Architecture

Floating digs to alien spaceships: The best buildings of 2016

Floating digs to alien spacesh...
New Atlas highlights the most impressive, innovative, and interesting buildings we've covered in 2016
New Atlas highlights the most impressive, innovative, and interesting buildings we've covered in 2016
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The One World Trade Center rises to a symbolic height of exactly 1,776 ft to mark the US Declaration of Independence
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The One World Trade Center rises to a symbolic height of exactly 1,776 ft to mark the US Declaration of Independence
The One World Trade Center's glazed facade ensures natural l light reaches over 90 percent of the building's office areas
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The One World Trade Center's glazed facade ensures natural l light reaches over 90 percent of the building's office areas
The One World Trade Center features a building management system that optimizes energy use and indoor air quality
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The One World Trade Center features a building management system that optimizes energy use and indoor air quality
The One World Trade Center was recently awarded LEED Gold certification (a green building standard) in recognition of its sustainable design
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The One World Trade Center was recently awarded LEED Gold certification (a green building standard) in recognition of its sustainable design
Over 40 percent of the materials used in construction of the One World Trade Center were recycled, including gypsum boards, ceiling tiles, and glass
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Over 40 percent of the materials used in construction of the One World Trade Center were recycled, including gypsum boards, ceiling tiles, and glass
The Harbin Opera House occupies a total footprint of 850,000 sq ft (78,967 sq m) and rises to a total height of 56 m (183 ft)
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The Harbin Opera House occupies a total footprint of 850,000 sq ft (78,967 sq m) and rises to a total height of 56 m (183 ft)
The design of the Harbin Opera House references the chilly local climate
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The design of the Harbin Opera House references the chilly local climate
Inside the Harbin Opera House
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Inside the Harbin Opera House
The Harbin Opera House looks like an alien spaceship has landed on the wetlands of Harbin, China
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The Harbin Opera House looks like an alien spaceship has landed on the wetlands of Harbin, China
The Harbin Opera House occupies a total footprint of 850,000 sq ft (78,967 sq m) and rises to a total height of 56 m (183 ft)
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The Harbin Opera House occupies a total footprint of 850,000 sq ft (78,967 sq m) and rises to a total height of 56 m (183 ft)
The Mausoleum of the Martyrdom of Polish Villages commemorates Polish victims of WWII
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The Mausoleum of the Martyrdom of Polish Villages commemorates Polish victims of WWII
The Mausoleum of the Martyrdom of Polish Villages features house-shaped buildings which begin as fully-formed and degrade into a skeletal framework
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The Mausoleum of the Martyrdom of Polish Villages features house-shaped buildings which begin as fully-formed and degrade into a skeletal framework
Inside, the Mausoleum of the Martyrdom of Polish Villages features multimedia exhibits
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Inside, the Mausoleum of the Martyrdom of Polish Villages features multimedia exhibits
Top-down view of the Mausoleum of the Martyrdom of Polish Villages
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Top-down view of the Mausoleum of the Martyrdom of Polish Villages
The Mausoleum of the Martyrdom of Polish Villages commemorates Polish victims of WWII
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The Mausoleum of the Martyrdom of Polish Villages commemorates Polish victims of WWII
Danish firm BIG has  launched a number of projects in the United States and the most significant of these is clearly Via 57 West
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Danish firm BIG has  launched a number of projects in the United States and the most significant of these is clearly Via 57 West
Via 57 West's design is a melding of a skyscraper and a European housing block with central courtyard (thus the "courtscraper" name)
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Via 57 West's design is a melding of a skyscraper and a European housing block with central courtyard (thus the "courtscraper" name)
Via 57 West brings together all that's best about BIG's works: unconventional, original, and daring, the 32-story tetrahedron building takes up almost an entire city block
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Via 57 West brings together all that's best about BIG's works: unconventional, original, and daring, the 32-story tetrahedron building takes up almost an entire city block
From one angle Via 57 West looks like a pyramid and from another it looks like a huge sail traveling down the Hudson
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From one angle Via 57 West looks like a pyramid and from another it looks like a huge sail traveling down the Hudson
The Shanghai Tower rises an impressive 632 m (2,073 ft) over Shanghai
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The Shanghai Tower rises an impressive 632 m (2,073 ft) over Shanghai
Shanghai Tower twists a full 120 degrees to mitigate the battering winds that buildings face at such heights
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Shanghai Tower twists a full 120 degrees to mitigate the battering winds that buildings face at such heights
Shanghai Tower's facade sports a total of 270 wind turbines that provide the power needed for external lighting
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Shanghai Tower's facade sports a total of 270 wind turbines that provide the power needed for external lighting
Shanghai Tower rests upon 1,079 concrete and steel piles and its foundations involved a fleet of trucks pouring concrete for 63 hours straight
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Shanghai Tower rests upon 1,079 concrete and steel piles and its foundations involved a fleet of trucks pouring concrete for 63 hours straight
The Shanghai Tower took six years to construct
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The Shanghai Tower took six years to construct
Herzog & de Meuron's Elbphilharmonie is a remarkable concert hall
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Herzog & de Meuron's Elbphilharmonie is a remarkable concert hall
The Elbphilharmonie's Grand Hall has an orchestra pit in the middle and tiered seating for up to 2,100
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The Elbphilharmonie's Grand Hall has an orchestra pit in the middle and tiered seating for up to 2,100
The Elbphilharmonie sports an eye-catching facade that features around 1,100 panes of glass
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The Elbphilharmonie sports an eye-catching facade that features around 1,100 panes of glass
The Elbphilharmonie's facade seems to shimmer
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The Elbphilharmonie's facade seems to shimmer
The Elbphilharmonie is situated atop an old warehouse
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The Elbphilharmonie is situated atop an old warehouse
Rising to a total height of 50 m (164 ft) to the east of Beirut, Lebanon, The Cube features 14 stacked volumes, each of which rotates 90 degrees per level
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Rising to a total height of 50 m (164 ft) to the east of Beirut, Lebanon, The Cube features 14 stacked volumes, each of which rotates 90 degrees per level
The Cube's apartments offer excellent views of Beirut
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The Cube's apartments offer excellent views of Beirut
Structurally, The Cube consists of a fixed core containing elevators and staircases which are crossed by concrete girders
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Structurally, The Cube consists of a fixed core containing elevators and staircases which are crossed by concrete girders
Inside, The Cube comprises a total floorspace of 5,600 sq m (60,277 sq ft), split between 19 luxury apartments
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Inside, The Cube comprises a total floorspace of 5,600 sq m (60,277 sq ft), split between 19 luxury apartments
Urban Rigger sees BIG using recycled shipping containers to produce a sustainable floating student housing prototype
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Urban Rigger sees BIG using recycled shipping containers to produce a sustainable floating student housing prototype
Urban Rigger gets its power from solar panels 
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Urban Rigger gets its power from solar panels 
Inside, Urban Rigger's apartments look smart and comfortable
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Inside, Urban Rigger's apartments look smart and comfortable
Urban Rigger comprises a total of 680 sq m (7,319 sq ft) of floorpace
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Urban Rigger comprises a total of 680 sq m (7,319 sq ft) of floorpace
Urban Rigger comprises nine recycled shipping containers
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Urban Rigger comprises nine recycled shipping containers
Brock Commons, serves as an excellent example of the benefits of tall wood building
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Brock Commons, serves as an excellent example of the benefits of tall wood building
The environmentally-friendly and attractive student digs contain 33 four-bed units and 272 studios spread over 18 floors, housing a total of 404 residents
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The environmentally-friendly and attractive student digs contain 33 four-bed units and 272 studios spread over 18 floors, housing a total of 404 residents
Brock Commons is scheduled for completion in May 2017
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Brock Commons is scheduled for completion in May 2017
Dubai is at the cutting edge of 3D-printed architecture with its Office of the Future
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Dubai is at the cutting edge of 3D-printed architecture with its Office of the Future
The Office of the Future is hailed as the world's first 3D-printed office
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The Office of the Future is hailed as the world's first 3D-printed office
A very large 3D printer measuring 20 x 120 x 40 ft (6 x 36 x 12 m) printed the Office of the Future by extruding a cement mixture layer by layer
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A very large 3D printer measuring 20 x 120 x 40 ft (6 x 36 x 12 m) printed the Office of the Future by extruding a cement mixture layer by layer
The Office of the Future is located within Dubai's Emirates Towers complex and will serve as a fully-functional office
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The Office of the Future is located within Dubai's Emirates Towers complex and will serve as a fully-functional office
Dubai is at the cutting edge of 3D-printed architecture with its Office of the Future
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Dubai is at the cutting edge of 3D-printed architecture with its Office of the Future
New Atlas highlights the most impressive, innovative, and interesting buildings we've covered in 2016
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New Atlas highlights the most impressive, innovative, and interesting buildings we've covered in 2016

2016 has been a bumper year for architecture and our coverage has included some amazing projects both big and small from around the globe. Join us as we take a look at the 10 best buildings we've reported on in the past 12 months, including the world's second-tallest skyscraper, a first 3D-printed office, floating student housing, and an out-of-this-world opera house.

One World Trade Center

Over 40 percent of the materials used in construction of the One World Trade Center were recycled, including gypsum boards, ceiling tiles, and glass
Over 40 percent of the materials used in construction of the One World Trade Center were recycled, including gypsum boards, ceiling tiles, and glass

With the emotional baggage involved, a worthwhile successor to the original World Trade Center seemed a very difficult project, but Skidmore, Owings & Merrill pulled it off brilliantly with the One World Trade Center.

Rising to a symbolic height of 1,776 ft (541 m), the One World Trade Center is a genuine landmark for NYC. The design of the crystalline building is informed by city's golden-era skyscrapers, such as the Chrysler Building and boasts a podium sporting decorative glass fins rising to an octagon at its center, before culminating with a spire.

The supertall skyscraper's green credentials are impressive, too. Stormwater runoff is captured and stored for cooling and irrigation, over 40 percent of the materials used in construction were recycled, and the tower's elevators can reclaim energy through regenerative braking to reduce demand on the grid.

Harbin Opera House

The Harbin Opera House occupies a total footprint of 850,000 sq ft (78,967 sq m) and rises to a total height of 56 m (183 ft)
The Harbin Opera House occupies a total footprint of 850,000 sq ft (78,967 sq m) and rises to a total height of 56 m (183 ft)

We're cheating a little bit by including this project in a 2016 roundup as we covered it just at the close of 2015, but it would be a great shame for MAD's masterful Harbin Opera House to slip through the cracks.

The product of a winning architectural competition entry back in 2010, Harbin Opera House occupies a total footprint of 850,000 sq ft (78,967 sq m) and consists of two high-end theaters with a combined capacity of 2,000 patrons.

Located in the wetlands of Northeast China, the building looks like an alien spaceship has landed. Its design also brings to mind Zaha Hadid, which is fitting as MAD's founder Ma Yansong once worked under the late starchitect.

Its facade consists of smooth white aluminum panels and glazed areas, culminating in a crowning glass feature over the grand lobby. Inside, visitors are treated to a Grand Theater beautifully sculpted from Manchurian Ash.

Mausoleum of the Martyrdom of Polish Villages

The Mausoleum of the Martyrdom of Polish Villages commemorates Polish victims of WWII
The Mausoleum of the Martyrdom of Polish Villages commemorates Polish victims of WWII

Poland's Nizio Design Internationale designed the Mausoleum of the Martyrdom of Polish Villages to commemorate the many rural Polish victims of the Nazi occupation during the Second World War.

A large project including extensive landscaping, its centerpiece is a row of 11 house-shaped buildings which begin as fully-formed and degrade into a skeletal framework, depicting the destruction and loss of life.

Inside, visitors walk through a series of multimedia exhibitions, with subjects including the Polish resistance movement, the murder of civilians, and deportation and forced labor. The final stage of this emotionally-charged experience shows the Nazi war criminals themselves, before the mausoleum breaks up completely and disappears.

Via 57 West

From one angle Via 57 West looks like a pyramid and from another it looks like a huge sail traveling down the Hudson
From one angle Via 57 West looks like a pyramid and from another it looks like a huge sail traveling down the Hudson

Starchitect Bjarke Ingels is very much the man of the moment in architecture circles and his Danish firm BIG has launched a number of projects in the United States that are raising his profile even further. The most significant of these is Via 57 West, a plush residential building in Manhattan.

Via 57 West brings together all that's best about BIG: unconventional, original, and daring, the 32-story tetrahedral building is a melding of a skyscraper and a housing block with central courtyard (thus the "courtscraper" nickname). From one angle it resembles a pyramid and from another a ship's sail voyaging down the Hudson River.

The courtyard itself is modeled after NYC's Central Park and has the exact same proportions, but at one 13,000th the size. Via 57 West's odd dimensions also increase sunlight for those using it and ensure choice views of the Hudson.

Shanghai Tower

The Shanghai Tower rises an impressive 632 m (2,073 ft) over Shanghai
The Shanghai Tower rises an impressive 632 m (2,073 ft) over Shanghai

Recently declared the world's best new skyscraper by Emporis, Gensler's Shanghai Tower has also picked up numerous other awards – in addition to bragging rights as the world's second-tallest building.

The twisting supertall skyscraper rises an impressive 632 m (2,073 ft) over Shanghai and cost US$2.4 billion to construct. It took six years to build and sports a double-glass wall that twists a full 120 degrees to mitigate the battering winds that buildings face at such heights.

The size of the project is stupendous. It rests upon 1,079 concrete and steel piles, and its foundations involved a fleet of trucks pouring concrete for 63 hours straight. Its 218 floors comprise 420,000 sq m (4,520,842 sq ft) of floorspace.

Shanghai Tower's facade has a total of 270 wind turbines that provide the power needed for external lighting. The building's funnel-shaped parapet channels rainwater for the air-conditioning and heating systems, and a greywater system is also installed.

Elbphilharmonie

The Elbphilharmonie sports an eye-catching facade that features around 1,100 panes of glass
The Elbphilharmonie sports an eye-catching facade that features around 1,100 panes of glass

Situated atop an existing warehouse on the banks of the river Elbe in Hamburg, Germany, Herzog & de Meuron's Elbphilharmonie is a remarkable concert hall that also includes a hotel, and 45 private apartments.

Its eye-catching facade consists of roughly 1,100 panes of glass, each measuring 4-5 m (13-16 ft) wide and over 3 m (10 ft) high. Sculpted with precision, the facade is marked with grey reflective dots which stop the sunlight from overheating the building and create its signature shimmering look.

The Elbphilharmonie is just as impressive inside as out and its centerpiece, the Grand Hall, includes an orchestra pit in the middle and tiered seating for up to 2,100.

The Cube

Structurally, The Cube consists of a fixed core containing elevators and staircases which are crossed by concrete girders
Structurally, The Cube consists of a fixed core containing elevators and staircases which are crossed by concrete girders

Rising to a total height of 50 m (164 ft) in the east of Beirut, Lebanon, Orange Architects' The Cube features 14 stacked volumes which rotate 90 degrees per level, providing generous sheltered balconies to its residents.

Structurally, the building consists of a fixed core containing elevators and staircases which are crossed by concrete girders. Inside, it comprises a total floorspace of 5,600 sq m (60,277 sq ft), split between 19 luxury apartments.

The homes boast large terraces with fantastic views of the Mediterranean and the city's skyline. Parking lies underground and a large section of the building cantilevers over the main entrance.

Urban Rigger

Urban Rigger comprises nine recycled shipping containers
Urban Rigger comprises nine recycled shipping containers

Another project by BIG, Urban Rigger sees the firm using recycled shipping containers to produce a sustainable floating student housing prototype for Copenhagen that it hopes to replicate elsewhere.

Urban Rigger comprises nine recycled shipping containers arranged into housing, a common winter garden/courtyard, kayak landing point, bathing platform, BBQ area, and seating. There's a total of 680 sq m (7,319 sq ft) of floorspace available.

Inside, the container apartments look a lot more appealing to live in than many of the rundown student digs that dot our major cities. Electricity is produced by a roof-based solar array, while a heat exchanger system uses the seawater it floats on to efficiently heat and cool the interiors.

Brock Commons

Brock Commons, serves as an excellent example of the benefits of tall wood building
Brock Commons, serves as an excellent example of the benefits of tall wood building

The new student residence building at the University of British Columbia in Canada, Brock Commons, serves as an excellent example of tall wood building done right.

The environmentally-friendly and attractive student accommodation contains 33 four-bed units and 272 studios spread over 18 floors, housing a total of 404 residents. Structurally, it comprises 16 floors of cross laminated timber floor panels, in addition to a steel-framed roof, and concrete base and stairwells.

The building's attractive facade consists of prefabricated panels, which have the windows pre-installed. It rose remarkably quickly and, after finding their feet in the first week, the builders were able to progress at a rate of two or more floors per week (not including the concrete sections or steel roof), finishing the building's wooden structure ahead of schedule.

Brock Commons is designed to attain the LEED Gold certification green building standard once it's fully completed, which is slated for May, 2017.

Office of the Future

Dubai is at the cutting edge of 3D-printed architecture with its Office of the Future
Dubai is at the cutting edge of 3D-printed architecture with its Office of the Future

Having already positioned itself at the forefront of tall building design with the world's tallest skyscraper, the Burj Khalifa, Dubai is now at the cutting edge of 3D-printed architecture too, with its Office of the Future.

Hailed as the world's first 3D-printed office, the building takes up a footprint of 250 sq m (2,690 sq ft) within Dubai's Emirates Towers complex and will serve as a fully-functional office.

A very large 3D printer measuring 20 x 120 x 40 ft (6 x 36 x 12 m) constructed the office by extruding a cement mixture layer by layer. There were also some additional smaller mobile 3D-printers used, and the process took 17 days.

That completes our selection of this year's best buildings. Head to the gallery for a closer look at each of the projects.

2 comments
Walt Stawicki
100 years of plagarism was what I wanted to call a repost from Architect Orange. Mid Century common, early 20th century edge.....and it still sells for designer proces? well, like barnum said! And the shipping containers? must have been damn easy to find a use like student housing, what with the owrldwide glut after shipping at sea sank. At least they dont have to face copyright infringement from the prepers and backcoutry bikers who have re purposed them for gawd knows how long. but mostly it was the Cube with a beach view in Beiruit L. that really got me teed. have a nice life postmoderns.
ljaques
@Walt: +1 . I just don't get what people are enthused about with most of these buildings. Most are not very pretty (if not ugly), they waste space & materials, and most cost ten times more money than needed. If I heard that 40% of the skyscraper was recycled, I'd be hesitant to even walk -into- it. The reference to a finned podium was surely a reference to a finned lectern. <sigh> I'm mostly a conservative, but I can't help but think that if just a tenth of what was spent on these grandiose buildings was instead directed at the poor and homeless, that everyone in the world would have enough food to eat and a warm place to sleep at night, if they wanted it. Guess I'm getting (socially only) more liberal in my old age, but I've always been a liberally moderate conservative.