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My Top 5: Exciting Developments in Architecture

I often get asked about which buildings and Architecture firms get me excited. There's a lot of great developments, and firms that are doing really interesting work. Here's my top 5 (in no particular order):

1. Studio Gang Architects: Aqua Tower. This brand new, 82-story tower in downtown Chicago is just amazing. And especially since they postponed (cancelled) Santiago Calatrava’s Spire, this is without question the most important new tower to rise in Chicago. The alternating concrete balconies create a staggeringly beautiful façade and the cantilevered balcony strategy lets them shape the tower while not creating awkward or silly interior spaces simply for the sake of creating a non-rectilinear skyscraper (check out Lord Norman Foster’s Central Market Tower’s in Abu Dhabi to see what I’m talking about). I also really love how the firm website uses short films and music to help communicate the projects. http://www.studiogang.net/

2. SNOHETTA: National 9/11 Museums and Memorial Pavilion. Given the size and cost of the projects at Ground Zero, the majority of the attention has been focused on either SOM’s 1 World Trade (formally know as the ‘Freedom Tower’) and Santiago Calatrava’s soaring Transportation Hub. But one of the smallest projects on site, one that most people really don’t know is being built, is actually one of the most compelling. The Oslo based office of SNOHETTA has designed a project that’s being called ‘The Pavilion.’ But in reality it’s the front door of the 50,000-square-foot underground 9/11 Museum. The cladding will be the thing to admire, combining brushed metal paneling and glass panels (covered in a super complicated “frit” pattern) that enables the façade to fluidly morph from steel to glass. It’s one of the most thoughtfully considered ‘corners’ of a buildings that I’ve ever seen. www.snoarc.no

3. Preston Scott Cohen: Nanjing Performing Arts Center and Tel Aviv Museum of Art (TAMA). First off I should, in the spirit of full disclosure, tell you that Scott was both my critic and my thesis advisor in architecture school. And it’s because of that, in part, that it’s so amazing to watch all the theoretical ideas he talked about five or six years ago now become fully realized, powerful works of architecture. His work is somewhat under the radar but if you look at the bizarre and almost unsettling formal results you’ll see how he works. It’s a highly rigorous geometrical process that yields some stunning and visually arresting shapes. Check out the atrium/light well inside his museum in Tel Aviv—it gives Frank Lloyd Wright’s Guggenheim a run for its money. 

4. SHoP: Barclays Center (the new Net’s Stadium at the Atlantic Yards): For those New Yorkers (but really I’m speaking to my fellow Brooklynites) the Atlantic Yards project has been a long, drawn out, controversial, and frankly somewhat annoying urban design debacle. What started as something like 14 shimmering Frank Gehry designed towers and a super expensive new home for New Jersey Nets has now become something far less controversial--but also something more interesting. After the Gerhy team was somewhat unceremoniously dismissed from the project, developer Bruce Ratner turned to the NYC-based architecture firm of SHoP. SHoP is a relatively young firm that first gained notoriety with Porterhouse Condominiums in the Meatpacking District a few years back (which is a very slick building and a super clever way to tackle he issue off adding onto a exiting, older building). Their new design for the basketball arena (now called the Barclays Center) is really stunning. The façade has their trademark patterning that creates one look by day and a radically different one by night. The project is under construction as we speak and it’ll be a while before anyone actually plays basketball there, but compared the misplaced, generic, crap box of a shopping mall across the street (yes, I’m talking to you, Atlantic Center), this project is a huge step forward for Brooklyn. http://www.shoparc.com/#/projects/featured

5. nARCHITECTS: Double Ex House: Both my design office and the architecture courses I teach are deeply invested in making substantial contemporary buildings that relate to and/or actively engage their local vernacular—creating a modern vernacular. With the Double Ex House, nARCHITECTS, one of my favorite young NYC firms, has created a prefabricated home that, by offering different façade options can transform to become a modern, sustainable, vernacular home, that functions in multiple different locations (a feat not very easily achieved). It’s a clever house that’s playful and odd and awkward and beautiful all at once. http://www.narchitects.com/frameset-hometta.htm