IN 2016, THE best architects rethought everything. They transformed familiar building types like skyscrapers, offices, and museums. They resurrected once-neglected materials like brick and plywood. They tweaked expected features like skylights and balconies. And they found novel ways to fuse structures with their surroundings, carving out new public spaces, inserting contemporary forms into historic fabrics, and merging buildings with landscapes. Some of the very best designs were sequels—extensions to existing structures, reuses of historic buildings, or painstaking renovations. And structures that are often ignored or overlooked—salt sheds, filtration plants, and the like—finally got some love. Here, in no particular order, are 10 projects of note from the past year.
01- OMA, Faena Forum, Miami
The architects at OMA decorated the Faena Forum with geometric windows and is divided it into two volumes. The first is a spiraling cylinder that accommodates gathering spaces, meeting rooms, and a hotel. Architects formed the second, an exterior plaza along Collins Avenue, by removing a wedge from the front of the building.
02- BIG, Via West 57th Street, New York
BIG’s greatest gift is its ability to contort and adapt building envelopes to their sites, and its Via West 57th, a tetrahedron-shaped Manhattan apartment tower, is no exception. The design wraps, pyramid-like, around an internal courtyard bathed in natural light. It’s a combination skyscraper-courtyard building. BIG calls it…drumroll please… a courtscraper.
03-Steven Holl, BNIM, University of Iowa Visual Arts Building
This visual arts complex is a three dimensional piece of art. Light reaches the center of the building through multiple vertical shafts, while floor plates slide past one another to create projecting balconies and gathering spaces indoors and out.
04-Diller Scofidio and Renfro, Roy and Diana Vagelos Education Center, New York
Columbia’s medical school had a problem: it lacked a real campus. Diller Scofidio + Renfro came up with a clever solution: a building that served as one. Their 14-story Roy and Diana Vagelos Education Center incorporates classrooms and labs as well as a glassy, interconnected network of social and study spaces known as the study cascade. Oh, and don’t forget the incredible views.
Zaha Hadid Architects transformed a derelict fire station into a mesmerizing new headquarters for the Port of Antwerp. Clear and opaque glass sheets clad the elevated, rippling extension, which hovers above the historic building like a giant gem, flat on one end and pointed on the other.
06-SOM, United States Courthouse, Los Angeles
Located in the middle of downtown LA, this cube-shaped building is clad with a folded glass facade that reduces heat dramatically and gives the building a gem-like quality. Inside, the courtrooms are organized around a warmly lit atrium that feels anything but institutional.
07-Santiago Calatrava, World Trade Center Oculus, New York
New York’s new transportation hub doubles as one of the world’s most architectural malls. The structure’s spacious, gleaming-white interior is supported by massive steel ribs, which afford glimpses of surrounding skyscrapers. History will determine whether it was worth the $4-billion price tag, but in the meantime, there’s no denying it’s a mesmerizing addition to Lower Manhattan.
08-SOM, US Air Force Academy Center For Character and Leadership Development, Colorado Springs
Highlighted by a pyramidal, 105-foot-tall-skylight, the glass-enclosed structure contains offices, a library, collaboration rooms, and other spaces on several terraced levels. It’s a proper companion to SOM’s 1962 Cadet Chapel, a triangular building marked by 17 glass and aluminum spires, and one of the country’s most iconic buildings.
09-WJE Engineers & Architects, Rose Reading Room Renovation, New York
The New York Public Library’s historic Rose Reading Room is one of the city’s grandest architectural gems. In October, it reopened following a two year restoration. The renovation repaired cracks, reinforced structure, restored the building’s iconic plaster rosettes, fixed damaged murals, and improved lighting. It’s a magnificent touch-up job that you might not notice while reveling in the gorgeous, 52-foot-tall space.
10-Herzog & DeMeuron, Hamburg Elbphilharmonie, Hamburg
Ten years in the making, this tent-shaped, mirrored, glass-clad concert hall is perched atop a historic brick warehouse along the Elbe River. The building also contains a chamber music hall, restaurants, terraces, a large raised plaza, apartments, and even a hotel.