This year’s biggest architectural projects blur the boundary between buildings and art like never before.
The grandest of architectural undertakings are complex long-term projects that can sometimes take over a decade to build, even with modern technology. Considering how quickly things move these days, it’s all the more incredible when a building manages to look cutting-edge by the time it reaches completion.
In 2018, more than a few disruptive structures will be unveiled with creative concepts and futuristic forms, spearheaded by eminent architectural firms like Foster + Partners and Zaha Hadid Architects. Even the ancient pyramids at Giza are getting a contemporary addition in 2018, with the opening of the $1 billion Grand Egyptian Museum.
Like any art form, architecture is an expressive medium, and many of today’s buildings are not only environmentally sustainable but actively comment on the environment.
Many of the most spectacular projects are sprouting in China, whose flourishing cities are busy competing to cement their significance with epic buildings. Macau is this year’s architectural hotspot thanks to the completion of the 55-kilometer Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macau Bridge, an engineering marvel that will bring Hong Kong and Mainland China residents flooding into the gaming and entertainment capital. They are being welcomed with contemplative and curvy new buildings, like Apple Central Cotai by Foster + Partners and The Morpheus Hotel by Zaha Hadid.
Like any art form, architecture is an expressive medium, and many of today’s buildings are not only environmentally sustainable but actively comment on the environment, such as with the Coralarium in the Maldives, a gallery built in the sea to highlight the impact of rising sea levels. There’s also Stefano Boeri Architects’ Nanjing Vertical Forest, which uses a skyscraper as a foundation for a vertical forest built into the sky.
There’s no doubt it’s an exciting time to for architecture. Here are a few of 2018’s highlights:
Apple Central Cotai
The result of a partnership between architectural giant Foster + Partners and tech giant Apple, this project invokes both Asian serenity and Apple’s sleek, minimalist aesthetic. Apple Cotai Central is a futuristic, luminescent white cube incorporating a harmonious bamboo grove. An oasis of tranquility in the bustling center of Macau, this white stone structure fosters a sense of calmness, completed by a large central skylight that radiates light over the lush bamboo below. The building resembles a glowing paper lantern, with a glass-stone composite façade that shimmers in the daylight and emits a warm glow at night.
The Morpheus Hotel
Appearing like something out of dream, the Morpheus is fittingly part of Macau’s entertainment resort known as the City of Dreams. Another Macau super-project, The Morpheus Hotel is a mesh of organic-looking glass and metal. Built by the firm of Iraqi-British starchitect Zaha Hadid, who passed in 2016, this mind-boggling project is the world’s first free-form high-rise exoskeleton, incorporating a structural geometric grid that negates the need for internal walls or columns. Challenging the idea of what a building is, this 40-story structure is oriented around a hollow core, with a design inspired by Chinese jade carvings. The hotel’s restaurant, lounges, and bar are located on bridges running through the central void, and there are also views of the interior from its 12 glass elevators.
Grand Egyptian Museum
Adding to one of mankind’s greatest achievements is no easy task, but Heneghan Peng Architects have completed the first phase of the long-awaited Grand Egyptian Museum, set to open this year. A veil of translucent stone blends the building into the surrounding sands, perching on the edge of a desert plateau between the pyramids and Cairo. The building utilizes subtle cues to invoke its ancient neighbors, with a shaded entrance area and a grand staircase evoking their monumental stature and a geometric triangular pattern on the walls echoing their shape. At 5.2 million square feet, this building will be the largest museum in the world dedicated to one civilization, providing much-needed space for the extensive collections of artifacts in Cairo’s Egyptian Museum.
The Coralarium is both a building and a sculpture, a gallery and a work of art, a monument and a conservation project. Created by sculptor Jason Decaires Taylor, this intertidal underwater art museum submerged in the Indian Ocean, off of the Fairmont Maldives Sirru Fen Fushi, is both a tidal gallery space and a coral regeneration project. Explorable only by swimming, visitors can watch fish frolicking in and around half-submerged human figures, which serve as a reminder of the perils of global warming. Made out of reflective stainless steel, the structure takes on the hues of its background as the sun shifts, appearing like a mirage on the ocean surface.
Nanjing Vertical Forest
What if a building was not only green in the eco-friendly sense of the word, but literally turned into a forest? Italian firm Stefano Boeri Architects has already built one of its vertical forests in Milan, and is now bringing the concept to the polluted city of Nanjing in China. It is a marvel of modern eco-engineering, incorporating 1,100 trees from local species, plus 2,500 cascading plants and shrubs. The two-towered development will have offices, a Hyatt hotel, and a green architecture school, while its trees work to produce 60 kg of oxygen per day, absorbing 25 tons of carbon dioxide each year.
One of the world’s most beloved museums, London’s Victoria and Albert Museum is known for its innovative, genre-crossing exhibitions. Now, Scotland gets its own version, the Dundee V&A Museum of Design, constructed by the Japanese architectural firm Kengo Kuma & Associates. Located along the River Tay waterfront, the building is made entirely of stone panels incorporated into curved concrete walls. Reminiscent of a rocky cliff jutting out into the sea, it has a soft, organic feel, seamlessly blending with the surrounding waters for a meditative effect. The roughly 86,000-square-foot building is environmentally harmonious, with a geothermal energy renewable energy system built into its design.
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