Founded in 2004 by Kulapat Yantrasast, WHY is a multi-disciplinary design practice dedicated to strengthening connections between people, cultures, and place. The practice is based in Los Angeles and New York City, and the core team of 40 designers and architects expands to include a global network of collaborating artists, academics, urbanists, and activists. By working across disciplines to test new ideas and techniques, wHY questions conventions and proposes a radically holistic and humane approach to design and architecture – one which celebrates the diversity and multiplicity of lived experience.

The practice is organized into five interdependent workshops – Buildings, Landscape, Museums, Objects, and Ideas. The workshops enable WHY to work across sectors and combine different forms of expertise, generating unique and progressive solutions for projects ranging from museums to mixed-use developments, community arts centers to luxury residences. This creatively liberating approach to design has led to a number of important international projects: WHY has gained a reputation as a thought-leader in the fields of cultural and civic architecture, winning global competitions including the Ross Pavilion and West Princes Street Gardens in Edinburgh, Scotland, and taking on major cultural landmark projects such as the Tchaikovsky Academic Opera and Ballet Theater in Perm, Russia.

The arts play an important role in WHY’s thinking, and the team applies their experimental and human-centered approach to a broad spectrum of artistic projects. wHY’s first ground-up building was the new Grand Rapids Art Museum in Michigan, the first museum in the country to achieve the certification of LEED Gold, and WHY’s commitment to environmental and operational sustainability has become a hallmark of their work with arts institutions worldwide. The firm is also known for its deep engagement with issues of cultural diversity and historic inequities, leading to commissions to renovate iconic spaces such as the Northwest Coast Hall at the American Museum of Natural History, and the galleries of Arts of Africa, Oceania, and the Americas at the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

WHY’s capacity to work across scales and disciplines is fueled by a fundamental curiosity about people and places. Through close collaboration with clients and stakeholders, WHY reveals the creative opportunities of a brief, generating innovative solutions which are highly specific to the site and its social context. Instead of establishing a singular WHY aesthetic, the team seeks to create designs which reflect the energy and dynamism of life itself: the radical mash-up of the why and the why not.


At the heart of WHY’s practice is a commitment to addressing contemporary issues through design, infusing complex programs with opportunities for artistic engagement, social connectivity, and individual empowerment. Instead of imposing a singular WHY aesthetic, the team creates spaces which reflect the energy and dynamism of life itself: spaces where people of backgrounds and beliefs feel free to create, connect, and be at home.

Reason for joining GCDN

In its role as advisor and partner, WHY uncovers the creative possibilities of each project, generating prescient ideas and innovative solutions specific to the site and its social context, and opening opportunities for new and expanded initiatives; WHY believes that GCDN offers an exciting and significant opportunity to not only expand but evolve their network to be an even more effective and impactful advisor and partner, further elevating experiences for communities around the world.