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Azure January February 2023 issue cover

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Every December, Azure’s editors gather to reflect on — and debate — the best in architecture, products and interiors (and in 2022, public spaces) of the year. And every January, we look ahead to the upcoming projects that are poised to drive the design conversation in the year ahead.

But prognostication is a tricky business, one that that straddles the uncomfortable boundaries between renderings and execution, hype and reality. After all, even the most astutely documented projects never really come alive until after opening day, when people begin to shape — and define — the environment, often in ways that architects never imagined. More prosaically, construction delays also mean that some of our most-anticipated projects can remain anticipated for quite a few years to come.

For all that, it’s still important to look ahead. The projects that we’ve identified are emblematic of the broader trends shaping architecture today, from the embrace of new technologies to a growing sensitivity to carbon cost and cultural context. Below, we round up the most anticipated architecture for 2023.

Our full list of projects includes:

PHOTO: Tom Arban
Center for Computing & Data Sciences, Boston, USA, by KPMB

Newly opened for the winter semester, it’s a local landmark in the making — and a landmark of Canadian design. In Massachussets, the new Boston University Center for Computing & Data Sciences rises above an eclectic architectural context at the heart of the campus. Surrounded by buildings of different generations, styles and visual rhythms, the 32,000-square-metre “vertical campus” translates the diversity its varied surroundings into a bold high-rise form.  

PHOTO: Tom Arban

The angular play of volumes and cladding creates a visual dialogue with the campus, while the generous podium is designed as a porous public porch where students can gather (and study). The sociable 19-story hub also houses learning labs, classrooms, research venues, meeting spaces, administrative offices, and a business incubator. Bult to operate without fossil fuels, the building utilizes 31 geothermal wells drilled 450 metres below ground, complemented by an eye-catching façade of high-performance glazing and carefully placed solar shading.

For Toronto-based KPMB, the complex is the latest addition to an impressive portfolio of post-secondary buildings, with the designers also making a mark at Princeton, Northwestern and the University of Pennsylvania in recent years, as well as their hometown University of Toronto. But the Boston complex also stands apart, evolving the firm’s well-established language of sensitive, contextually driven design to create a more vigorous, assertive civic icon.

The Genesis Collection at Wolf Ranch, Austin, USA, by BIG and ICON

Will it live up to the hype? For the better part of the past decade, 3D printing has been touted as a solution to high housing costs, facilitating a faster and less labour-intensive construction process that cuts own waste and ensures easy replicability. But the techno-optimism isn’t without its critics. For one thing, much of the most time-consuming labour is devoted to installing electrical, mechanical and plumbing systems — and not the building skeletons that 3D-printed design most readily facilitates. More broadly, the emphasis on technology and design innovation can obscure the more fundamental root of the housing crisis: a dearth of public investment.

Yet, 3D printing could prove a meaningful design and construction tool for the coming decades. And just outside Austin, Texas, the technological possibilities are now being tested on the largest scale to date. Danish architects BIG are partnering with innovative American construction technology firm ICON to build a community of 100 3D-printed homes. Construction kicked off in late 2022, with ICON’S Vulcan robots pouring out walls of highly durable proprietary concrete — dubbed Lavacrete — to shape a new neighbourhood of three- and four-bedroom suburban homes. For 3D-printed design and construction, the result promises to be a watershed.

District Hospitals, Ghana (Multiple Locations) by Adjaye Associates

Adjaye Associates’ District Hospitals plan for Ghana seeks to transform the hospital from a place dedicated solely to the provision of medical services to a paragon of community infrastructure ­– one that “embodies sustainability, efficiency, and generously provides green spaces to facilitate wellness and healing.”

Each of the hospitals planned across the nation takes the shape of a single-storey campus that houses fundamental facilities, from administration and pharmacy to labs/diagnostics and surgical and maternity wards. These are supported by secondary structures that include residences for families and doctors, a waiting pavilion, and a mortuary. The architecture is inspired by the Denkyem, which is the Adinkra symbol for the crocodile – an incredibly adaptive creature able to thrive in air and water. Smart strategies and ecologically responsive systems will allow this building design to adapt to 101 geographically various locations. 

The hospitals will be constructed with a prefab system made of interlocking earth block, a sustainable alternative to cement block and mortar that also allows for speed and consistency. The patient ward, at the outermost perimeter along the rear, will feature butterfly roofs to ensure natural light and ventilation; the surgery ward, which requires a more controlled environment, will be topped with a gable roof. Internally, the hospital is defined by a wayfinding system manifested as a language of clustered horizontal and vertical bars, with the building branching out from a central spine with a central garden and other nature-filled public spaces.

Adjaye Associates was commissioned by the Hospital Infrastructure Group on behalf of the Ghanaian government to create a scheme that will, in Ghanaian President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo’s words, “lead to Ghana becoming a Centre of Medical Excellence and a destination for medical tourism.” That global-minded ambition is formidable. But what we really admire in this project is its commitment to the individual — to the patient and their loved ones who will find a welcoming and inspiring healing place.

Auckland Castle Faith Museum, County Durham, UK, by Níall McLaughlin Architects and Purcell

2023 is set to be another banner year for Níall McLaughlin (the Swiss-born Irish architect won last year’s Stirling Prize for his design of the New Library at Magdalene College in Cambridge). Opening this fall, the Auckland Castle Faith Museum will mark his second project with The Auckland Project in England’s Durham County, as part of the charity’s initiative to transform the region into a destination for faith, art and heritage. This year, a mining art gallery, a Spanish gallery and a restored 17th-century walled garden will round out the development.

Dedicated to showcasing the ideas, implications and impact of faith in Britain, the museum is located above an art storage space in the Scotland Wing of the 900-year-old Auckland Castle — one of the most important and best-preserved bishops’ palaces in Europe. In designing the custom-built extension, Níall McLaughlin turned to the site’s history as an old castle grange, inspired by the form of the medieval tithe barn. Reminiscent of a small community church, the intimate space will host seven new galleries across its two floors, each of which will explore how faith has shaped lives and communities over the last 5,000 years, from the first Christian missions to Britain’s modern multi-faith society.

The grand upper hall will display architectural fragments and large artefacts in an open gallery space. Working closely with local religious communities and academics, the exhibitions have been curated as a thoughtful and respectful exploration of faith. With its elegant restraint, visiting the Auckland Castle Faith Museum is poised to be a spiritual experience in and of itself.

Muscowpetung Powwow Arbour, Muscowpetung Saulteaux Nation, Saskatchewan, by Muscowpetung Saulteaux Nation, Oxbow Architecture and Richard Kroeker 

Initially conceived as a communal space for younger people of the Saulteaux Nation to learn and perform ceremonial powwow dances, the purpose of the soon-to-be-built Muscowpetung Powwow Arbour has evolved to fulfill another important need – to serve as a cultural venue to “strengthen traditions, celebrate culture and encourage community members to pass along knowledge to future generations.” A wholly collaborative effort, the stunning design – which was recently bestowed the Future Project: Culture award at the World Architecture Festival – was developed by Oxbow Architecture and Dalhousie Architecture Professor Emeritus Richard Kroeker with guidance and input from the community and band leadership. The circular design of the pavilion – a shape with many symbolic significances to Indigenous culture – is both simple and complex, and will utilize a nimble system of spanning components to ensure a fluid and uninterrupted form.

Comprised of a series of elegantly stacked concentric rings held aloft by cables that will “work like the stored energy of a drawn bow-string and the tensioning elements of drum heads,” the permanent dome’s construction concept was directly influenced by First Nations of the Great Plains building traditions, which include using lightweight materials for structures that can be easily disassembled, transported and then reassembled. Made from locally sourced timber, the individual hoops will be separated by vertical openings, which will allow for natural ventilation and light filtration, and culminate in an oculus that opens to the sky; rainwater will be harvested from the 455-square-metre roof to supply a nearby medicine garden and photovoltaic panels can be added to generate energy for the entire community.

When constructed, the arbour will sit lightly on the land and be positioned in respect to the four cardinal directions, with the main entrance facing east towards the rising sun, and a soft carpet of native grasses will cover the dance surface. A physical embodiment of tradition, culture and community, the much-anticipated ceremonial building is sure to become a place for gathering, engagement and performance.

Royal Free Hospital Maggie’s Centre, London, UK, by Studio Libeskind

A gently undulating timber facade will announce the new Maggie’s Centre in London by Daniel Libeskind. This enveloping gesture is as much emotional as it is architectural: “The facade’s folds and crevices optimize privacy, light, and shade,” the firm explains, “to create a calm and peaceful interior space that offers patients moments of serenity.” 

Light is especially important: 97 windows, ushering sunshine into 26 rooms, punctuate the enclosure’s prefabricated vertical louvers. A soaring glazed entrance, meanwhile, slices through the wood to lead patients and their families into a series of paths that wrap around the core building – a solid form at the centre with an organic shape, its soothing contours providing respite and warmth – and that ultimately lead up to a rooftop garden. 

The building will be located near the Royal Free Hospital in Hampstead, north London, the two facilities linked by planted walkways. The site was small, so the centre’s inclined walls were designed to fan outwards as they rise, increasing the overall volume in relation to the footprint. This sense of opening up feels symbolic as well – in a building that’s meant to lift the spirits of all who enter.

PHOTO: Courtesy of OMA New York
Buffalo AKG Art Museum, Buffalo, USA, by OMA with Cooper Robertson

The institution formerly known as the Albright–Knox Art Gallery has now condensed its name into a series of initials. Maybe it was inspired by its latest architectural collaborator OMA, which is currently overseeing the finishing touches on the museum’s contemporary makeover. As the architecture studio’s first art gallery project in the United States, the Buffalo AKG Art Museum’s revitalization will be anchored by the new Gundlach Building, a steel-framed glass dome structure that will introduce extra-large exhibition spaces designed specifically with contemporary art in mind. A new grab-and-go eatery and theatre will also be in the mix, all connected by a series of spectacular spiral staircases.

PHOTO: Courtesy of OMA New York

Yet the reinvention does not stop there. A glass bridge will link the new addition to the museum’s newly refurbished 1962 Knox Building, which is itself joined to the historic 1905 Wilmers building. Meanwhile, the Knox Building’s current open-air sculpture garden will be transformed into the Town Square — a new indoor space containing Common Sky, a whirlwind of glass designed by Olafur Eliasson and Sebastian Behmann of Studio Other Spaces that spirals upwards to create a canopy roof.

PHOTO: Courtesy of Studio Other Spaces

Finally, the gallery’s previous surface parking lot will be buried below ground underneath the new Great Lawn — nearly 4,000 square metres of green space that will now serve as a continuation of the nearby Delaware Park designed by Frederick Law Olmsted. For an institution that features famous works by Gauguin and Picasso in its collection — but also deaccessioned 200 of its antiquities in 2007 to establish an endowment for acquiring fresh 21st-century voices — this new layout seems to strike the perfect balance of old and new

PHOTO: Courtesy of Tridel
The Well, Toronto, Canada, by Hariri Pontarini, BDP Quadrangle, architects—Alliance, Wallman Architects and Adamson Associates Architects with II BY IV DESIGN, Figure3 (Interior Design)

One of Toronto’s most popular tourist attractions is the Eb Zeidler-designed Eaton Centre, a downtown shopping mall opened in 1977 that is currently undergoing renovations to its galleria skylight roof. Perhaps it is freshening up in an attempt to hold its own against a new contender vying for the hearts of the city’s shopaholics: The Well. Like the Eaton Centre, this new landmark-in-the-making (located slightly west of the city’s downtown) will act as a significant retail hub topped by a spectacular glass canopy. Yet unlike its predecessor, the Well has also been designed to thoughtfully integrate into the surrounding cityscape. While the Eaton Centre brought a long, flat wall to Yonge Street, creating an insular destination that blocks out the surrounding urban activity, the Well is a feat of orchestration designed to facilitate seamless connections to the dense neighbourhood around it.

PHOTO: Courtesy of Tridel

It helps, of course, that the Well is a true mixed-used development, integrating not just retail but also offices (which are concentrated in an elegant, 36-storey glass tower accented with decorative cross-braces) and condos (see: the site’s additional 46-, 39- and 22-storey towers, as well as the stepped brick buildings along the project’s northern edge). Not lacking for greenery, the massive 3.16 hectare undertaking will also introduce an intimate parkette and landscaped promenades by CCxA. And yet what’s most impressive is the way that the Well sets out to link all of this together — and open it up to the city beyond.

In that sense, the sinuous roof that floats above the project’s central atrium (dubbed “The Spine”) is a metaphor for the entire project’s strong sense of flow. Its thoughtful streetscaping and smart urban planning encourage people not just to look up to the sky, but also outwards to their surroundings. And while the end of last year brought news that Shopify, previously announced to be the Well’s anchor tenant, had backed out of its lease, other tenants like the Toronto Star have already started to move in ahead of the project’s projected spring 2023 opening. Come next December, we know where we’ll be doing our holiday shopping.

PHOTO: Timothy Schenck/AMNH
Richard Gilder Center for Science, Education, and Innovation at the American Museum of Natural History, New York, USA, by Studio Gang 

The wait is almost over for this one. Opening to the public on February 17, the new Richard Gilder Center for Science, Education, and Innovation at New York’s American Museum of Natural History is an awe-inspiring piece of architecture designed by architect Jeanne Gang and the team at her Chicago practice Studio Gang. Positioned as the reclaimed “physical heart of the museum,” the five-storey parametric structure was informed by processes found in nature and features a cavernous interior intended to provide visitors with a fluid spatial experience and encourage them to thoroughly explore the many niches, caverns and connective bridges.

PHOTO: Timothy Schenck/AMNH

Clad on the outside with three-dimensional panels of Milford pink granite — the same stone found at the museum’s other entrance — the undulating building will create roughly 30 connections between the 10 buildings that comprise the sprawling institute and will also include an insectarium, a butterfly vivarium, a variety of multi-storey exhibit galleries and more; this new layout successfully does away with the dead-ends that visitors used to encounter when navigating the building. Inside, shotcrete — a technique that consists of spraying structural concrete onto rebar without formwork that is then finished by hand once cured –— was used to formulate the beautifully organic and billowing walls. On the sustainability side, the verticality of the structure is such that natural light and air circulation freely flow from the top down into the into the belly of the interior: large deep-set skylights introduce vast amounts of daylight and the stone cladding exterior will help keep everything cool in the warmer months. While certainly not modest, the new addition to the science centre promises to be nothing short of spectacular.

Ontario Court of Justice, Toronto, Canada, by Renzo Piano Building Workshop and NORR

Just steps from Toronto City Hall and Nathan Phillips Square, Renzo Piano Building Workshop is putting the finishing touches on a contemporary new courthouse. When completed this spring, it will mark the firm’s first Canadian project. The sleek, 17-storey glass-clad facility is slated to become the largest courthouse in the province, amalgamating several law courts currently located across the city. But though transparency was a key driver of the design, security remained a top priority, with in-custody transport and prisoner holding facilities integrated in line with provincial standards. The architects also prioritized barrier-free accessibility and maximized exterior public space.

At grade, a 20-metre tall atrium will facilitate a renewed connection to the cityscape, underscoring the institution’s role in the public service of justice. The space, which highlights noteworthy aspects of the site’s heritage and archaeological discoveries along a vibrant yellow accent wall, will also feature a new learning centre focused on Indigenous history and the Ontario justice system. Above the podium, a cubic volume composed of layered glass and embossed metallic back pans houses 63 courtrooms (including speciality courts such as drug, mental health, Indigenous and youth courts), 10 conference settlement rooms and associated services, elegantly supported by a series of tall columns. Surrounded by the judicial chambers, a two-story landscaped courtyard anchors the upper floors under the building’s solar roof.

Despite the building’s modern appeal, the architects paid high regard to the site’s historic context: An architectural mast on the centre of the south façade will link to the East portico of Osgoode Hall, marking the terminating vista looking north on York St. “In this manner, the project will complement the judicial precinct that began to take shape some 180 years ago,” the designers explain.

10 Projects Shaping Architecture in 2023

From Ghana to Saskatchewan and New York City, these buildings are set to drive the global design conversation in the year ahead.

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