"The world is not a rectilinear world, it is a curvilinear world. The heavenly bodies go in a curve because that is the
natural way..."

-- George Bernard Shaw

"I am not attracted to straight angles or to the straight line, hard and inflexible, created by man. I am attracted to free-flowing, sensual curves. The curves that I find in the mountains of my country, in the sinuousness of its rivers, in the waves of the ocean, and on the body of the beloved woman. Curves make up the entire Universe, the curved Universe of Einstein."

-- Oscar Niemeyer

Tuesday, 9 December 2014

26. Seven Buildings that will Rock your World in 2015

About a year ago I wrote a post called "Six Buildings that will Rock your World in 2014." It turned out to be my second-most popular post of the year. Far be it from me to argue with success, so let's do it again for 2015.

Here are the buildings that WOWchitecture believes will have the greatest impact on the global architecture scene in 2015. They're bold, they're daring and they'll carry architecture to new heights - sometimes literally.


The New York Trio

Pyramids had a great run during Egypt's "Let my people go" era. The Mayan's brought them back a millennium or two later and also had good success. But when Britain's Lord Norman Foster built a 62-metre pyramid in Kazakstan (Palace of Peace and Reconciliation), it was derided as an act of folly by a country that just had too much oil money.

Then along came Copenhagen's free-thinking architecture firm, BIG, with a plan to place a 32-storey pyramid in New York. And not just in New York, but on the very visible bank of the Hudson River. Known officially as W57 for its location on 57th Street, the pyramid has also been dubbed "Magic Mountain". And oh what magic architect Bjarke Ingles has conjured up. The white building slants back at a steep angle. It has slit-like terraces cut out of its facade. A huge cutout just off centre allows for a football-field-sized plaza whose greenery visually aligns with that of the Hudson River Park.


Speaking of magic, one project that could certainly use some fairy dust is the World Trade Centre. David Childs and SOM certainly didn't imbue it into WTC1 - a monolithic structure that conveys strength and power at the expense of innovation, aesthetic appeal, and grace. Nor did Foster and Richard Rogers, two brilliant British architects whose WTC tower designs suggest they were on auto pilot. As for Fumihiko Maki's already finished WTC4, the less said, the better.

The one bit of WTC magic is coming courtesy of unconventional, organic  architect Santiago Calatrava. Calatrava - arguably the world's greatest architect without a Pritzker Prize - just happens to hail from my adopted hometown, Valencia. For the WTC he's designed the ultimate Transportation Hub. 

At its core is a giant white oculus - the eye-shaped structure that Calatrava has relied upon successfully in the past. Springing out from the oculus on both sides are long graceful wings. On a sunny day the oculus will open, allowing warming rays to bathe those in the mall below. The net effect is that of a huge graceful bird getting ready to take off.

Via Santiago Calatrava

Sometimes, just by using boxes you can come up with something entirely out-of-the-box. At least you can if you're Swiss architecture firm Herzog and de Meuron, the folks who created the splendid Bird's Nest stadium for the Beijing Olympics. Their latest project, 56 Leonard St. consists of a series of rectangles piled one on top of the other. The materials couldn't be simpler: concrete floors, ceilings and support pillars, with floor-to-ceiling windows giving every owner a priceless - actually, an incredibly expensively - view of the incomparable New York skyline.

Where the genius comes in is in the way Herzog and de Meuron have arranged the rectangles. Sometimes the floor plates are identical and sit evenly on top of each other. Sometimes they're not and they don't. Floors cantilever out over the ones below or beneath the ones above. The jagged edge creates a look unlike any skyscraper in New York. At 57 storeys, 56 Leonard St. may not be one of the taller buildings in New York, but it sure will be one of the more unusual.

Via Herzog and de Meuron

The Flying Saucer

If Jean Nouvel's Abu Dhabi Louvre looks a little familiar, it may be because it appeared in one of my earlier posts, "My 8 Favourite Buildings that Look Like Flying Saucers." A branch of the more famous gallery in Paris, the Abu Dhabi version is part of a massive planned cultural project on Saadiyat Island. IF completed - and that's by no means certain - it will be the largest collection of cultural buildings in the world.

Via Atelier Jean Nouvel

The new Louvre is a dead cert to finish, with opening scheduled for the end of 2015. The next to follow will be Foster's Zayed National Museum, scheduled for completion in 2016, but not likely since they've just chosen a construction company.  Meanwhile Frank Gehry's Guggenheim hasn't even gotten that far yet, and the only constant about Zaha Hadid's Performing Arts Center is that it's constantly being postponed. The building is no longer mentioned on the cultural district's website.

Sure, Let's Save al-Qaeda the Trouble

I don't usually post buildings I don't like. In fact, this may be the first time. But I have to admit that the Maha Nakhon in Bangkok is going to get a lot of "WOWs". The 77-storey glass tower was designed by OMA - home to Starchitect Rem Koolhaas. When finished, it will look like it was hit by a couple of planes and instead of repairing the damage they just put new cladding over the crushed in areas.


Technically, this tower qualifies as WOWchitecture. But in the wake of September 11, I wonder how many people will react like I did and say "Wow, how insensitive! Wow, what a shot at New York! Wow, how inappropriate!" Now, I'm not one of those sensitive types who gets all teary-eyed at the mention of 9/11. Heck, I'm not even American (although I do compete as a member of Beard Team USA - but that's another story). Yet even I'm offended by the design of this building.

China Rising

It's no great secret that when it comes to 100-storey supertalls, China is the global leader - and picking up steam by the day. The bad news is that the emphasis on speed and height is resulting in far too many big, boring, blue-clad glass boxes dotting the country. The good news is that there are exceptions to this rule, like the 128-floor Shanghai Tower, which was on last year's Rock your World list, and the 115-floor Ping An International Finance Centre in Shenzen, which is on this year's.

The Ping An, designed by American-based KPFresembles a giant silver rocket ship. It flares a bit at the bottom creating the impression of rocket fins. Then for most of its body it rises straight up, it's height underscored by vertical lines. Near the top, the futuristic building tapers radically on all sides until it reaches a point. Extending from the point is a long thin spire much like those seen in 1950s science fiction movies. Get ready for blastoff in 2015.


Apparently they can Build a Supertall

Within the architecture community, Seoul is known as a city that loves to announce bold and imaginative skyscrapers, even entire new districts of soaring skyscrapers - and then fails to build them. It seems that anytime someone gets even the faintest thought of designing a skyscraper, it gets announced as if it's a sure thing. Then dawn breaks - the dawn of fiscal reality, technological reality and structural reality, and the projects ends up in the ashcan of architectural history.

The Lotte World Tower will break the pattern. The 123-storey tower is simply too far along (91-stories and counting) not to happen. Like the Ping An, the Seoul Lotte was designed - and elegantly so - by KPF. It too starts off straight, but the tapering begins earlier and proceeds more gradually. Rather than coming to a point, the 555-metre building squares off at the top. If that's where it ended it would look quite weird, but the glass cladding rises beyond the core structure, bringing the building to a more stylish conclusion.

That's my list of the seven buildings that will rock your world in 2015. They'll all be finished (at least on the outside) sometime in the year ahead. If you think you know of any that will get a bigger "WOW", just leave me a note at the bottom of this post and I'll consider adding your suggestion to my list.