When the coronavirus pandemic caused the first round of nationwide lockdowns last March, it became quite difficult to be an architect. Projects were stalled or canceled altogether, and small studios particularly felt the blow. Architects Max Worrell and Jejon Yeung decided they’d like to do something about it. Partners in life and their Brooklyn-based studio, Worrell Yeung, the duo and several of their industry friends banded together virtually to form Design Advocates, an organization of young designers with a pay-it-forward mission. Collaboratively, they would reach out to neighbors in need across New York City’s five boroughs and support fellow small-business owners with pro bono design work.
Since Worrell Yeung was established in 2014, the firm has cut its teeth in the element of architectural surprise—the pared-back, simple geometric façades of its residential, commercial and public projects often reveal complex, textural and light-filled interiors. Upstate, a gable-roofed storage barn unveils a striking juxtaposition of black-stained and natural hemlock-wood siding; while a Dumbo loft strikes a handsome contrast between exposed concrete, terrazzo and wood paneling without losing sight of its surrounding vistas.
With the founding of Design Advocates, the duo leveraged their close relationships in the custom-building world, leading “early conversations with our tentacles in the construction industry,” as Yeung puts it. Since then, the studio has helped design and implement outdoor dining pavilions for more than 15 restaurants in Jackson Heights, Queens. The assistance will not stop post-pandemic either. What the duo enjoys most is the creative community they’ve found in the group. “We became a shared network of resources” for each other, says Worrell. In times of need, it’s “important to know we are all in this together.”