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By David Dick-Agnew and Elizabeth Pagliacolo

1 Antwerp Port House by Zaha Hadid Architects
This is no ordinary addition. The Antwerp Port House conjures many metaphors – a dreamlike ship and its keel, an enormous diamond in its setting, a modernist sculpture on a plinth – yet it shines as a beacon of simplicity. Since winning the competition in 2009, Zaha Hadid has been renovating an old fire station in Antwerp and preparing it for its glittering crown – a functional beauty that establishes a much grander Port House Authority headquarters for Belgium, with 12,800 square metres for 500 staff members.

Three sculptural pillars (two inside the original building’s covered courtyard) support the addition. Shown here, the exterior pillar rises in front of the entrance and houses an observation deck to provide visitors and employees views out to the water as they make their way up. Behind its irregular triangle windows, the diamond houses a restaurant and cafeteria on one level, an auditorium on the next and offices on the third – all rendered in Hadid’s sleekly curved planes and all-white palette.


2 International Olympic Committee Headquarters Lausanne by 3XN
One telltale sign you are in a building by 3XN is the spectacular central staircase. The Copenhagen firm, led by Kim Herforth Nielsen, Bo Boje Larsen and Jan Ammundsen, is revered for creating modern structures that incorporate the latest green-energy technologies (it also runs the GXN lab to research state-of-the-art sustainability). Yet it believes just as fervently in the beauty of the operatic spiral stair, and its boldest versions – as seen in such educational institutions as Orestad College, as well as the UN headquarters in the Danish capital – lift the spirit to highest heaven.

From exterior to interior, all of the firm’s best moves are captured in its competition-winning design for the IOC headquarters on Lake Geneva. Inspired by an athlete in motion, the curvy form rises from the surrounding park to maximize daylighting along its curtainwall; and its interior is dominated by a glorious central stair volume where visitors and staff members can gather, rest and people-watch as they move through the building. While no completion date is yet available, the project presents a proudly modern face for the Olympics.


3 Çanakkale Antenna Tower by Inter.National.Design and Powerhouse Company
Like a giant ribbon dropped from the skies, this competition-winning design will create a landmark for a historic city that many people have probably never heard of. The program separates the (high-radiation) communications tower from the public spaces. The latter are strung along a loop of oxidized metal propped on supports so as not to disrupt the forest floor, allowing visitors to meander along exhibition spaces, observation decks and other public programming spaces with sweeping views of the Dardanelles. Inter.National.Design is a young Rotterdam firm led by Arman Akdogan and Felix Madrazo, a Turkish and Mexican duo with one completed project under its belt: the Arkadia apartments in Istanbul. Its 100-metre tower will no doubt be a magnet for tourists when it is built sometime in 2015, as well as a calling card for the firm.


4 Harbin Cultural Island by MAD
Ma Yansong’s arts complex, with one large and one small performance space, has taken shape – only a few remaining details are left to complete the 79,000-square-metre structure’s exterior. Both the geography and culture of Harbin, the musical capital of China’s northeast and home to the world’s largest annual ice festival, played a big role in the project: the custom white aluminum cladding, white stone and concrete evoke the glaciated ice of northern China and nearby Siberia. A reflecting lake between the two structures, spanned by a long bridge, represents the Buddhist concept of the “void;” at their pinnacles, viewing platforms offer panoramic vistas of the 180-hectare site. Within, the cozy, wood-lined theatres provide seating for audiences of 1,600 and 400, while a glass-topped VIP lounge seems to float in midair.


5 Adidas Meet & Eat Conference Centre by COBE
Sportswear companies usually go for the audaciously branded building. But Adidas opted for this delightfully high-concept scheme by COBE (a firm with offices in Denmark and Berlin), in collaboration with Knippers Helbig and Transsolar. Scheduled to open in 2018 in Herzogenaurach, Germany, the 11,000-square-metre structure, with a conference centre, employee restaurant and showroom, evokes the brand in an usual manner: through its modular roof that references the Adidas stripes, but in the service of creating a heroic open canopy rather than a garish logo. The building’s vertical and horizontal lines merge in one massive geometric structure, like an Escher drawing come to life. Here, the emphasis is on bringing the outdoors in, and the glazed interior gardens that bust through the roof slats announce that essential connection.


6 National Holocaust Memorial Ottawa by Daniel Libeskind and Claude Cormier
Daniel Libeskind’s memorial for the Jewish victims of the holocaust, under construction in Canada’s capital, takes as its starting point a Star of David – here distorted into an explosion crater of diagonal concrete walls that line a sunken gallery. In some areas, the walls faintly depict images taken at concentration camps, while from other perspectives, the walls rise to block out all but the tiniest patch of sky. Surrounding the main structure, Claude Cormier’s tundra-like terrain of rocks dotted with pines speaks to a distinctly Canadian wilderness while evoking the desolation of incomprehensible grief.


7 Music and Dance Centre Ashkelon by Manuelle Gautrand Architecture
The different programmatic spaces of Manuelle Gautrand’s 6,000-square-metre performance centre in Ashkelon, Israel – including a music conservatory, a ballet academy, and multiple theatres and exhibition spaces – are shifted one from another like the blocks of a Jenga tower. Such a sculptural approach not only signals the centre’s playful, multi-disciplinary spirit from the exterior, but also breaks up the metal-paneled monolith to create multiple terraces that overlook the Mediterranean Sea. At its highest point is a space with no predetermined function at all – according to the architect, it’s designed to be “specifically appropriated and used by the artists for exhibitions, festivities, and ephemeral installations.” Openings in the lustrous cladding not only offer generous views from the interior, but also conceal a dynamic lighting system that will establish a “festive and lively place” for the celebration of the arts.


8 Shenzhen Hilltown by Julien De Smedt Architects
In a once hilly city flattened by rapid development, Julien De Smedt is building a 150,000-square-metre cluster of five apartment towers and one hotel in the shape of a mountain range. China’s five sacred mountains, to be exact. After starting with interconnected rectilinear towers (something more akin to Steven Holl’s Linked Hybrid in Beijing), his firm discovered that by orienting the buildings for optimal exposure to the elements and wrapping them in a continuous roof, they had a scale version of the five mountains – and could reconnect the city to its hilly past. The mountain concept also informed the programming: on a central platform, the architects have planned an exercise deck, with a badminton court, ping pong table and more, that connects with each building’s stairwell. They call this a “3-D hiking trail” and the reward for reaching the top of one of the towers is a relaxing view of the city on the panoramic viewing platform, shown.


9 SF State Mashouf Performing Arts Center by Michael Maltzan Architecture
Cloaked in a uniform of stark white, the Mashouf Performing Arts Center at San Francisco State University will make a bold statement when its final phase is completed. But despite its skewed geometry and blank exterior, this centre for music, dance, theatre and broadcasting is highly responsive: different zones are woven like layers into a diverse fabric of related public and private spaces. When finished, the centre will include a 1,200-seat theatre – phase one, to be completed in the coming months – with 450-seat and 200-seat theatres to follow in phases two and three. The sloping rooftop, which follows the topography of the interlocking spaces below, also directs rainwater into the landscape elements, while public spaces are naturally ventilated by drawing cooler air in through a plenum on the lower level, and letting warm air rise and exit through raised areas of the rooftop.


10 Expo Milano 2015 by various firms
This international showcase devoted to the future of food, running from May 1st to October 31st, will feature 130 wildly inventive pavilions from 144 countries, each trying to outdo the next in both pomp and environmental sustainability. Many of them disguise function with highly sculptural elements, such as the Islands, Sea and Food pavilion (above top), featuring a bamboo canopy designed by Atelier2, that represents a dozen ocean nations including Barbados, Madagascar and Suriname. The Children’s Park (above), designed by Reggio Children, will provide youngsters with a place for games and learning in a ring-shaped activity area surrounding a mirrored sculpture and topped by a hyperboloidal lattice.

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