous urbanization at the global scale. City of 7 Billion simulates population crisis at a global level, but it is situated within the framework of one city. Mendis and Hsiang constructed a multi-scalar digital model of the world in which every dataset—demographics, finance, geography, infrastructure, and resources—is applied to one urban framework. The project culminated in an exhibition and symposium at the Yale School of Architecture in 2015. The exhibit used drawings and models- familiar materials for architects- along with animations to represent the global data they compiled, vividly illustrating the human population and its impact on the globe. Hsiang and Mendis hope their spatial visualizations will be more accessible than the disparate data sets generated by governments and NGOs, both for researchers and the wider public.
City of 7 Billion builds on earlier projects that explored data visualization from an architect’s perspective. Hsiang and Mendis gathered data on urban population growth from all around the world and used digital animation to visualize growth across 25 years. This spatial visualization took concrete form at the 2011 Chengdu Architecture Biennale in China, where Hsiang and Mendis constructed a map of the world on the walls of a single room, with population data translated into peaks and spikes that surrounded visitors. The resulting topography made abstract data a physical experience. Hsiang and Mendis also worked on the design of a “Sustainability Index” to measure and manage urban development on a global scale, which was awarded the Hines Research Grant for Advanced Sustainability in Architecture in 2009 and the AIA Upjohn Research Grant in 2010.
In addition to the Latrobe Prize, their projects have been recognized and exhibited internationally, including the 2013 Hong Kong Shenzhen Biennale in Hong Kong and the 2011 Eye on Earth Summit for world leaders in Abu Dhabi, UAE.
Hsiang and Mendis are closely connected with Yale University, where they both earned BAs and M.Arch degrees. They are now members of the Yale School of Architecture faculty, where Hsiang is assistant dean and critic, and Mendis serves as assistant dean, director of undergraduate studies, and assistant professor. Before joining the faculty at Yale, Hsiang and Mendis worked at the Office for Metropolitan Architecture (OMA) in the Netherlands and Pelli Clarke Pelli Architects in New Haven, where Hsiang led and managed the design and construction of large-scale urban projects throughout the United States, Europe, the Middle East, and Asia.