Kicking off our celebration of all the great work that came out of 2016, we have some personal favorites from our writers and editors. We'll take the time to toast the prize-winners later, but for now, these are a few of the projects that we just loved from 2016:
Big idea intangibles can often result in a pass/fail situation for architects; either they create something astonishing, or something astonishingly bad. OMA's attempt to tackle grief in this joint work with an artist provides the right mix of personal interactivity and procedure while simultaneously giving form and a kind of comfort to an experience we invariably all must tackle at some point.
Steven Holl is one of my all-time favorites because his works usually always enhance qualities already present in the site. His mastery of natural light distinguishes him, and is on prominent display here: the entire building serves as a kind of oversize prism, reflecting and refracting and creating new opportunities for visual delight.
The beauty of this project is not necessarily in its physical execution, but in its political statement. Here we have the idea of impermeable boundaries, of creating a world that could somehow coexist without the need for stringent concrete boundaries. (I know, that's so pre-2016.)
The conservative bent of preservation is increasingly being questioned within the discipline, leading to unexpected and exciting projects. OMA is at the forefront of this experimentation, and I thought the Fondaco dei Tedeschi was a great demonstration of an innovative relationship to history.
I have mixed feelings about a lot of Herzog & De Meuron's recent output, but I found their Schaudepot for the Vitra Campus an austere beauty. It looks like something out of a de Chirico painting!
It's always refreshing to see a compelling kid-oriented design that is both engaging in its own right, and actually fun for kids. I love the eye-catching form of MAD's Clover House, and the slide is any kid's dream.
I mean it in the best possible way when I say that Snøhetta's SFMOMA expansion is totally forgettable. It packs a fair amount of much-needed space into a tight SOMA-streetscape without compromising Mario Botta's distinctively po-mo frontage, with its own "iceberg" look that is distinctive but not imposing. Without shouting about it, it gets its job done beautifully.
Maybe it's just because 2016 has been so depressing, but this loud and colorful museum in the festival-famous city of Roskilde is such a breath of fresh air. COBE and MVRDV make a simple yet sassy play on the "glitzy and spectacular” legacy of rock 'n' roll, with a concept that repeats a single geometric element to a satisfying finish.
BIG's pavilion might have stolen the spotlight at the Serpentine Gallery this year, but I think NLÉ's Summer House can hold its own anywhere. It's a beautifully sculptural take on the history of the site, while also encouraging a variety of interactions and encounters. I'd like to see it in more public parks.
This building exemplifies Grafton Architects' distinct knack for designing refined buildings with bold spatial configurations. I would love to explore this building in person.
Aside the house's cozy color palette and pretty furnishings, my favorite part of this house are those walls of shelves (minus the thought of how much cleaning those shelves would require).
I can always appreciate a classically pensive sci-fi tale, especially one that is based on an investigation of urban rooftops — and with gorgeous illustrations to boot. If there were more chapters in this short story, I'd read it!
The design team around Kazuyo Sejima and Ryue Nishizawa managed to make my heart skip a beat this year when first photographs of the newly completed Grace Farms “River” building surfaced: light, airy, playful, humble, gentle, and curious; like a genuine friend's warm embrace, the structure gently meanders through Grace Farms' New Canaan topography like it's no big fucking deal.
Tadao Ando has proven time and time again that he is an unrivaled master of creating enchanting, often sacred, spaces of lasting beauty. While much of his œuvre was allowed to exist in the luxurious vacuum of pristine nature or, if in an urban context, had the privilege to wrap itself with towering concrete walls, I am excited to see him wave his trademark wand of brutalist minimalism at a strictly residential development with all its site- and genre-specific challenges in the heart of New York City. The building won't be finished for a while, but the continuously updated renderings do look promising.
Like a 15-story academic machine, Zaha Hadid's Jockey Club International Tower sits snugly embedded in the tight urban mesh that is Hong Kong. Unusually vertical for a ZHA project, it still bears all the characteristics of the late Dame's dynamic 'darting vector' formal language and sense of materiality that lends the imposing tower the playfulness of a polished beach pebble.
Find more reflections on 2016 here.