J. Manuel Mansylla
J. Manuel Mansylla (manman) is Co-Founder and Principal of Totem, leading all our placemaking, design, and branding projects. As an urban designer at the forefront of a trend to create effective public spaces through rapid, agile transformation, he rose to early success in his home country of Guatemala, where he was tapped to lead an innovative project to revitalize a neglected area of Guatemala City into a contemporary art and tech hub. Working together with both the public and private sector in the creation of the region’s first “special districts,” the project helped transform the area’s brand identity, land use, and public space strategy. Today, Cuatro Grados Norte, is one of the most vibrant destinations in the country, and has one of the highest concentrations of new buildings going up in all of Guatemala City.
After moving to Brooklyn in 2006, manman founded design studio FANTÁSTICA specializing in transformative projects to revitalize underutilized assets and unlock economic potential. Highlights include the creation of the first New York City Department of Transportation (DOT) public plaza in Dumbo’s Pearl Street Triangle, development of the citywide standard for DOT Street Seats with locations in Downtown Brooklyn, Park Slope, Hudson Yards, and East New York; the design of Downtown Brooklyn’s popular holiday lights display; and design of the outdoor spaces for the Dumbo Heights development in the Brooklyn Tech Triangle.
He graduated cum laude with a B.A. and M.A. in Architecture from the Universidad Francisco Marroquin in Guatemala, where he received the department’s highest distinctions for his thesis on Cuatro Grados Norte, as well as an M.S. in Urban Design from Columbia University. In 2005, he was named one of the best Guatemalan architects under 40. He is an accomplished contemporary artist, passionate about working toward a self-sustainable world, and an avid barefoot marathon runner.