Pingtan Art Museum, by MAD Architects, image via MAD Architects
It's that time of year again, the one that many of us have been eagerly awaiting. Christmas is over, along with its insufferable carols, jingles and commercials. New Year's hangovers have disappeared, as have most New Year resolutions. Post-gorging diets are in high gear, as we atone for seasonal overindulgences.
Far more importantly, it's time for our annual look-ahead to the futuristic, envelope-pushing structures that will rock our world in 2016.
The Falcon Soars
Lord Norman Foster may be 80, but he continues to show the young Turks how the future will look. This year will see the completion of his Sheikh Zayed National Museum in Abu Dhabi, with a design said to represent the wing tips of a falcon. It's part of the (supposedly) huge Saadiyat Cultural District. I said "supposed" because there are strong rumours that Frank Gehry's Guggenheim will be shelved for a much cheaper military installation; meanwhile there has never been any indication that Zaha Hadid's Performing Arts Centre will move ahead to construction. To date, Jean Nouvel's flying-saucer shaped Louvre is the only cultural project completed. That's what happens in a petro-economy when the price of oil takes a dive.
The Discs have Landed
Image via Atelier Jean Nouvel
Speaking of Jean Nouvel, the French master builder will see his vision of the Qatar National Museum come to full fruition this year. Sticking with his space vehicle motif, Nouvel has shifted from a single giant flying disc to a couple dozen intersecting smaller ones that look like they've been randomly scattered across the desert floor. The new structure will be built around an existing palace. According to the Qatar Museums Authority, "the tilting interpenetrating disks that define the pavilions’ floors, walls and roofs, clad on the exterior in sand-colored concrete, suggest the bladelike petals of the desert rose, a mineral formation of crystallized sand found in the briny layer just beneath the desert’s surface."
It's Raining Silver
Image via Snohetta
If you were to drop giant molten silver ingots from the sky, what you'd you get - besides a hernia and very burned hands - would be something that looks a lot like the King Abdulaziz Center for World Culture, in Dahran, Saudi Arabia. The facade of the flowing metallic structure, designed by Norwegian company Snohetta, will be made from stainless steel tubes that will be intricately and individually formed and bent, then wrapped around the building. The structure is said to mirror the flowing dunes and sculpted rock formations of the Saudi landscape. The Center will house an auditorium for the performing arts, cinemas, a 200,000 book library, museum, exhibition hall and archive.
From Quarry to Gem
Image via Coop Himmelb(l)au
Put an abandoned Chinese cement quarry in the hands of alchemists like Coop Himmelb(l)au, Austria's most innovative architecture firm, and what you'll get in return is a magical winter gem. The Deep Pit Ice and Snow World will be located in the Dawang Mountain Resort area near the city of Changsha, capital of Hunan province. The project will combine an entertainment Ice World with an indoor ski slope, a water park, restaurant and shopping facilities.
The complex will consist of two sculpted buildings. The dominant horizontal one will span 170-metres from cliff-to-cliff over a sunken and hanging garden, creating a new leisure space of islands, water, cliffside pathways and ramps connecting the building to the surrounding natural heritage. A cantilevered swimming pool will be part of the water park attractions, with a 60-metre high waterfall dropping into the former quarry pit. A separate sculptural 100-meter tower will host a five-star hotel and will be connected to the Ice World via a grand garden Plaza.
Art Museum or Rorschach Test?
Image via Mad Architects
Ever since Santiago Calatrava and Zaha Hadid created the template for futuristic arts buildings, the formula has been pretty straightforward. The structures have to be white, weird, wavy and sufficiently organic or abstract to lend themselves to the interpretation of the observer.
Pingtan Art Museum, on an island off the coast of China near Taiwan, may reflect these qualities to the extreme. From some perspectives, like the one at the top of this page, it looks like a giant stingray. From others, like the one just above, it resembles a mousepad. Some have compared it to a pile of sand dunes. Whatever your perspective, there's no denying that Yansong Ma's creation will be the largest privately funded art museum in Asia - housing a collection of more than 1,000 Chinese artworks and objects in a 40,000 square-metre structure.
Image via Fr - EE
The city of Miami continues its transformation from time-worn tourist hub to urbane arts centre. The latest addition to the creative scene will come in a few short months when the Latin American Arts Museum (LAAM) opens its doors for the first time.
The building, which will consist of four white platforms, each rotated at a different angle to is central axis, has a touch of Zaha Hadid in its soul. But in reality, it's all the brainchild of Mexican architect Fernando Romero and his company FR - EE. With generous-sized terraces, LAAM will have a fair amount of outdoor garden space and sculptures. The museum's opening exhibition will feature the work of world-reknowned Colombian artist/sculptor Fernando Botero, signalling its strong intentions to become one of the great Latin American arts centres in the world.
Like a Fine Wine....
Image via Moshe Safdie
...Moshe Safdie just keeps getting better with age. The Israeli-born, Canadian-raised, U.S.-educated architect made his first big international splash with his Habitat building at Montreal's Expo '67. He was, at the time, celebrated as a 29-year-old wunderkind. But Safdie, now 77 has probably done his greatest work since he turned 70. In 2010, his Marina Bay Sands hotel in Singapore - the one with the three 57-storey towers topped by a boat-shaped infinity pool - opened as one of the most stylish and spectacular hotels in the world. The following year, he further adorned the marina area with his equally imaginative Museum of Artscience, whose design is supposed to resemble a lotus flower, but which most people agree resembles a bunch of bananas with the ends cut off.
Photo by Seymour Kanowitch
Safdie seems to have found new life in Singapore. His next contribution to the city-state, Sky Habitat (a rethinking of his original Habitat?) is preparing to open in just a few months. Sky Habitat will, in fact, consist of two 38-storey residential towers, identically (wedge-) shaped but facing each other in opposing directions. The towers will be connected at three levels. The bottom two bridges above ground will be, essentially, walk-through gardens. The third will connect the buildings at rooftop level and is a more modest version of the infinity pool at Marina Bay Sands. By 2017-18, Safdie will be adding a massive glass dome with gardens and a 40-metre waterfall to Singapore's Changi Airport.
Bogota's BD Bacata, a complex of three towers, is going to be a project of "firsts". The first skyscrapers built in Colombia in 35 years. The first skyscrapers in the world financed by crowdfunding - with $145-million supplied by 3,000 investors. And the tallest of the towers will be the no.1 building in Colombia, with 66 storeys soaring 853-ft high. In two of the the three buildings, the floors will be grouped in rectangles with increasingly wide setbacks as the buildings climb. The project was designed by Barcelona-based Alonso-Balaguer y Arquitectos Asociados. It's worth noting that the firm's design is infinitely superior to a later one created by the much-celebrated BIG architects for World Trade Centre No. 2.
Images via Alonso Balaguer y Architectos Asociados