10 Striking Architecture Projects that Shaped the World of Design in 2021

Written by: Perihan El Etreby

Date: 2022-01-10

Between the resumption of construction sites and big inaugurations, architecture finally breathed again this year, at least partially, after months of immobility. In fact, major new cultural institutions, many of which were designed by internationally recognized architectural firms, were ultimately opened to the public in 2021.

Between the resumption of construction sites and big inaugurations, architecture finally breathed again this year, at least partially, after months of immobility. In fact, major new cultural institutions, many of which were designed by internationally recognized architectural firms, were ultimately opened to the public in 2021.

After a period of global exigency, architectural practice returns to its concreteness, balancing plastic volumes with unique materiality. As a result, we've gathered the most remarkable projects of 2021 from all over the world.


1- Las Americas Social Housing by SO – IL, León, Mexico

Dense. Sustainable. Affordable. Stylish. In the rapidly developing Mexican city of León, a six-storey social housing complex by New York-based architects SO – IL offers an exceptionally thoughtful and holistic solution to the country’s acute urban housing shortage. The design features a unique concrete brick designed in partnership with local Mexican fabricators to integrate abundant retail, landscaping, and outdoor community space into a naturally ventilated structure.

For privacy reasons, no two apartments face each other, echoing the traditional home's sense of solitude. The units are positioned in a single-loaded corridor that faces the courtyard and provides views out to the neighborhood, giving residents a sense of privacy.

A facade made up of specially designed concrete blocks improves privacy and shade, creates a unique interior ambiance, and gives the building individuality. To accommodate an extremely low budget, the project is constructed with common utility cores and prefabricated components.


2- Wormhole Library by MAD Architects, Haikou, China

Wormholes have recently become slangily connected with the Internet, therefore it's great to see the notion adapted for a library – the original attention-grabber! But what kind of a wormhole will this library will turn out to be?

 The voluptuously curved, 1,380-square-metre facility, designed by MAD Architects as part of the Chinese city of Haikou's coastline rejuvenation plan, sits dramatically on the South China Sea's shore, its sinuous white-concrete structure cast with both a CNC and a 3D printed model to ensure seamlessness. Holes of various sizes penetrate the building to allow the architecture to breathe, allowing natural light to flood the interior. Visitors can take a break and rest in the shade along the exterior passageways.


3- House of Hungarian Music, Budapest, Hungary, Sou Fujimoto Architects

The House of Hungarian Music will be a venue for concerts and exhibitions, and will have a stunning roof with various punctuations as part of Europe's largest cultural urban development, the Liget Project, which includes five new museums in the center of Budapest's City Park.

The building's main architectural feature is its white roof, pierced by nearly 100 holes that allow the park's trees to grow through or serve as lightwells, illuminating the interior. Two performance venues will be located on the bottom floor, while classrooms, a library, and office spaces will be located on the top storey. The two levels above ground will be connected by a spiral staircase. The exhibition galleries in the underground levels will focus on European music history, with a particular focus on the Hungarian legacy. Renewable energy sources will be used to power the structure.


4- Infinitus Plaza by Zaha Hadid Architects (Zha)

Infinitus Plaza is the new global headquarters of Infinitus China. Incorporating work environments designed to nurture connectivity, creativity and entrepreneurship, the new headquarters also includes the group’s herbal medicine research facilities and safety assessment labs as well as a learning center for conferences and exhibitions.

Inspired by the shape of the infinity symbol, Zaha Hadid Architects built two unique yet related buildings for Infinitus Plaza. Perforated metal panels, turned to allow light in, are used to finish both buildings. The project's interior examines dynamic workspaces that inspire individuals to collaborate. The bridges connect the buildings' offices to auxiliary shopping and dining areas while also containing adaptable communal spaces such as a gym and exercise rooms, recreation and relaxation zones, as well as a restaurant and café, all of which contribute to the project's goal of improving employee wellness and productivity.


5- Sunac Guangzhou Grand Theatre by Steven Chilton Architects

The Sunac Guangzhou Grand Theatre by Steven Chilton Architects hits the criteria if you're searching for bright hues in our roundup of 2021 architecture. The architects were influenced by the Silk Road's history as well as Guangzhou's present tattoo culture. These concerns led the designers to create a dynamic form with delicate curves that resemble silk folds. The theatre is encased in bright red panels with images based on Zhang Hongfei's work.

As part of a collection of entertainment venues being positioned in the city's Huadu District, the facility will feature performances by visiting production groups. "Tattoo culture has recently risen to popularity as a recognized artistic medium, fueled by a younger generation's embrace of it as an expression of individuality," Chilton said.


6- Terra—The Sustainability Pavilion Dubai Expo 2020 by Grimshaw Architects

Dubai Expo 2020 was an evident showpiece of 2021 architecture. Designers, artists, and architects got together this year to create stunning pavilions after the festival was postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Grimshaw's Terra—The Sustainability Pavilion was one of the most daring concepts of the show. Terra, which is located in the Expo's sustainability sector, is a permanent structure that will be used long after the other temporary structures have been removed. A gigantic "energy tree" clad with solar panels and composed of 97 percent recyclable steel stands in the center. Smaller trees surround the primary energy tree, all contributing to the pavilion's ability to create all of the electricity and water it requires.


7- Little Island by Heatherwick Studio, New York City, USA

After a seven-year saga of starts and stops, New York’s controversial “Little Island” (formerly known as Pier 55) is finally edging towards a spring completion. Designed by Thomas Heatherwick in collaboration with Mathews Nielsen Landscape Architects, the landscape rising from the Hudson River is one of the most anticipated projects in the world. And, however you feel about the polarizing Heatherwick, it’s pretty extraordinary.

Comprised of 132 mushroom-shaped concrete pots supported on concrete columns of various heights – resulting in a range of elevations from 4.5 to 19 meters – the staggered topography will be home to 100 species of trees and plants. It also promises various types of experiences (even if some will be postponed in light of the pandemic), with its three outdoor performance spaces, including an 800-seat amphitheater, and multiple viewing platforms.


8- A Gym Under Impressive Bamboo Arches in Bali

The tension and balance of the arch forms a beautiful bamboo structure at the Green School in Bali, in the heart of the Ayung River Valley. The school was developed and built in 2008 by a Canadian couple in collaboration with master artisans, architects, permaculturists, and philosophers with the goal of building a comprehensive school that could impart an ecological education through learning in the center of nature.

The school has been enlarged with a new structure dedicated to games and sports, created by IBUKU, a Balinese studio that had previously developed other structures and pavilions on campus, in partnership with design conceptor, Jorg Stamm; and Atelier One engineer, Neil Thomas.

The architects' idea was to design a structure that was as light as possible while still offering plenty of space, which naturally led to bamboo as the favored building material.


9- Floating Music Hub in Cape Verde by NLÉ Works

A floating music venue in Cape Verde, on the northern shore of the island of So Vicente, has been softly bobbling to African rhythms since its launch in August 2021. Three A-shaped vessels with multicolored glazing anchor around a triangular floating plaza in the center of the hub. Visitors may take in the rich musical legacy of the tiny West African island nation while standing in the Atlantic Ocean breeze.

The Nigerian architect Kunlé Adeyemi of NLÉ Works, in collaboration with ADS Group – Africa Development Solutions, created this one-of-a-kind cultural hub. Floating Music Hub is presently supporting music, dance, art, and other creative sectors in Africa and the diaspora, thanks to its state-of-the-art performance hall and recording studio.

“Cape Verde was historically one of the last points of departure from Africa during the transatlantic slave trade, leading to the births of great new genres of music. It tells a story about that journey and history of African people and their diaspora,” says Adeyemi, about the inspiration behind his project.


10- Hermès Atelier in France by Lina Ghotmeh

Hermès, which began in the 19th century as a manufacturer of equestrian harnesses and bridles, has long been regarded as one of the world's most desired luxury labels.

Hermès executives sought a new leather studio with a nod to the brand's enthusiasm for horses and exceptional craftsmanship, despite the fact that the brand's product range has significantly expanded. The outcome was the Hermès Atelier, which is now located in Normandy and was designed by Lina Ghotmeh, a Lebanese-born architect residing in Paris. Through the sweeping arches that create its frame, the single-line brick building embodies movement and conjures the gallop of a horse.

Because of its energy generation, the building is carbon positive. As a result, Hermès is the first high-end French brand to have a positive environmental impact.

Suggested Articles