After two weeks of nominations and voting, last week we announced the 16 winners of the 2017 Building of the Year Awards. In addition to providing inspiration, information, and tools for architecture lovers from around the world, ArchDaily seeks to offer a platform for the many diverse and global voices in the architecture community. In this year's Building of the Year Awards that range of voices was once again on display, with 75,000 voters from around the world offering their selections to ultimately select 16 winners from over 3,000 published projects.
Behind each of those projects are years of research, design, and labor. In the spirit of the world's most democratic architecture award, we share the stories behind the 16 buildings that won over our global readership with their urban interventions, humanitarianism, playfulness, and grandeur.
Healthcare Architecture: Maggie's Cancer Centre Manchester / Foster + Partners
In the 1990s, Maggie Keswick Jencks had a revelation. She had been receiving cancer treatment in Scottish hospitals and began to think the sterile, institutional setting was so psychologically oppressive that it was contributing to her illness. Jencks posited that with all of its damaging power, architecture could also have an immense ability to heal. Under this ethos, the Maggie’s Centre was born.
Since then, 20 Maggie’s Centres for humanistic cancer treatment have been built by notable architects including OMA and Zaha Hadid. The Maggie’s Centre in Norman Foster’s native Manchester is within walking distance of a nearby hospital, but their appearances are worlds apart. With its many full height windows that reveal lush gardens, the Centre feels right at home in its suburban surroundings; it looks almost like a greenhouse among the red brick residential buildings. On the inside, timber and a warm color palette help establish the welcoming, home-like ambiance that begins even when viewing the project from a distance.
Industrial Architecture: Tangshan Organic Farm / ARCHSTUDIO
In the architecture of largely industrial Tangshan, China, the psychological well-being of employees isn’t often a primary concern for designers. Typically, the designs of industrial spaces are focused upon systems and are intended to maximize production and efficiency. ARCHSTUDIO wanted to challenge this narrative with their processing workshop for an organic farm.
The project finds inspiration in the Chinese siheyuan, where low-rise buildings are arranged around a central courtyard. To translate the traditional housing style into a space fit for food processing, ARCHSTUDIO enlarged the courtyard so that it could be used as a workspace, and assigned each of the surrounding buildings with a function as various machinery rooms. A combination of bright timber and translucent siding create a welcoming working environment with on-budget materials.
Cultural Architecture: Elbphilharmonie Hamburg / Herzog & de Meuron
€700 over budget, six years late, and riddled with so much controversy that an exhibit at the 2012 Venice Biennale was dedicated in part to addressing the challenges the project had faced at that time, Herzog and de Meuron’s Elbphilharmonie Hamburg has somehow still managed to win our hearts, with 220,000 people entering a contest to win tickets to its opening in January. The cultural hub and its civic program have been received with open arms by its visitors and neighbors.
The project presents the city to the people by combining quality, ticketed cultural venues with a plaza and terrace meant to be enjoyed by all. As the Building of the Year vote makes clear, Herzog and de Meuron’s whimsical and democratic reappropriation of the Kaispeicher warehouse seems to have been noble enough to make up for the project’s difficult past.
Housing: VIΛ 57 West / BIG
Arguably the most anticipated project of 2016, the 34-story “courtscraper” is the first BIG project to appear in the New York City skyline. The residential tower’s steep asymmetry allows natural light to stream into the Copenhagen-inspired courtyard and interior apartments, while the apartment units maintain a density on par with that of an American skyscraper.
BIG is renowned for its mix of playfulness and utility, and Ingels’ expanding presence in New York has created a buzz in a city where world-class architecture is common enough to be dull to most residents––perhaps because its courtyard concept evokes comparison to Central Park surrounded by skyscrapers. Even before its completion, the building was hailed as a new NYC icon and has been the subject of a seemingly endless amount of press.
Houses: Casa Cabo de Vila / spaceworkers
In answering a request from the client to design a house that doesn’t look like a "regular" house, spaceworkers’ Casa Cabo de Vila uses the surrounding landscape as a guide for individualistic architecture, not a challenge to it. Low, layered, concrete slabs bend and stretch across the valley lot, and their fluidity is echoed on the largely wall-free interior.
A careful balance with the surrounding environment is a specialty for spaceworkers, who also won the Housing category in the 2015 Building of the Year Award with their Sambade House. In this and other past residential projects, the firm has utilized straight, Corbusian geometry, but the organic curves that define the Casa Cabo de Vila’s concrete and glass form are a departure from this tradition. They further soften the building into the flat expanse around it, in addition to supplying the distinctive look solicited by the client.
Commercial Architecture: Crystal Houses / MVRDV
All too often, local architecture is destroyed to make room for increasingly homogenized commercial areas. Design becomes a consequence of economics, and unprotected older buildings often lose in development battles. MVRDV’s Crystal Houses takes an opportunity to delay this process on Amsterdam’s luxury shopping street PC Hooftstraat, preserving the style of the apartments-turned-shops that occupy the current urban space.
In an effort to create more interior retail space, new zoning laws in Amsterdam allow buildings to be extended vertically. To avoid completely destroying the character of the Dutch brick apartment buildings, MVRDV devised a glass brick facade that would mimic the old style and fade back into standard terra cotta brick above street level. The glass brick is the latest outcome of MVRDV’s recent experiments with glass as a transparent material, with past projects like the Digital Ceramic Painting Glass Farm and a transparent kitchen, but this development is arguably the most ambitious. Crystal Houses is an eye-catching location for a flagship store that attracts retailers and shoppers without completely disregarding the existing character of the area's traditional architecture.
Religious Architecture: Capilla San Bernardo / Nicolás Campodonico
The Capilla San Bernardo stands on the former grounds of a rural home in Córdoba, Argentina. The project is about as humble as they come: Campodonico pays homage to the geological roots of the site, utilizing the century-old brick of the former structure to build the new chapel after the local patron saint. The new building sits quietly in an empty field and draws little attention to the daily ritual happening inside.
With no electricity, the Capilla San Bernardo uses natural light to complete the project’s Christian iconography, in a manner that calls to mind Tadao Ando’s Church of the Light. Vertical and horizontal beams placed above the entrance create a projected shadow on the chapel wall. Campodonico has utilized the sun’s temporality, with the shadows of these separated beams slowly intersecting as the day ends, completing the cross each day. Somewhat paradoxically, a key element of this off-grid project's story is now its online success; the tiny, modest chapel in rural Argentina seems to have touched a nerve throughout the globe, with its Project of the Month post on our Facebook page in June remarkably garnering almost 10,000 likes.
Mexico City’s Chapultepec Park is one of the largest in the world. It is home to ten museums, manicured gardens, monuments, and now bordered by the 50-story, LEED-Gold-certified BBVA Bancomer Tower. It looks over both the park and the city, acting as a gateway between the two. From latticework inspired by Mexican cultural heritage to the tower’s program, the spirit of the park is reflected in its use of both Mexican and foreign architectural tradition to construct a space that encourages communication among employees.
The lobby is a dynamic area to observe members of the building’s resident company, and its three stories of open space help foster a sense of busy community. In the tower above, diagonal floor layouts for offices take advantage of the sweeping views, which is further emphasized by shared outdoor space every nine floors.
Best Applied Products: Refurbishment of the Pavilion Dufour Château De Versailles / Dominique Perrault Architecte
In 2003 the Ministry of Culture in France announced the start of a 20 year initiative for a full-scale restoration of the Palace of Versailles, the first such initiative at the Palace since the 1800s. The proposal by Dominique Perrault Architecte won in a competition to restore the Dufour Pavilion. Intended to receive visitors to the palace, the original Pavilion was built in the 17th century and partially remodeled in the early 1800s.
This renewal project addresses one of the challenges in converting a landmark building into a museum. Since the program of Versailles was not intended for the millions of circulating visitors that it now receives annually, Dominique Perrault Architecte designed a new type of space to make the palace function more like a museum, with a cafe, gift shop, auditorium, and entrance and exit that loop traffic in and out through the Pavilion. The reception hall reinterprets the opulent materials from inside the palace in contemporary shapes that bounce golden light throughout the space and create a transition point that both honors and modernizes some of the palace’s most famous material motifs: gold and mirrors. The resulting redevelopment offers visitors a proper introduction to one of the world’s grandest architectural landmarks.
Small Scale Architecture: ICD-ITKE Research Pavilion 2015-16 / ICD-ITKE University of Stuttgart
The University of Stuggart’s Institute for Computational Design and Construction has been working at the intersection of architecture, engineering, and biology for years. In 2011, ICD introduced the natural sciences into their annual research pavilion, and students have analyzed the formal structures of beetle wings, birds nests, and arthropods ever since. This year’s pavilion brought the morphology of sand dollars and sea urchins into the built environment using segmented wooden shells.
A team of architects, engineers, biologists, and paleontologists spent a year and a half working on the 2016 pavilion, combining human design and research with robotic construction. Although computational design is no longer a novelty, ICD has been making strides in robotic design for the past several years, with this particular project employing a robotic KUKA arm to sew the bent plywood shells.
Educational Architecture: Frederiksvej Kindergarten / COBE
A recent trend in North European architecture sees medium-sized institutional buildings broken down into smaller, gabled segments in order to counter the intimidating nature of these projects that can so easily turn out sterile and uninviting. Projects such as EFFEKT’S Cancer Counseling Center (the 2015 Healthcare Building of the Year winner), CEBRA’s Children’s Home, Polyform’s Livsrum and others all play with scale and shape to create institutional buildings that reflect their occupants' approachable, humanist ethos.
Using a similar model, COBE’s Frederiksvej Kindergarten in Denmark set out with a mission to provide the most developmentally nourishing environment possible for its students with a “village for children.” The final design allows for intimate, imaginative, and seasonal play due to its many rooms and floors. This is not the first time COBE has designed a kindergarten to look like small homes, but Frederiksvej also incorporates the quintessential gabled shape based on a child’s drawing of a house, making the idea of “school” even less daunting. The firm has found success in catering directly to the needs of its littlest visitors, throwing out preconceptions of what a kindergarten should look like.
Refurbishment: The Stealth Building / WORKac
Rooftop additions in New York are notoriously tricky. Because of the city’s active Landmark Commission, buildings either in historical districts or with landmark status are not permitted to add rooftop additions that can be seen from the street. As one of New York’s iconic cast iron buildings, the Stealth is one such location, and its corner-adjacent lot presents an even bigger problem because of its greater visibility.
To make the rooftop addition a reality, WORKac got creative with geometry. By calculating a “vision cone” from the pediments of the Stealth and its neighbor to the street, the firm was able to find a blind spot in the shadow of the roof. Working in angles to match the blind spot created an edgy, sculptural form that contains a kitchen, closet, bathrooms, and even a small garden, all completely concealed from the throughway.
Public Architecture: Leixões Cruise Terminal / Luís Pedro Silva Arquitecto
The port of Leixões is among the four largest in Portugal. It recently underwent construction to accommodate larger cruise liners, and the terminal by Luís Pedro Silva is the new jetty’s cool, classy cousin. The project finds itself between three main destinations: the Atlantic Ocean, the city of Porto, and its neighborhood Matosinhos, home to Alvaro Siza’s famous saltwater pools and Eduardo Souto de Mora’s major coastal development project, both frequented by tourists. The terminal acknowledges that it is more of a transitory node and less of a final stopping point, hence its three “tentacles” that swirl out towards the surrounding termini.
Leixões Cruise Terminal also houses a restaurant, event rooms, and the Science and Technology Park of the Sea at the University of Porto, providing integration with the surrounding urban fabric. From a distance, the terminal’s flowing forms reflect the movement of the sea, which also create a bright openness inside the space. From up close, the building reveals its shimmery, scaley texture––a dynamic surface built by local artisans that engages with visitors’ visual perception of the space.
Interior Architecture: Hubba-to / Supermachine Studio
In the last two years Southeast Asia’s growing middle class has seen an increasing number of domestic and foreign freelancers who work from home. Just like in Europe and the United States, these floating creatives have begun to fuel a demand for new coworking spaces. This Hubba-to location is the fourth from the Bangkok workspace operator, but the first to focus on “making” as the key purpose of their coworking offering.
Supermachine Studio’s design places centers around what Hubba calls "artisan space," with art studios, a darkroom, and kitchen. When approaching the site, the firm noticed an abundance of exposed M&E lines. While the lines are always a challenge for architects when working with a space that’s already been constructed, Supermachine chose to not only keep them exposed but emphasize them in neon blue. The result is an industrial dynamism that, like "Structural Expressionist" projects such as the Centre Pompidou, isn’t afraid to bare its guts to the world.
Another Building of the Year win for Thailand, the Yellow Submarine Coffee Tank resists the architectural language of tourism that has taken over the area. Nestled in a plantation forest of Indian mahogany, Yellow Submarine both derives meaning from, and imbues meaning to, the surrounding area using a complementary design that draws attention to natural elements like the tree canopy and gently sloped ground. The Coffee Tank makes a point of immersing itself in the forest as a means of creating ambiance for the patrons of the business.
While the structure by no means opposes its natural surroundings, it also is not stifled by them. Rich materiality in the masonry walls, inked surfaces, wood, and gravel develop a layered visual texture in the dappled light underneath the trees. The project relies on placemaking itself to generate traffic to the site, rather than allowing traffic to determine the type of place it will be.
Sports Architecture: Sonora Stadium / 3Arquitectura
The Sonora Stadium in Mexico sits in a complex web of spatial relations. For one thing, it is located in the El Pinacate Biosphere Reserve––a UNESCO World Heritage Site––making it necessarily tied to nature. It is also the first potential tourist attraction in a new urban development area, and a fully functional baseball field that hopes to host Major League teams.
The exterior is gestural; a copper-colored covering sweeps the circumference of the building. The color is echoed in the stadium’s brick walls, all maintaining the reddish tones of surrounding desert of El Pinacate.