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The most eye catching architecture of the year.
Tracking a year of buildings is a daunting task.
In 2011, the wealth of new, exciting structures was simply overwhelming. Given preparations for the Olympics and Euro 2012, stadiums were sprouting up at rapid pace this year. "Starchitects" unveiled projects with equally frightening speed… most notably Zaha Hadid, who claimed (at long last) her true and lasting legend with a series of stunning buildings. And, most importantly, 2011 saw a continued interest in developing new environmentally friendly techniques and experimenting with new structures.
For year end review, we've simply pulled the coolest structures from around the world. Included are museums and super towers; sporting venues and affordable housing solutions; and a home fit for a Hobbit. Tying it all together, each pick shares an important trend in our contemporary architectural landscape.The Coolest Buildings of 2011.
Architect: Atelier 11
Location: Beijing, China
With the world gearing up for an Olympic Games (London) and a European Championship (for soccer, hosted by Poland and Ukraine), stadium porn was a regular part of our architecture watch in 2011. The Diamond Arena opened officially on September 25, playing host to the China Open 2011. Designed by Atelier 11, the facility seats 15,000 and is fitted with the largest collapsible steel roof in Asia (it takes 12 minutes to open). Other notable features include a circular observation deck which allows visitors full view of the neighboring Olympic Park.
Architect: Jarmund/Vigsnæs Arkitekter
Location: Thorpeness, Sussex, England
Designed by Jarmund/Vigsnæs Arkitekter, the Dune House sits along the seaside in Thorpeness, Sussex, England. The building is an exercise in contrast, with the upper floors matching typical English beach architecture and the bottom floor constructed of concrete and glass to allow for sweeping views. The idea is to marry a contemporary approach to beach architecture with a romantic notion of seaside vacations and the quaint bed and breakfast. The building manages this goal with great aplomb, and as such lands on our list of coolest buildings of 2011.
Architect: Simon Dale
Not every building that caught our attention in 2011 was, by strict definition, "great architecture." For example, Simon Dale's eco-friendly house in Wales was too charming to avoid. This Welshmen built a proper real life Hobbit home (sourced with local materials) for just £3000. Environmentally friendly — there is basically no impact to the local landscape — the house serves as the Dale family home.
Architect: A+E Design
Location: Huaxi, Jiangsu Province, East China
Located not-so-inconspicuously in China's richest village, this tower rose to international fame in 2011. The building is the 15th tallest in the world and features a massive glass sphere on the top (and a $45m golden ox on the 60th floor). Certainly not an architectural gem. Definitely one of the coolest (or oddest) buildings completed during 2011.
Location: Hjerkinn on the outskirts of Dovrefjell National Park, Norway
Built of a rigid outer core, the Norwegian Wild Reindeer Centre Pavilion found home in the heats of critics through the magnificent timber interior. With sinuous curves, the organic seating area (complete with hanging fire pit) is a triumph of advanced manufacture and a perfect balance with the local environment.
Architect: Frank Gehry
Location: New York, NY
In March, Frank Gehry's first residential structure opened in Lower Manhattan. Formally known as the Beekman Tower, and otherwise known as New York By Gehry, the building boasts the architect's trademark visual language, undulating to successfully reinterpret the traditional look of a tower. At 870 feet tall, New York by Gehry is tallest residential structure in the western hemisphere. Pretty cool for that fact alone.
Architect: Building Studio
Location: New Orleans
Building Studio, an architectural firm in New Orleans, battles the issue of design led affordable housing with their Alligator House. Running shotgun-style, the home boasts two bedrooms and one-and-a-half baths. Despite sitting on a narrow lot, the Alligator House manages light and airy space... and keeps to neighborhood tradition of having a fine front stoop.
Unquestionably the coolest affordable housing design we saw in 2011.
Architect: Daniel Libeskind
Location: Dresden, Germany
In 2011, architect Daniel Libeskind aggressively innovative design for the Military History Museum in Dresden, Germany drove a glass and steel shard through the existing building (which had been closed for 22 years). In doing so, Libeskind created a striking new monument and made the institution the largest museum in Germany. The intent was to be a bit violent, jar emotion, and set a distinct tone for the Military History Museum. It worked.
Architect: Steven Holl
Location: Biarritz, France
Designed by Steven Holl Architects, the Cité de l'Océan et du Surf Museum in Biarritz, France is totally awesome. The institution serves to explore the connection of surfing to environmental issues, and the building serves as a communal hub with outstanding outdoor sections. You'll notice the skate park like curves... which, you should agree, are superb
Architect: Zaha Hadid
Zaha Hadid's London Aquatics Center 2012 will host all aquatic sports for the 2012 Olympics.
2011 was the year of Hadid — the architect won Stirling Prize for the Evelyn Grace Academy in Brixton and completed the brilliant Riverside Museum in Glasgow (and so much more) — and the Aquatics Center ranks as the coolest. Blame our bias for spectacle and international sporting events, or our fetishistic love of curves, in the end few venues manage to blend interior and exterior so brilliantly.
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