As we embark on a new year, with some trepidation but also a fresh supply of hope, we are looking ahead to the completion and evolution of many long-awaited projects. Some promise to deliver a new vision for how we can all live together, carving out exciting public spaces in which people can gather freely again. Others propose new ways for us to treat nature more responsibly — an all-too-important priority for buildings of the future. The one thing they all have in common: they deliver a hit of much-needed inspiration.
We are especially fascinated by the 10 approaches to design that we have outlined below, which span the globe and encompass everything from affordable housing to – yes – even corporate towers. Slated for completion in 2022 and slightly beyond, these works-in-progress below remind us just how powerful, moving and game-changing architecture can truly be.
- Rose Apartments, Venice, California, by Brooks & Scarpa
- Paisley Museum, Paisley, Scotland, by AL_A
- Benin National Assembly, Porto-Novo, Benin, by Kéré Architecture
- The Whale, Andenes, Norway, by Dorte Mandrup
- Mirvish Village, Toronto, Canada, by Henriquez Partners Architects and Diamond Schmitt Architects
- Tours Duo, Paris, France, by Ateliers Jean Nouvel
- Aranya Cloud Center, Qinhuangdao, China, by MAD Architects
- CIBC Square, Toronto, Ontario, by WilkinsonEyre and Adamson Associates
- Parc Michel Bélanger, Montreal, by Claude Cormier + Associés
- Beijing Sub-Center Library, Beijing, China, by Snøhetta
To be completed imminently, the Rose Apartments development continues Brooks & Scarpa’s brilliant career of creating place-making SoCal residential projects that are affordable, sustainable and beautiful. While the firm, awarded AIA’s Gold Medal – its highest honour – in 2022, is expanding from the Golden to the Sunshine State (opening a new Miami office this year), its works in California will continue to change the possibilities for densifying sprawl- and, car-oriented cities into friendlier, more livable places.
The four-storey, 35-unit mixed-use project in Venice is situated in an affluent area “where low-wage workers are critical but unable to afford to live,” according to the firm. Like many recent Brooks & Scarpa works, the building is arranged around a generous elevated courtyard above ground-level retail that grants residents access to much needed semi-private outdoor space. “For people living around the courtyard, the space provides a sense of safety and privacy; the courtyard is a quasi-public space that mediates between the home and the street,” the firm explains. And also like many Brooks & Scarpa projects, the architecture is inspiring. Made of commonly used exterior cement plaster, the building’s façade is scalloped to for texture and depth, its surface-applied sparkle grain making it shimmer in the California sun.
“This is one of the most radical briefs I have read,” says Amanda Levete of the much-anticipated Paisley Museum, slated to re-open later this year. The ask: an “instantly recognizable” community hub that embodies the Scottish town’s unique character. Her RIBA Award-winning firm, AL_A, has answered the call with a bold, red-glazed entrance hall that merges the original Victorian-era building with a contemporary new wing. The ambitious renovation, which will expand the museum’s gallery space to accommodate up to 1,200 objects, will see once-private spaces made accessible to the public. In keeping with its modern makeover, the museum’s galleries will be digitally integrated for an immersive visitor experience that brings the history of Paisley to life. The extension will also open up to a picturesque — and publicly accessible — landscaped garden, just steps from the town’s High Street. Part of a £100 million investment in the town’s cultural infrastructure, the project is poised to solidify Paisley as a first-rate cultural destination.
Francis Kéré’s affinity for contextually attuned architecture is nearly unparalleled — and his vision for the Benin National Assembly, set to be unveiled in 2023, is no exception. Inspired by the symbolic West-African palaver tree, Kéré Architecture’s design evokes all the grandeur expected of a civic building, steeped in a rich cultural tradition of community gathering. The structure’s hollow trunk invites the citizens of Porto-Novo to congregate inside, its branches forming the striking ceiling of the assembly hall, and supporting a canopy of offices above. Perhaps most noteworthy of the parliament building’s design is its ardent consideration of the public it serves — opposite the
assembly hall, citizens can meet under the shade of the colonnade or in the surrounding public park and recreation space, planted with a variety of native species.
Kéré’s proposal also includes a public square, directly across from the building where the country declared independence in 1960. Reflecting Benin’s democratic values, Kéré’s interpretation of what a civic building should be “gives shape to our ideas about community gathering, the importance of Indigenous forms of governance and what contemporary African architecture can be on a national scale” — a stark departure from the colonial-era parliament building that precedes it.
Seemingly a part of its rugged coastal surroundings, The Whale by Copenhagen-based architecture firm Dorte Mandrup is poised to become a significant cultural landmark for the small Norwegian village it’s taking shape in (with a completion date in 2023). On the northern tip of Andøya island inside the Arctic Circle, the town of Andenes is situated along the migratory path for a number of whale species, making it a prime place for spotting the giants of the sea. “Rising as a soft hill on the rocky shore – as if a giant had lifted a thin layer of the crust of the earth and created a cavity underneath,” the building’s parabolic roof will be covered with hundreds of native stones gathered from the area (and left untreated to naturally patina over time), giving it the impression of having always been there.
The walkable form will provide visitors with an accessible platform for whale watching as well as to take in the breathtaking views of the archipelago, the midnight sun and the Northern Lights. Beneath this curved concrete shell, a sprawling column-free interior minimizes the use of materials, resulting in an economical and sustainable design; the structure is also aerodynamic in order to withstand high winds and negate snow build-up. Floor-to-ceiling panels of curved glass open to horizontally frame views of the mountainous surroundings, further connecting the building to its place. Containing exhibition and educational spaces, offices, a small restaurant and gift shop, The Whale is part nature retreat, part museum, part science centre – and entirely spectacular.
Taking the place of former Toronto landmark Honest Ed’s — a sprawling discount store known as much for its bargains as it was for its charmingly garish red-and-yellow signage — is no easy feat. And while this mixed-use development opts for a more muted palette of grey, white, and black, it still maintains Ed’s eclecticism. By applying a variety of precast and brick panel cladding treatments to a range of different tower and mid-rise components, the complex creates the look of 32 “micro buildings” that have evolved over time. The impact of this approach is especially evident at street level, where spaces for fine-grain retail already evoke the feel of a true village rather than a hulking mega-development. We’re equally charmed by the fact that, of the development’s 916 rental units, one third will be affordable housing.
Future work will rehabilitate a series of heritage houses on Markham Street to provide space for even more boutiques and restaurants. And with a new public park and market also in the planning stages, Mirvish Village seems set to become one of the city’s most vibrant communities. A much-quoted sign at Honest Ed’s once proclaimed, ”There’s no place like this place — anyplace.” With any luck, that statement will also apply to its replacement.
On a former industrial site near the Seine, Ateliers Jean Nouvel is putting the finishing touches on a pair of office towers — one 28 storeys tall, and the other 39 — that exist in strategic relationship to their Parisian surroundings. By carefully considering key sight lines, the architecture firm developed an asymmetrical V arrangement of two sloped forms — an expression that also works to bring a strong modern character to the city’s burgeoning east side. The larger of the two towers is sited directly next to the busy Boulevard Périphérique ring road, making it a prominent landmark for those driving past. The second tower, facing Boulevard du Général Jean-Simon, adopts a more human scale, introducing street-level shops and a terrace.
Meanwhile, a central plaza formed between the two structures works to preserve views of the neighbouring Berlier Industrial Hotel. The buildings also nod to their surroundings through their facades: the taller tower delivers dynamic reflections of the nearby railway tracks, while its shorter companion adopts a slightly industrial-feeling rippled treatment that also helps with
energy efficiency. As much as we love the Eiffel Tower, it’s refreshing to see Jean Nouvel bringing a much-needed hit of nouveau to the Paris skyline.
Aranya, an up-and-coming artistic hub and resort town near Qinhuangdao, in China’s Hubei province, has quickly become a focal point for striking architecture and interior projects — such as Neri&Hu’s Art Centre, and B.L.U.E. Architecture’s sophisticated coffee shop. The latest endeavour, MAD’s Cloud Centre, is now under construction: the 2,579-square-metre building will host a variety of functions, with a press conference room, small theatre and exhibition space. Surrounded by a “white stone garden,” complete with lush greenery, a large pond and a low circular wall, the space casts itself as a “refuge from reality”. The impressive cloud-like facade, made of hyperbolic white stained glass, acts as a light prism reflecting the changing landscape, while inside, a series of skylights allow the sun to flow in. Monumental structural overhangs — with the largest reaching 30 metres in length — give the building its remarkable shape. The “cloud’s” massing is balanced and suspended from the building’s central core which provides support for the entire structure and makes its column-free interior space possible.
The 250-metre-tall double-tower of 81 Bay Street is already staking its formidable place on the Toronto skyline. Sheathed in glass, and with a diamond pattern that repeats every ten storeys, the building proves it’s possible to create corporate architecture that is bold and dynamic. Its just part of CIBC Centre, a 330,000-square-metre mixed-use and transport development adjacent to Union Station. Once all is said and done, there will actually be two sets of towers – 81 Bay Street (which is complete and features trading floors as well as amenity spaces including restaurants, retail and conference facilities) and 141 Bay Street. Linked together by a one-acre landscaped sky park spanning the rail corridor, the buildings will also connect with various public transport modules; 81 Bay already incorporates a new bus terminal for Metrolinx. “Bridges and walkways will link directly into Union Station and the development will also extend and upgrade the existing PATH system and Bay Street East Teamway pedestrian networks,” the firm explains. While it is predominantly a bank headquarters, then, CIBC Square is also vying for landmark status – and with its thoughtful design it just might warrant it.
Building upon the language of Montreal’s historic Victorian squares — some of which Cormier has already successfully reinvented — this park will combine shaded areas and large lawns to offer multiple rest areas. With a rectangular shape bisected by symmetrical crossing paths from one end to the next, the park connects each corner and will enhance pedestrian circulation between Notre-Dame and Saint-Jacques street — two of downtown Montreal’s main arteries. Towards the centre of the park, small circular platforms in a plethora of different heights and sizes — each made of natural stone — will serve as “urban furniture’ creating opportunities to sit, rest and socialize. But the park’s main draw, according to Cormier, will be the 34 new trees of native and resistant plant species that will grow into a leafy canopy cover. In 10 years, the firm estimates, the wooded canopy will cover 60 per cent of the park area for a shaded and serene place of respite.
Few things are more idyllic than reading a good book in the shade of a giant leafy tree – and Norwegian practice Snøhetta is translating just that scenario into a built world with the Beijing Sub-Center Library. Central to the design will be a cavernous yet warm “sculpted learning landscape” defined by a multitude of towering crisp white pillars that culminate like the canopy of a gingko tree forest. Visually striking, the slender “trunks” and overlapping fan-shaped “leaves” also covertly house the building’s technical components for climate control, lighting, acoustics and, outside, rainwater disposal.
On the exterior, the roof is capped with integrated photovoltaic panels, providing renewal energy production, and the flat structure extends into a strategic overhang to reduce solar gain. Reaching 16 metres high at some points, the insulated glass facade (slated to be the country’s first self-supporting system of its kind when complete) invites passers-by to views of the inside, giving the library an intentional transparency. A collaboration with local partner ECADI, the finished Beijing Sub-Center library will be a contemporary yet timeless location for education and interaction as well as a nod to the city’s rich cultural heritage of science, art and performance.
This year, we’re eagerly anticipating paradigm-shifting towers in Paris and Toronto, a marvellous library in Beijing, affordable housing in California and much more.