Work / Architecture

Designs of the Year: Architecture

As an opener for our Design of the Year 2010 Feature, where we’ll be looking at one category from the show every day until the winner is announced on 16 March next week, here are the nominees for the Architecture category. This year they included a library in South Korea, a 19th century German museum, and a housing project in Mexico, to name a few. It was an eclectic mix, but there were certain themes that a lot of them shared.

First, there seemed to be a great concern for creating greener, friendlier spaces in cities. An example of this is The High Line Park in New York designed by James Corner Field Operations and Diller Scofidio + Renfro, which used to be an old railway structure and has now transformed into a ‘wild, quiet and slow’ place full of richly vegetated areas in the middle of the city.

There’s the Housing Project in Monterrey, Mexico by ELEMENTAL, which prioritises communal green areas that residents can tailor to their own taste as well as the British Embassy in Warsaw by Tony Fretton Architects, which not only has superb security features but is also a prime example of green architecture as its double facade preserves energy by providing warming insulation in the winter and cooling relief in the summer.

The Porchdog House Prototype, Biloxi, designed by Marlon Blackwell and sponsored by Architecture for Humanity is also concerned with nature, but the focus is on preparing for an environmental disaster. The prototype is targeted for families who lost their homes during Hurricane Katrina and the result is a beautifully constructed house with elevated 12 feet off the ground complete with porch and several storm-proof features.

Another clear concern was that of preserving old structures and traditions that have been damaged by time.

The wonderful restoration by David Chipperfield Architects and Julian Harrap Architects of the Neues Museum in Germany is a perfect example of this as it incorporates new contemporary elements while still acknowledging the historical damage that the building underwent during World War II.

In the same spirit, the Raven Row, a new arts exhibition centre in London originally built in 1690, has been carefully restored by 6a Architects to provide a home for contemporary works of art as well as a working space for artists.

The Hutong Bubble 32 in Beijing is a fantastic effort by MAD Architects to give a new lease of life to old neighbourhoods , which have been eroded by the rapid developments in the city. The spontaneous insertion of metallic bubbles in these Hutongs (the Chinese name for some of Beijing’s narrow alleys) are a small-scale renovation which allow local residents to continue living in their old neighbourhoods.

Completing this theme is The Ningbo Historic Museum, designed by Wang Shu and Lu Wenyu, who used an old Chinese technique consisting of recycling used building materials. Its structure also references the beauty of the Chinese mountainous landscape, making it a unique contemporary design which respects and honours the past.

Finally, many nominees this year thought of new ways to make culture more accessible and inspiring for everyone. The Tenerife Espacio de las Artes designed by Herzog & de Meuron and the MAXXI Museum in Rome by Zaha Hadid Architects both include interactive spaces in their structures, creating an inviting and friendly atmosphere for visitors.

The Brandhorst Museum in Munich by Matthias Sauerbruch, Louisa Hutton, and Juan Lucas Young contains elements which optimise the viewing of the art displayed, and the Melbourne Recital Centre creates conditions for acoustic excellence. Ashton Raggatt McDougall designed this last one having in mind that most visits take place during the evening, resulting in a building which provides spectacular views at night.

And last but not least, the Youl Hwa Dang Book Hall by Florian Beigel + Architecture Research Unit, with Choi JongHoon + Network in Architecture, Seoul has given a new face to South Korea’s publishing industry, with a focus on a more human, personal experience. The building includes an ‘art yard’, a lounge, cafe, and a reading room with human-sized windows.