As we head towards the second quarter of 2021, everything around the world is slowly coming back to life. Construction projects put on hold due to the pandemic are regaining momentum, giving us something positive to look forward to this year. Here are eight amazing buildings to feast your eyes on, now through the screen, but soon, hopefully, in real life.
Bee’ah Headquarters, Sarjah, UAE
A futuristic oasis located in the heart of the desert, the new headquarters for the UAE’s leading integrated environmental, recycling and waste management company is truly a majestic sight to behold. Following an international competition, Bee’ah commissioned Zaha Hadid Architects to build its new headquarters in the city of Sarjah.
Spanning 7,000 square metres, the building’s design is inspired by the iconic sand dunes in the region, and makes clever use of the desert’s geography to maximise its energy- and carbon-saving features. The exterior is covered in a material that reflects the sun’s rays, thereby helping to reduce energy consumption that would be otherwise used to cool the building. This is combined with an operable façade, which allows natural ventilation during cooler seasons.
The intersecting dunes boast a fluid design that ultimately connect to the two central dunes, which house the public/management section and the administrative section respectively. A central courtyard in between features its own “oasis” to provide natural ventilation. Daylight is allowed to stream in, illuminating the interior while keeping harsh sun exposure to a minimum. And at sunset, the entire structure is bathed in a golden light, seamlessly echoing its surroundings.
Using input from the environmental consultants and engineers at Atelier Ten (whose portfolio includes Singapore’s Jewel Changi Airport and London’s Google headquarters at King’s Cross), the massive structure fulfils Bee’ah’s commitment towards environmental protection, waste reduction and sustainability. In order to minimise the demand for new materials, signification portions of the building are constructed from materials recovered from local construction and demolition waste streams managed by Bee’ah.
New National Stadium, Tokyo, Japan
Originally used as the main stadium for the Tokyo 1964 Olympic Games, the New National Stadium was rebuilt from scratch for the Tokyo 2020 games to host the opening and closing ceremonies. Kengo Kuma’s wooden lattice design blends in with its surroundings, resulting in a comfortable, familiar feeling that makes one feel at ease. At a glance, it is clear that wood plays a huge role in the stadium’s structure. Kuma’s designs often display a preference for natural materials, married with traditional Japanese architecture and modern design techniques.
The new National Stadium pays homage to Japan as a whole – standing at 47.4 metres, there are 47,000 trees planted around the venue, and the wood used is sourced from all 47 prefectures of the country. In line with Kuma’s design concept of a “living tree”, the stadium enhances its surroundings instead of dominating attention. The plants integrated into the façade will eventually grow and flourish, transforming the structure into a living, breathing building.
However, the stadium is no stranger to controversy: originally designed by Zaha Hadid Architects, opposition from leading Japanese architects—who argued that its avant-garde outlook and extravagant budget defied the core of Japanese tradition—forced Hadid’s design to be scrapped, and the new responsibility was handed over to Kengo Kuma.
The original design of the National Stadium by Zaha Hadid Architects. Image source: www.dezeen.com
This year, as we get ready to welcome Tokyo 2020, all eyes are on the National Stadium as a new landmark of Japan, which proves that urban life and nature can thrive together as one.
Le Monde Group Headquarters, Paris, France
French media company Le Monde Group takes a stride forward with its brand new headquarters in the 13th arrondissement of Paris, bringing together six of its newsrooms under one roof, with space for more than 1,600 employees.
In 2014, out of the eight contenders that sent in their proposals for the new Le Monde Group headquarters, trans-disciplinary design firm Snøhetta was chosen to transform their vision into reality. But before that, a challenge was posed: the site sat just above the railways and platforms of the Gare d’Austerlitz, which made the creation of a basement impossible. It became evident that the building’s technical support system had to be incorporated into the building itself.
That wasn’t all – the site could only carry a specific amount of weight, which meant that the middle section was not able to hold the weight of a building. Together with SRA Architectes, Snøhetta came up with an engineering feat, where the building met in the middle via a curved steel arch, effectively solving the weight distribution problem. Not an easy task for a building that weighs more then the Eiffel Tower!
Taking aesthetics and functionality into consideration are the 20,000-odd glass elements that cover the entire building. Each glass element possesses a specific opacity, carefully placed in an organized pattern that allows for the best views from within the building, as well as optimum daylight penetration. When viewed from afar, these glass panels create a pixelated, text-like effect, in a nod to the printed letters of newspapers and magazines. The intention is to create a façade that is homogenous, yet at the same time reveals a greater level of complexity in the same manner of the headlines and content in a reliable news story.
Originally scheduled for 2020, the Dubai Expo will open its doors this year on October 1st instead, showcasing more than 190 pavilions from around the world based on three key themes: Mobility, Opportunity and Sustainability. Designed by Es Devlin, the UK Pavilion looks like something straight from a sci-fi movie. Known for creating large-scale performative sculptures that bring together music, language and light, Devlin’s vision for the Pavilion revolves around “Innovating for a Shared Future” within the Opportunity theme.
Also nicknamed the “Poem Pavilion”, the idea was inspired by a project by the late Stephen Hawking called “Breakthrough Message”, where he pondered how humanity could express itself to an extra-terrestrial civilisation.
Poem Pavilion showcases the use of AI in promoting intercultural (and hopefully, one day, interstellar) communication – the 20-metre-high cone-shaped pavilion features a massive LED screen and an inner labyrinth illuminated with lights, while row after row of protruding slats line the outer façade. Here, you’ll see a dynamic poem that flows into each line, made possible by an algorithm that gathers words and phrases contributed by visitors, which is then combined with a choral soundscape for a fully-immersive otherworldly experience.
Wormhole Library, Hainan, China
Overlooking the South China Sea along the coastline of Haikou is probably one of the most impressive libraries ever built. With its sensuous, undulating curves, the Wormhole Library is one of many pavilions built under the Haikou Bay rejuvenation plan to enhance the use of public space.
Designed by Chinese architecture studio MAD, the Wormhole Library is cast in white concrete, featuring an organic structure with no division between its ceiling, walls and floor. Circular holes and openings dotting the building provide ample natural light from the sunny bay area, while the exterior corridors are swathed in grey to provide shady hideaways for passers-by to stop and rest. The two-part interior will include a reading space that can store approximately 10,000 books, a café and a terrace, as well as a 300-square-metre public area equipped with bicycle parking, public restrooms and shower facilities.
To save energy, the roof on the sunnier side of the building is cantilevered to facilitate temperature regulation, and the inclusion of curved sliding doors and retractable glass curtain walls enhance overall airflow through the building without compromising endless views of the sea.
425 Park Avenue, New York, USA
Skinny skyscrapers seem to be a thing in New York, as evident from “pencil towers” the likes of Steinway Tower, 220 Central Park South and Central Park Tower. Located at an affluent Manhattan address, 425 Park Avenue is here to join the club. The tapered, 260-metre-high, steel-frame tower meets three fin-like shear walls, with an innovative internal arrangement that allows for three tiers of column-free floors. Each tier also has its own landscaped terrace with panoramic views across Manhattan and Central Park.
But what sets 425 Park Avenue apart from its counterparts is that it is the first building in New York to receive the coveted WELL certification. Unlike the LEED certification (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, which places emphasis on green buildings and sustainability), the WELL building standard aims to deliver more thoughtful and intentional spaces for human health and wellbeing, taking into account aspects like the quality of its air, water, nourishment, movement, sound, thermal comfort and more.
Valley, Amsterdam, Netherlands
As the famed psychologist Carl Jung once said, “the greater the contrast, the greater the potential”. Judging from the mishmash of contracts that is Amsterdam’s soon-to-be-completed project, Valley, it doesn’t get any better than this. Award-winning Netherlands-based firm MVRDV, whose portfolio consists mainly of logic-defying structures, is the brains behind this behemoth. Expected to be completed this year, Valley comprises 75,000 square metres of everything from apartments and offices, to retail facilities, an urban garden and more. The terraces and roof gardens are designed by landscape architect Piet Oudolf.
Valley’s exterior will mirror its corporate location, with commanding glass panels that don’t look out of place from eye-level. But the contrast begins and extends within its inner façade, comprising a series of rugged, stone terraces with large planters that cover the building with vegetation. The variation of Valley’s building design means that no two apartments are alike, creating a wide variety of housing types with unique plants for its equally unique residents.
The Grand Egyptian Museum, Cairo, Egypt
The grand plan of the Grand Egyptian Museum (GEM) has been in progress for almost two decades, and will finally come to fruition this year. The building design was decided via a competition in 2002, and finally began construction in March 2012. Since then, work has been underway non-stop to prepare for the official opening of the museum, which was pushed back due to the pandemic.
Sited on a plot of land covering about 48,000 square metres, the GEM will be the largest archaeological museum in the world after its inauguration. Many artifacts, including the complete Tutankhamun collection, will be displayed to the public for the first time in history. While one-third of the Egyptian pharaoh’s artifacts were previously on display at Cairo’s Egyptian Museum, the GEM will house all 5,000 of King Tut’s collections in one place across a hall size of about 7,000 square metres.
This billion-dollar structure features a 2,000-foot-tall translucent façade, resembling a 21st-century twin to the nearby Giza pyramids just 2km away. Provided by engineering design company Arup, this striking stone wall adds a dramatic flair to the desert’s landscape by night. The addition of solar panels also contributes to the GEM’s initiative towards sustainability, making it the first Egyptian museum to do so.
A definite opening date has yet to be decided, but as finishing touches are currently underway, it’s just a matter of time. To quote the GEM’s director, Tarek Tawfik: “One thing I promise, the opening will be as grand as the name of the Grand Egyptian Museum.”
This article was originally published in Chinese on Sound of Life on 27 February 2021.
CoverImage: Zaha Hadid Architects
Writer | Michelle Tan
Lover of all things bizarre, Michelle has a soft spot for dinosaurs, animal videos and a strong G&T. Her lifelong dream is to become an urban hermit.