2017 in architecture – a review

This year has been a wonderful one for architecture, with many innovative designs from the world’s most talented architects.


2017 prizes and awards

Each year, awards are given for the best architecture. The RIBA Stirling Prize for the best building in the UK went to Hastings Pier by dRMM architects. This was widely considered a wreck until the local community instigated a restoration project. The new pier is notable for its extensive use of natural wood both for the pier deck and the buildings built on it

The Arch Daily prize for the building of the year, which is chosen by its readers, went to Capillo San Bernado by architect Nicolás Campodonico. This unusually shaped chapel features curved surfaces built from exposed brick both inside and outside.

The International Design and Architecture Awards awarded its Overall Development prize to the White House by 3DS architects, a modern home in Surrey. Built around an open plan space, this building is designed to complement a series of surrounding gardens. A large house, it is eco-friendly with its insulating render finish and a hybrid heating system with air to source heat pumps that provide the energy for the underfloor heating.

The winners and shortlist candidates for the major 2017 architecture awards feature a number of trends that have become popular in 2017 – most notably invisible buildings, exposed brick, smart homes, shared spaces and eco-friendly designs.

Invisible buildings

A totally invisible building may not be possible unless it is built underground, but many buildings are being designed to blend in with their surroundings.

The Avenue Leclerc Office Building by architects AZC in France is constructed mainly from extra transparent glass. This gives the appearance of the building having no walls.

Some buildings are constructed using mirrored glass that reflects the surrounding environment, giving the impression that the building is almost invisible.

Wood and brick

Many buildings completed in 2017 feature the traditional materials of wood and brick, but used in imaginative ways.

Hastings Pier is an example of the extensive use of natural wood. Entire buildings can be made from wood, or it can be used on the interiors. Wood from sustainable forests is an eco-friendly material and, unlike concrete, it is light and easy to cut or drill.

In 2017, architects Waugh Thistleton constructed an apartment complex in Dalston, London using cross laminated timber (CLT) to make the building one of the tallest in the world to use engineered wood. Although the external walls are clad in brick and look like a conventional building, the frame, party walls, ceilings, stairs and lift core are all made from wood. The building aims to be carbon neutral in line with the growing trend of eco-friendly architecture.

Exposed brick used to be a feature of crumbling rundown buildings, but as the Capillo San Bernado has shown, it can be used as an effective feature of modern buildings. Rustic, faded bricks invoke feelings of nostalgia. Although most people welcome technology, they often want their buildings to refer back to an earlier era before smartphones and computers.

Eco-friendly buildings

Global warming has focused architects on creating buildings with the environment in mind. Sustainable materials such as wood are increasingly being used as construction materials. Renewable energy, in the form of wind power and solar panels, is being used to power many 2017 built houses. Improvements in insulation technology mean that less energy is required in eco-friendly buildings too.

To cut electricity consumption, many buildings use natural light sources to keep indoor lighting to a minimum.

Masdar City in Abu Dhabi, is claimed to be the world’s most energy efficient city and aims to be carbon neutral, relying mainly on clean solar energy. Though much of the city has already been built, there are still plenty of new buildings currently under construction. The Masdar Institute Neighborhood project is expected to be completed in 2020. This mixed residential office and retail development will include a driverless transport network.

Smart houses

Smart devices such as the Amazon Alexxa are becoming popular items in today’s homes. Alexxa is a voice controlled device that can be used to switch on lighting, heating and household appliances. It also plays music and looks up information on the internet.

Homes are being designed with smart devices being an integral part of their construction or refurbishment. An example is the East Sussex home of Gigi Sutherland and Matt Sellers. This features concealed speakers and sensors. The heating is controlled remotely and switched on when the couple is on their way home. A 3D projector slides down from the ceiling at the touch of a button.

Motion sensors and cameras provide security. When treading on the outside decking, motion sensors switch on lights. All plug sockets include USB chargers for phones, tablets and other devices, and all rooms have hidden speakers that play music controlled by a smartphone app.

Space sharing

Because of changing lifestyles, space sharing is a popular trend in 2017. Many freelance workers or startup companies do not want to commit to long office leases. Shared office spaces cater for people who want to rent desk space on a temporary basis, or even for just a few hours. Shared office buildings have facilities such as Wi-Fi, cafes, gym areas and meeting rooms that all users share. Shared offices provide a traditional network of co-workers, but most will not work for the same company.

There is also a trend for co-living areas. These are similar to purpose-built student blocks, with tenants having an en suite bedroom, but sharing facilities such as kitchens, lounges, washing machine rooms, and recreation areas. Some include energy charges as part of a fixed monthly rent, and others have cleaning services.

Entrepreneur training

An architectural practice is a business. Some architecture courses have added entrepreneurship modules to their 2017 architecture courses. These are designed to make it easier for new architects to get their designs made by teaching the best ways to pitch their ideas to investors.

It’s certainly the case that 2017 has seen some exciting developments in architecture, much of it fuelled by changing lifestyles.

Posted by Mark
December 15, 2017

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