architecture

Some of the most "show-stopping" buildings of 2021

Updated 30th November 2021
Credit: Ni Nan/Chapel of Sound/Courtesy of Architectural Digest
Some of the most "show-stopping" buildings of 2021
Written by Jacqui Palumbo, CNN
A striking steel tower inspired by Van Gogh's brushstrokes. A cozy 3D-printed home made from the surrounding soil. An airy gallery outpost on its own island. These are some of the new buildings and renovations deemed the "most show-stopping" of the year by Architectural Digest.
The magazine has selected 20 groundbreaking projects for its new Works of Wonder, or WOW for short, List, which will be featured alongside the AD100, an annual index of architecture and design talent. For the January issue -- the magazine's first global issue -- AD editors from around the world sat down together virtually to anoint the most important architectural leaders and projects of the year.
The WOW List is part of Architectural Digest's first global issue and was selected by AD editors from around the world.
The WOW List is part of Architectural Digest's first global issue and was selected by AD editors from around the world. Credit: Courtesy of Architectural Digest
"Collaboration has always been integral to AD, so officially joining forces with our international network of editors was a natural next step," said Amy Astley, AD's global editorial director and US editor in chief, over email.
The projects on the inaugural list include the otherworldly Shanghai Astronomy Museum by Ennead Architects, and the unconventional, looping Museum of the Future in Dubai by Killa Design. But the selected buildings aren't just new structures built from scratch: The mega gallery Hauser & Wirth earned a spot on the list for its new 16,000-square-foot space on the Isla del Rey in Menorca, Spain, which was converted from a decommissioned naval hospital. Luis Laplace was in charge of restoring the buildings, which date back to the 18th century, while Piet Oudolf overhauled the surrounding landscape with native plants.
Hauser & Wirth's new island gallery outpost "has attracted a lot of artists and art lovers that are moving to the island," according to AD Spain editorial head Maite Sebastia.
Hauser & Wirth's new island gallery outpost "has attracted a lot of artists and art lovers that are moving to the island," according to AD Spain editorial head Maite Sebastia. Credit: Stefan Altenburger/Courtesy of Architectural Digest
Maite Sebastia, head of editorial content for AD Spain, says the gallery "is an example of what architecture projects should be in the future....it reveals the collaborative way of making architecture now, with the presence of local artists and local talent, environmentally respectful with local species and with historical context."
The WOW List includes projects by starchitects as well as rising studios from the past decade. In Arles, France, the editors chose Frank Gehry's Luma Tower, a concrete edifice outfitted on one side with 11,000 rippling stainless-steel panels meant to evoke the painterly brushstroke of Vincent van Gogh's "Starry Night," which was painted nearby over 130 years ago. As the light changes during the day, the facade reflects the vibrant hues of the sky. "It's a work of art housing one of the world's most outstanding art collections...(The tower is) the widely visible heart of a new 27-acre art district," said Oliver Jahn, the deputy global editorial director of AD. "Once again Gehry has composed far more than a mere building but a spectacular landmark and one of 2021's most iconic architectural feats."
Frank Gehry's new tower in Arles, France was inspired by the swirls of Van Gogh's "Starry Night."
Frank Gehry's new tower in Arles, France was inspired by the swirls of Van Gogh's "Starry Night." Credit: Iwan Baan for LUMA Arles/Courtesy of Architectural Digest
Meanwhile, northeast of Beijing, the meditative Chapel of Sound by husband-and-wife team Open Architecture was selected for how it coexists rather than stands out. Li Hu and Huang Wenjing designed the layered concert hall to look as if it was a natural part of the encircling valley. Inside, the structure opens to the sky. "Chapel of Sound introduces light and shadow, sound and silence and most importantly, it coexists with its surrounding nature," said Beryl Hsu, the editor in chief of AD China. "In China, rapid development has triggered numerous landmark architectures, among which, Chapel of Sound serves the purpose. But far more than that, it shows man-made architecture's existence among nature and provides a poetic way of living."
The full list of AD's Works of Wonder can be seen here.
Top image: Chapel of Sound by Open Architecture