December 30, 2022

(photo from Adam Mork)

In 2017, I listed my all-time favorites. In 2019, I presented ten projects I called the most seductive. In 2020, the adjective used was most intriguing. In 2021, my essay displayed buildings that were the most striking. For the end of 2022, I highlight what takes my breath away. Defining breath-taking typically involves words such as awe-inspiring, astonishing, wondrous, and even out-of-this-world.

(photo from Adam Mork)

1: The western coast of Greenland offers the Ilulissat Icefjord Centre, both a research center and eloquent sculpture. Focusing on the study of massive glaciers and climate change, Dorte Mandrup’s design expresses the human condition within the science of ice, such as archeological artifacts contained in prisms of glass.

(photo by MVRDV)

2: MVRDV’s “art depot” at the Museumpark, Rotterdam, comprises multiple exhibit halls, a rooftop garden, and restaurant. This Depot Boijmans Van Beuningen takes a behind-the-scenes approach by presenting all current works along with ones usually hidden in storage, both in full display. The architect sees the mirrored exterior as an innovative response to complementing the surroundings.

(photo by Iwan Baan)

3: Google Bay View aims to operate the 42-acre campus on carbon-free energy by 2030. For Silicon Valley in Mountain View, California, a collaboration between Denmark’s  BIG and England’s Heatherwick Studio created 1.1 million square feet of building, which includes an event center for 1,000, short-term accommodation for 240 employees, 20 acres of open space, and three main buildings covered in lightweight translucent canopy structures.

(photo by Office of Architecture in Barcelona)

4: The project’s title, Origami House, is apt as this Barcelona house folds, creases, and rises out of the land adjacent to a forest and golf course. Designed by Office of Architecture in Barcelona, the paper white crispness and hidden service facilities (where are the stairs?) delivery a surreal composition, part home, part arts and crafts, and part dreamscape.

(photo by CreatAR Images)

5: MAD Architects conceived the Quzhou Stadium in China as “a piece of land art.” Though with allusions to Bradbury’s science fantasy, this 30,000-seat stadium is no fiction. As an Earthwork, it links the worlds of art installation, landscape design, and architecture, while also straddling the visions of a mad man and artistic genius.

(photo by Leonardo Finotti)

6: Since the 18th century, coffee has been a mainstay of Brazil’s economy. For the city of Carmo de Minas, Gustavo Penna Arquiteto & Associados deliver an iconic headquarters for CarmoCoffees. Introverted and introspective, save for the concave skylight, this warehouse for processing, tasting, and selling coffee explores the colors found in coffee beans.

(photo by Iwan Baan)

7: Sou Fujimoto reinterprets nature at the Hungarian House of Music in Budapest’s City Park. Inspired by sound waves, the roof structure with its 100 Swiss cheese-like holes is both inspired by nature and “neo-nature.” The connection from inside to outside is exploited though a continuous translucent glass façade, like a candy wrapper.

(photo by W Workspace)

8: Tens of thousands of aluminum pieces make up the high-relief exterior of the Museum of Modern Aluminum. Bangkok possesses a deep history of aluminum production, and he city of Nonthaburi became home to this 4,300-square-foot, prickly composition by HAS Design and Research. Serving as both a public space and urban getaway, the museum is viewed as an extension of the natural landscape offering contemplation on this busy street.

(photo by Atelier FCJZ)

9: Different than the Rohe’s Farnsworth House and Johnson’s Glass house, both using glass in the vertical direction, Yung Ho Chang explores glass in the horizontal direction. Unlike the two renowned precedents which allow views out to the landscape, the Vertical Glass House focuses on viewing up to the sky and down to the earth. Located in Shanghai, China, the residence is poetic and ambitious, though with glass floors, perhaps impractical.

(photo by OMA, Chris Stowers)

10: OMA often explores new types and forms of architecture. With the Taipei Performing Arts Center in Taiwan, the exploration reveals powerful results if not clumsily beautiful. OMA reversed the typical floor plan where the audience and performance spaces are central within the overall structure. Instead, the technical support spaces are now in the middle, and the audience is dramatically cantilevered on the exterior, hovering over public spaces, greeting the city’s fabric.

(For my recent list of faves in Los Angeles, visit here.)


January 7, 2022

(photo by Junya Ishigami + Associates)

Once again, I look back at the past year in search of stand out projects. Instead of “the best”—which I dare anyone to define—I listed the most intriguing for 2020 and the most seductive for 2019. For closing out 2021, the operative adjective is striking. Common synonyms for ‘striking’ include: stunning, dramatic, prominent, remarkable, unusual, and beautiful.

(photo by Spaceshift Studio)

1: In Thailand, elephants are seen not as random animals or pets, but as family members. For this project, elephants are the clients. Bangkok Project Studio created Elephant Museum Elephant World, housing 200 elephants in accommodations of grandeur and beauty, honoring their place in the country’s ancient history and royal ceremonies. With a nod to heritage and community, half a million bricks were proudly handmade from regional soil using a traditional local method.

(photo by MAD Architects)

2: Whether a metaphor of a potato chip or a clamshell, the Yabuli Entrepreneurs’ Congress Center sits gracefully in the dramatic topography and freezing climate of Shangzhi, Harbin, China. Capturing an agenda of critical thinking and ambitious vision, MAD Architects has designed the headquarters for the international economic platform known as the China Entrepreneur Forum.

(photo by ZAV Architects)

3: Housing for this historic port at the strait of Hormuz in the Persian Gulf explores colors, shape, scale, and playfulness. A project of both childlike simplicity and heroic vision, ZAV Architects has offered numerous domes using an adobe technique of rammed earth and sand, pioneered by the famed Iranian-American architect, Nader Khalili.

(photo by Birdview)

4: MUDA-Architects delicately weaves architecture into nature for the Garden Hotpot Restaurant. Located in Chengdu, China, the design reduces the building to almost nothing, as it plays hide-n-seek with its amoeboid-like forms twisting through trees. The structure’s circumference measures 1,000 feet with a mere height of 10 feet, and white fluorocarbon paint finishes the galvanized steel roof which is held up by pencil-thin columns only 3 ½” in diameter.

(photo by Birdview)

5: As if Donald Judd installed land art in Puerto Natales, Chili, the abstract beauty of reduction is captured at the Aka Patagonia Hotel. By designer Larrou, an elevated walkway links the prefabricated wood cabins to each other. Together, the elemental box-like quarters—mute on one side but open on the other—embrace views to Chile’s Golfo Almirante Montt canal.

(photo by Alejandro Arango)

6: Known as the Santa Fe de Bogotá Foundation, this 12-floor hospital expansion uses brick in innovative and non-intuitive methods. Rather than the typical gravity-driven compressive state of masonry, architect El Eqiupo de Mazzanti explores brick in an extensive state like a woven fabric. Located in Bogota, Colombia, the massive iconic cube of a building with its signature dent on the surface is both massive and light, both solid and translucent.

(photo by Edmund Sumner)

7: A community building and a work of street sculpture, the Gallery House by Abin Design Studio serves the neighborhood with multipurpose spaces, gathering hall, dormitory, and garage. In Bansberia, West Bengal, India, the architect teamed with a local ceramic artist to select masonry blocks that were discarded for industrial use, a kind of reincarnation of rejected materials.

(photo by Jonathan Leijonhufvud)

8. The Chapel of Sound, an 8,500-square-foot open-air concert hall, is a music venue never before seen. Located in Hebei Province, 200 yard from the Great Wall of China, the structure looks like an outgrowth of the hillside terrain , or perhaps an alien rock formation. By Open Architecture, this concert hall of cantilevered, stacked layers of concrete sits near a mountain resort, and includes a dressing room, green room, and restrooms.

(photo by Philip Vile)

9: Old meets new in Edinburgh, Scotland, for the music campus at Snape Maltings. Architect Haworth Tompkins has conceived of an artist studio where a weathering Corten steel box is inserted into a Victorian ruin of brick and decay. Within the plywood interior sits a flexible art space or performance/rehearsal room, which includes a mezzanine and kitchenette. With no intention of blending the new addition with the existing conditions, the result is less about cohesion and more about a curious parasitic relationship.

(photo by Junya Ishigami + Associates)

10: (See first image and above.) Striking due to its ambiguity, this plaza at Kanagawa Institute of Technology, Tokyo, is a versatile semi-outdoor gathering space, a massive urban sculpture of 59 ceiling cutouts, and an amazing feat of engineering akin to a suspension bridge. Architect Junya Ishigami states, “The process of passing time becomes the subject”.

(For the 2017 list of my all-time 15 favorite buildings, visit here.)

© Poon Design Inc.