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  • Roshni Kannan

10 Buildings Showing The Future of Architecture

Updated: Apr 25, 2021

Architecture, in a way, is the science of how we build our world around us. It not only impacts our everyday lives profoundly, but also has the power of shaping the future for humankind. Great, innovative architecture can help us imagine and work for a future that we can be proud of, and call our own.

Great architecture isn't just about flashy looking magnificent structures. It's about usability, design, engineering, and its collaborative role in making our lives better. Architectural wonders are not just the historical structures around the world, they are also those that question the boundaries of art, history, design and humankind.

But we are turning far from architectural romanticism. Instead, we are aiming it to be an innovative enterprise to help humans fight the shrink in livable spaces. These are the result of an increasing population and environmental ignorance. Therefore, the go-to trends for architects around the world have become sustainability, eco-friendliness, and energy and space efficiency, reaching back to the roots of architecture and space making.

While globalization has become part of the 21st century's manifesto and the sustainability trend is making headlines at the same time, are the legions of architects ready to tackle demanding challenges of the future? Can today's architecture give us clues into where architecture is heading?

Let us explore the top 10 buildings that are probably guiding the future of architecture:

1. Opus, Zaha Hadid Architects (Dubai, UAE)

Keywords: vertical expansion, multi-use building functionality, use of technology

The Opus, designed by the late Zaha Hadid in her signature parametric design style, is a mirrored glass building occupied by a hotel, offices, serviced apartments and several restaurants. It is located in Dubai’s Burj Khalifa district and has both interiors and exteriors done by the late architect. The building appears to be a giant cube with an amorphous hole pushing through its centre, although it is a pair of towers connected at the top and bottom to create the void effect. The building’s interiors use an array of materials from marble to glass to steel, and the latest in furniture design, lighting design and interior design. “The precise orthogonal geometries of the Opus’ elemental glass cube contrast dramatically with the fluidity of the eight-storey void at its centre”, comments the architecture practice on the Opus’ design philosophy, hinting at the futuristic trend that this building seems to be a precedent of.

2. Courtyard Kindergarten, MAD Architects (Beijing, China)

Keywords: Adaptive reuse, modern materials, design addition to complement heritage structure

Beijing is a 3000-year old city that has a rich cultural past. By building the 85,000-square-foot kindergarten around the existing 9,500-­ square-foot courtyard, MAD Architects gave new life to the limited site, repurposing the existing structures into classrooms. An open floor plan that features an abundance of daylight and pine wood unifies the spacious interior. Two of the three ancient outdoor courtyards will serve as outdoor learning centers and one as an area for ceremonies and events. The kindergarten’s rooftop is a new addition to the structure. It is a playful undulating landscape made of a breathable red, rubberlike plastic. This 37,000 sq. ft. rooftop provides much-needed outdoor space for the children to safely run, climb, and slide around the traditional gabled rooftops of their city’s past. By inserting several glazed courtyards inside the kindergarten’s new facility, the firm was also able to preserve three ancient pagoda trees on the site.

3. National Stadium, Kengo Kuma (Tokyo, Japan)

Keywords: vernacular materials, traditional building techniques, public inclusion

The national Stadium is located in Tokyo’s Meiji Jingu Gaien district, built under the supervision of national construction giant Taisei Corporation. It is nearly twice the size of the venue it was built to replace, the National Stadium built 61 years ago for the 1964 Tokyo Summer Olympics. The new Stadium was inspired by the five-story pagoda at the Horyuji temple near Nara and Kuma learned a lot from Horyuji, its design providing various hints. It was important that the stadium fit in with the surrounding nature including the outer garden of the meiji jingu shrine. Consequently, the architect conceived the building as a ‘living tree’. Kuma’s design incorporates wood and greenery to create a truly “Japanese” sports venue with a warm, natural atmosphere. Since the location of the stadium is within the grounds of the chinju no mori sacred grove of the Meiji Shrine, having a building where people can enjoy themselves is a real plus for Tokyo as a whole.

4. Wendy Pavilion, Hollwick Kushner (Queens, New York)

Keywords: sustainable, environmental friendly, futuristic material usage

Description: Wendy is the 3,000 square-foot star-shaped pavilion that HWKN had installed in six weeks in the MoMA PS1 courtyard for the annual Young Architect’s Program. Wendy is an experiment that tests how far the boundaries of architecture can expand with the help of technology, to create ecological and social effect. Wendy’s boundary is defined by tools like shade, wind, rain, music, and visual identity to reach past the confines of physical limits. Spiky fabric arms shoot blasts of cool air, music, and water to create social zones throughout the courtyard. It is covered in a high-tech PVC-based fabric treated with Titania nanoparticles which will “eat” smog. But Wendy is not the child of an expensive technological experiment. It features a simple, inexpensive construction system: the scaffold is deployed efficiently to create a 56’ x 56’ x 46’ volume to form the largest surface area possible..

5. Amanenomori Nursery School, Aisaka Architects’ Atelier (Funabashi, Japan)

Keywords: integrating nature with human activity, geothermal energy systems, eco-optimal ventilation and light

Description: The Amanenomori Nursery school, completed in 2015, is a two-story building with rooftop terrace and features a 3-dimensional and circuit style structure. Rather than orient the two-story building towards the surrounding urban jungle, the architects turn attention inwards with the design of a ring-shaped structure centered on an inner courtyard. The circular structure becomes a playground for children and also acts as an emergency escape route. All the educational and administrative spaces of the school are distributed along the structure’s periphery. The design uses “wood as wood-like, steel as steel-like and stone as stone-like” textures to keep the originality of each material, without using the primary colors. To ensure thorough energy saving, the Atelier customised the eaves to control sunlight, the spot garden to improve ventilation, the rooftop deck and vegetable garden for heat insulating of the rooftop. The school also has an “Earth Tube'' heating system to use geothermal heat, the river and the pond nearby to reuse rainwater. The design also uses solar panels to produce circulating power.

6. AXL Jewelry Boutique, Labscape Design & Architecture (New York, USA)

Keywords: form and material sustainability, material reuse, futuristic interior design

Description: The collaboration between the architects and jeweler AXL was to highlight the brand and its feminine, elegant qualities whilst avoiding the triviality of luxury. The resultant was a contemporary boudoir combining the context of the past with a modern elegance and sophistication. All the surfaces and the furniture of the boutique are conceived as objects of jewelry by themselves. The tables and sofas are all crafted by hand and finished in luxurious materials like travertine, wood, velvet, felt and metal. The lighting used in this boutique is nothing short of sculptural. To give the space a warm feel, the space is illuminated by white and gold spots and three decorative lights: a brass chandelier and two suspended lamps, which are proprietary creations of the architects re-using brass rings of existing old abat-jours.

7. Bamboo Symphony, Manasaram Architects (India)

Keywords: natural materials, natural processes, symbiosis of built for with natural objects

Description: Manasaram Architects believe that true architecture is one that addresses the physical, psychological and spiritual faculties of man. In this spirit, Bamboo Symphony is an effort to reverse the contemporary trend and replace artificial materials with natural ones. The office has an open plan with four split levels, wrapped around a central lotus pool, with the architect’s cabin placed at the bottom level, visually connected to all spaces for easy communication. The structure of the building is based on the structure of the fisherman’s net - a structure in synergy. These structures are highly efficient with minimal energy and material usage, and maximum load bearing capabilities. Bamboo is one of the main building materials used, in various forms like Bamboo-crete pre-cast walling, structural and flooring elements. Apart from Bamboo, mud, stone and compressed earth blocks are the other major components in this building. This project went on to become eligible for the IGBC Platinum Rating, one of the most coveted energy efficiency ratings for Indian Green Buildings.

8. Mapungubwe Interpretation Centre, Peter Rich Architects (Limpopo, South Africa)

Keywords: historical value recognition, economical & ecological architecture, environmentally responsible, locally sourced materials

Description: In 2005, the South African National Parks (SANParks) held an invited design competition for an Interpretation Centre. The competition brief was extensive and mandated exhibition spaces that would accommodate the historical artefacts of the Mapungubwe Kingdom, culturally rich interpretive areas, headquarters for the park staff, and amenities for visiting tourists. Additionally, the entries required to engage the local population to construct the project, in order to create employment, and inject money and skills to the local community. The Mapungubwe Interpretation Centre built by Peter Rich Architects in Limpopo takes inspiration from all this and a motif etched on stones uncovered on the site at Mapungubwe Hill, a World Heritage site located at the confluence of the Limpopo and Shashe Rivers. Exhibition and learning spaces take the form of ten free-form vaults, and a number of regular barrel vaults and domes. These spaces are linked together by ramped walkways. Low environmental impact is achieved through employing local labour and materials, and through 600-year old construction techniques. Over 200,000 tiles were needed in the construction of these domes.

9. Parking Garage, Herzog de Meuron (Miami, Florida)

Keywords: adaptive reuse, multi-functional spaces, retrofitting

Description: 1111 Lincoln Road is a mixed urban development project planned in Miami on four parcels of land. It renewed and repurposed a Cold War era brutalist structure of the Suntrust Bank, to accommodate retail programs. The project includes 300 parking spots, the building includes eleven shops and three restaurants at ground level, with further shopping on the fifth floor, another restaurant on the roof, and luxury residences. The parking takes a central space in this building, with one of the best views of a parking space. The architects believed the juxtaposition of the old and new could add to the richness of the spirit of a place. A concrete monolith of parking, retail and a private residence; was attached to the structure, which was redesigned to create a contrast of the existing ‘opaque’ Suntrust building by envisioning an open concrete structure. Here, the structure is the architecture. Floor plates, columns, ramps and open stairs come together to create the ensemble that is the building.

10. MyMicroNY, nArchitects (New York, USA)

Keywords: economically sustainable living, urban aggregation, micro-housing

Description: My Micro NY, also known as Carmel Place, is a nine-storey building located in Manhattan's Kips Bay neighbourhood. It contains 55 units of small to mid-sized modular living units and occupies 35,000 sq. ft. of floor area. Conceived as a microcosm of the city skyline, the building’s exterior resembles four slender “mini towers”, connecting the concept of micro-living to the form and identity of the building. The towers are 11 foot wide and celebrate the beauty of small dimensions, while not highlighting individual micro units on the exterior. The use of four shades of grey brick make connections to the project’s local context within New York’s long legacy of brick used in housing. It re-negotiates minimum size requirements for New York apartments, and when put together, will form the tallest modular building in the city. It has been watched closely as a new housing prototype in NYC, and has been critically acclaimed for its groundbreaking use of modular construction.


It is vital that we ask the right questions to ensure that what's built isn't just experimental for the sake of being experimental. Things like: How will on-demand car services change the structure of our streets and homes? Should we be designing for changing weather patterns? How can we use local materials to enable more sustainable building practices?

The projects in this hint at a future that shirks sweeping trends in favor of countless mini-trends. And that's exciting.

One thing is true: Making architecture more visible and more open to public debate can only help bring to light the site-specific, local problems that thoughtful architecture should really be solving. All of these trends and examples are at the forefront of many big thinkers and architectural pioneers’ minds.

If you hope to unlock the key to an environmentally friendly future that lasts for generations to come, consider learning more about these emerging trends.

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