We rely on advertising revenue to support the creative content on our site. Please consider whitelisting our site in your settings, or pausing your adblocker while stopping by.

Get the Magazine

BEST OF 2011

2011 in Review Hits and Misses 02
Museo Soumaya by Fernando Romero

1 Museo Soumaya by Fernando Romero

Fernando Romero has been the golden boy of Mexico for some time now, scooping up dozens of “one to watch” awards since he departed from OMA in 1999. But in March, the 40-year-old unveiled his largest project yet, the $70-million Museo Soumaya in Mexico City – a molar-shaped art museum encrusted with reflective aluminium hexagons. Big, bold and shimmery, the building’s megabuck swagger is justified, considering the art collection it houses is a canon of modern western art history and owned by Carlos Slim, who Forbes calls the world’s richest man.

2011 in Review Hits and Misses 03
Google’s autopilot cars are now legal in Nevada

2 The driverless car

Google’s autopilot car reached a new milestone in June, when Nevada amended its laws to allow human-free vehicles on its roads. Google has been working with Sebastian Thrun, director of Standford University’s artificial intelligence lab, whose team has driven over 22,000 kilometres using prototype cars. Thrun’s aim is to make driving safer by eliminating human error. In fact, the only accidents with the prototypes so far have occurred when humans were at the wheel.

2011 in Review Hits and Misses 04
Ai Wei Wei’s installation in Taipei, and from thousands of bicycles

3 The year of Ai Wei Wei

China’s most famous dissident artist has been through a lot this year and still remains on uncertain ground even after his release following an 81-day detention that began in April. The global outcry was swift and impressive when news hit Ai Wei Wei had been arrested at an airport in Hong Kong. Exhibitions of his work turned up in various cities, including a major retrospective now on in Taipei until January 2012. Some of his most seminal works are on display, including photos of the artist smashing Han dynasty vases, his marble survelliance cameras, and a stunning display of 1,200 bicycles assembled to fill most of the main exhibition hall. It marks the first exhibition of his work in mainland China.

2011 in Review Hits and Misses 05
Ladderback chair by Martaan Baas; privacy walls by Shigeru Ban

4 Design like you give a damn

This was an unprecedented year for designers coming out in droves to help aid various causes. The list includes: Maarten Baas‘s Empty Chair with a ladder-back reaching five metres (in support of Amnesty International); Shigeru Ban’s privacy walls for families in Fukushima that were quarantined in gymnasiums for months after the earthquake; and New York art dealer David Zwirner and actor Ben Stiller’s Christie’s auction, Artists for Haiti, which raised a record-breaking $13.7 million.

2011 in Review Hits and Misses 06
Fogo island artist retreats have put Saunders and the isolated fishing village on the map

5 Fogo Island by Todd Saunders

The first studio of Norwegian architect Todd Saunders’ masterful artists’ colony, perched along the shores of Newfoundland, premiered in 2010, and the accolades poured in – including an AZ Award win for Best Commercial Building. But the inaugural structure was the first of six in total. Three more opened last summer, and each one nests into the jagged, windswept landscape like a precious jewel. The final phase of the project – a luxury hotel, also designed by Saunders – should be complete around this time next year.

2011 in Review Hits and Misses 07
NDP leader Jack Layton’s death sparked an impromptu chalk tribute at Toronto’s Nathan Phillips Square

6 Jack Layton’s chalk memorial at Nathan Phillips Square

In August, Jack Layton, leader of the NDP party of Canada, died of cancer. In the week leading up to his state funeral, thousands of mourners headed to Toronto’s City Hall to write their goodbyes across Nathan Phillips Square’s concrete plaza, in coloured chalk. It was spontaneous, rich and very emotional tribute to a leader who held the rare honour of being both successful and popular.

2011 in Review Hits and Misses 08
Tobias Wong’s nostalgic New York Times candle smells of newsprint and black ink

7 New York Times candle by Tobias Wong

Not all designs-of-note were big affairs. A personal favourite was the June release of Tobias Wong’s New York Times scented candle. The newsprint aroma was concocted by Josée Lepage of Bondtoo and mixes guallac wood and cedar with musk and spices. Refinery29.com described it best: “It’s a concept that’s equal parts a tribute to the Grey Lady and a commentary on the fate of printed media.”

2011 in Review Hits and Misses 09
Paris’s Bouroullec Brothers produced two outstanding seating options this year

8 Seating by the Bouroullecs

The Parisian brothers unveiled two couches in Milan this spring that tie for best-of-the-year. The soggy soda-cracker look of Ploum was a monster hit at Ligne Roset’s booth, while Established & Sons showed off Quilt, the Thing, a loveseat upholstered in high-tech duotone fabric stretched over generous chunks of styrofoam. The brothers say they were channelling comic book superheroes when they came up with this muscle-man couch.

2011 in Review Hits and Misses 10
Foster + Partners new HQs for Apple

9 Everything Apple

It’s hard to choose which launch stood out most: the iPhone 4S with its intelligent voice assistance; the razor-thin MacBook Air that barely weighs 1.4 kilos; or the unveiling of the plans for an Apple campus in Cupertino City by Foster + Partners. The donut-shaped headquarters remains cloaked in secrecy but its halo-form alone reflects the 21st century in the same way Bilbao defined the 20th.

2011 in Review Hits and Misses 11
Tjep’s skinny Recession chair is an update on their XXL, created in 2005

10 The Recession Chair by Tjep

With it straight back, hard seat, striped-down aesthetic and half-eaten limbs, the Recession Chair is Dutch designer Frankie Tjepkema‘s response to how little the design world seems to react to the pending economic crisis threatening Europe and the world. Five years ago, the same designer felt compelled to comment on the excesses of western consumerism with an obnoxiously overweight seat called XXL. My, how things can change in five short years.


2011 in Review Hits and Misses 12
MVRDV hits a media firestorm with it’s planned 9/11 lookalike building

1 9/11’s new twin

MVRDV’s oversight with The Cloud, a proposed twin tower in Seoul, Korea, is its most distinguishing feature – a bulbous cluster of cubes 27 floors up that look a lot like New York’s Twin Towers mid-explosion. Despite a firestorm of criticism and angry blogs stating the design is, among other things, a cheap media grab, the Dutch firm say they hadn’t noticed the similarities during the design process. The latest word is, financiers Yongsan Development Corporation are going ahead with the project and plan to start construction in January 2013.

2011 in Review Hits and Misses 13
Nail art reaches new heights and lengths in 2011

2 Fingernail art

The popularity of nail art, due to the proliferation of nail salons and 90-per cent-off Groupon deals, is a miss. Of course, while most designers are more inclined to sport horn-rimmed glasses than flashy polish, Parisian architect Odile Decq remains devoted to black tipped fingers. There are always exceptions.

We rely on advertising revenue to support the creative content on our site. Please consider whitelisting our site in your settings, or pausing your adblocker while stopping by.