Tag Archives: Architecture

Focus: Catch Nature in a Frame, Taipei

Beitou District is the northernmost of Taipei’s 12 city districts, and also its highest and most mountainous. Utilized by the Japanese for sulphur extraction and the health benefits of the hot spring waters during their rule of Taiwan at the turn of the 20th century, today the area is home to some of the most popular and luxurious spa resorts on the island.

The aptly named Catch Nature in a Frame, a residential project headed by Ryan Kuo, founder and art director of Taoyuan-based studio, Clearspace Design & Research, is nestled in one of Beitou’s many tree-filled valleys. The project is not Kuo’s first for this client: he has been working with the family—a married couple with two college aged children—for around five years, and in this time has designed a total of five residences for them. Catch Nature in a Frame is the second of such projects; the first residence, the family home proper, is located right next door, and three other apartment projects are in Taipei City.

Alternative view of the first floor entrance, with a view to the extensive garden in the background. The garden is created and maintained by the owners.

Alternative view of the first floor entrance, with a view to the extensive garden in the background. The garden is created and maintained by the owners.

Part retreat and part guesthouse, the owner, planning to attempt the renovation work himself, finished the demolition of the site’s original 30-year-old house in late 2012. With the first floor entirely demolished and only the basement level remaining, he quickly realised the immensity of the task ahead and decided to abandon his original plans, and recruit Kuo and Clearspace to the remodelling task.

Government restrictions on hillside construction work in Taipei meant Kuo had to stay within the footprint of the original building, and the finished residence, completed in mid-2013, remained a single-storied structure with a functional basement. At the request of the client, the downstairs natatorium was saved, only to be later remodelled into an open-air swimming pool.

The wooden shelving in the first floor kitchen is designed by Ryan Kuo. View of the kitchen on the first floor.

The wooden shelving in the first floor kitchen is designed by Ryan Kuo. View of the kitchen on the first floor.

Nature is a recurring theme across all of the projects coming out of Clearspace Design & Research. “I try to bring the outside in, all those natural, simple materials like stone, like wood, like water,” explains Kuo. “I’m not interested in iconographic representations of these elements; I want to bring them into the space in a more conceptual way.” Given that gardening is a passion for the owners of Catch Nature in a Frame, and that easy access to a ground floor garden as well as a lot of sunshine and natural light featured in the client request list, the project presented Kuo with an unprecedented opportunity to focus on the urban outdoors. As he notes, “large gardens are a rare sight in Taipei.”

The open plan design of the first floor allows the residents the a direct connection to the surrounding nature, as well as utilising natural light for lighting during the daytime. The teak furniture and screens are custom designed by Ryan Kuo and manufactured in collaboration with local Taiwanese craftsmen. To save money and to reuse existing resources, the designer used marble offcuts, a by-product of the local stone processing industry.

The open plan design of the first floor allows the residents the a direct connection to the surrounding nature, as well as utilising natural light for lighting during the daytime. The teak furniture and screens are custom designed by Ryan Kuo and manufactured in collaboration with local Taiwanese craftsmen. To save money and to reuse existing resources, the designer used marble offcuts, a by-product of the local stone processing industry.

Sub-tropical Taiwan experiences temperatures in the high 30s in summer, and city residents often run their air-conditioners around the clock in the height of the season. To reduce the need for powered cooling, Kuo installed a slatted wooden awning above the first floor veranda. Working in conjunction with the shade created by the large trees that line the periphery of the property, the feature ensures direct sunlight (and the heat it generates) only affects the inside of the house for around 20 minutes each day. The large concertina doors that open onto the veranda, and a spacious lawn and sculpted garden mean that though direct sunlight is not a problem, natural light still penetrates, reducing the need for interior lighting during the day.

The slatted design is repeated in other parts of the house, such as in an exterior wall next to the front entrance, again letting dappled sunshine and natural light into the space without the heat. Above the veranda, the wooden slats are topped with glass, meaning the outdoor space can be enjoyed even during rainy days. On the flat rooftop, circular paving supports under stone tiles ensure easy drainage for water run-off and naturally regulate the temperature inside the residence, further reducing the need for air-conditioning. In adherence to the clients’ request, the rooftop also doubles as additional garden space, and today is adorned with plants. By keeping the pool at basement level, the water naturally stays cooler and evaporation is reduced, meaning the pool does not need to be refilled as often. The area of the pool open to the sky also reflects natural light into what would be an otherwise dark basement level, again reducing interior lighting requirements.

Water reflects off the basement-level pool, flooding a once dark downstairs space with natural light. Left The far wall of the basement level, which backs onto the hillside, is finished with ceramic tile to protect from the soil behind it. The TV stand and back wall are custom designed by Ryan Kuo from teak.

Water reflects off the basement-level pool, flooding a once dark downstairs space with natural light. Left The far wall of the basement level, which backs onto the hillside, is finished with ceramic tile to protect from the soil behind it. The TV stand and back wall are custom designed by Ryan Kuo from teak.

Wherever possible, materials for the project were sourced locally. This includes the marble for the interior and exterior columns, and the pebble-inlaid concrete walls, which also feature both inside and out. The stone, known locally as yilan shi, was sourced from nearby Yilan, reducing both monetary and environmental transport costs. For the columns, Kuo chose to use marble offcuts, a by-product of the marble processing industry; where each block of stone is cut into uniform blocks, there are inevitably odd-shaped pieces left over. These natural materials are also porous, helping to control internal humidity that is an inevitable feature of the often overwhelmingly damp Taiwanese climate in a way that the more popular ceramic tiles cannot.

Custom fixtures in the bathroom serve to remind visitor and resident alike where the water they are using to wash their hands comes from. Custom fixtures in the bathroom serve to remind visitor and resident alike where the water they are using to wash their hands comes from.

Custom fixtures in the bathroom serve to remind visitor and resident alike where the water they are using to wash their hands comes from. Custom fixtures in the bathroom serve to remind visitor and resident alike where the water they are using to wash their hands comes from.

The furniture, panelling, shelving, and cabinetry that feature throughout the house was designed by Kuo and custom-produced in partnership with local craftsmen using recycled teak, with the remaining furniture mostly sourced from B&B Italia. Touches of the old house remain: a wall light next to the mirror in the downstairs poolside bathroom was saved from demolition and re-installed. “It’s a good way to remind us of the former life of the house, the story behind the house,” Kuo says. “We’ll have a little bit more respect for the place because of it.” A sustainable mentality is even built into the design of fittings. For example, the first floor bathroom features a set of sinks and taps custom-designed by Kuo to constantly remind the user of water sources–one faucet plunges downward from the ceiling, representing water raining down from the sky, while another resembles a waterfall, with water cascading down its steps and into a lagoon-like handbasin.

Despite its open appearance, the hot tub area is entirely private. Located in the basement underneath the first level garden, it is sheltered by the trees of the surrounding mountainside. The basement level at night.

Despite its open appearance, the hot tub area is entirely private. Located in the basement underneath the first level garden, it is sheltered by the trees of the surrounding mountainside. The basement level at night.

Ryan Kuo is a latecomer to the architecture and interior design fields. He holds an undergraduate degree in graphic design, and worked in advertising for eight years before heading back to National Taipei University of Technology to study architecture and urban design at master’s level. Upon graduation, he founded Clearspace Design & Research, a practice he has headed for the past seven years. A delayed start, it seems, at least in Kuo’s case, is not always detrimental. In less than a decade, he has managed to amass a huge number of international awards for his design work, recognition from Germany’s iF, the A’ Design Award and Competition in Italy, Successful Design and the Jintang Prize in China, IDA’s International Design Awards, and Taiwan’s prestigious Golden Pin Design Award among them. “When it comes to incorporating sustainable design concepts into the renovation of a building, you need to consider not only the materials used, but also the surrounding environment,” notes Kuo. “I might focus on interior design and renovation, but many of my ideas come from sustainable architecture.” 

The basement level at night

The basement level at night

Story Credits

Text by Nicole Keats

Images by Clearspace Design & Research

This story first appeared in Form magazine.

Architect Zaha Hadid Passes Away at 65

The visionary behind the London Aquatics center and the Guangzhou Opera House, was 65 when she passed away in Miami yesterday, March 31. She had been in hospital to be treated for bronchitis when she suffered a heart attack.

Born in Bhagdad in 1950, she moved to London at the age of 22 and went on to be the first woman to be awarded the Pritzker Architecture Prize. Along with this, she won Britain’s most prestigious architecture award twice and the RIBA Stirling Prize in both 2010 and 2011. A year later, Queen Elizabeth II made her a Dame.

Her achievements did not stop there. Earlier this year, the award winning architect, made history once again for becoming the first woman to receive the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) Gold Medal. At the award ceremony, fellow architect Peter Cook described Hadid to be ‘larger than life, bold as brass’. Her work, known for its sweeping curves, can be seen across around the globe.

Interview: Architect and Designer Piero Lissoni

Piero Lissoni is world renowned for his pared down interiors and furnishings. Now the designer is bringing his understated touch to the Ritz Carlton Residences, Miami Beach.

Piero Lissoni is often regarded as a minimalist designer. But, schooled in the Italian tradition of all-inclusive design, the Milanese designer also appears to thrive on complexity. From architecture to graphics to furniture to lighting fixtures his studio has built everything from private villas to corporate headquarters to hotels and yachts. His minimal aesthetic is the result, he has said, of the desire to “create a harmonious blend of different styles by cultivating the art of understatement.”

Villa living room at The Ritz Carlton Residences, Miami

Villa living room at The Ritz Carlton Residences, Miami

Understatement is often under-represented in the world of high-end design, as is a focused, uncluttered approach in a global cultural that is increasingly defined by distraction. In Lissoni’s studio, television and electronics are kept to a minimum. Instead the space is adorned with books, flowers and a gallery of items. He calls his studio “a playground with 71 children.” But however playful, these children must also be cultured in languages beyond design. “If you work for me you must be humanistic,” Lissoni states. “You better know Faulkner, Dante and Shakespeare. You must connect with cultures and speak several languages.”

Sensitivity to culture, history and place runs through many of Lissoni’s designs. At the Mamilla Hotel in Jerusalem, designed by Moshe Safdie, Lissoni’s pared down interiors frame the traditional architecture. Rough-faced masonry walls are met by walls of the same material but rendered in smooth blocks. In the vast reception areas he selected minimalist furnishings including green chairs from Living Divani and a white table by Kartell. In the hotel rooms, sheer curtains allow enough light to filter in to offset the black metal headboards, while the wood floors and bright stone walls give the rooms a calming, natural feel. The lamps, custom-made by Light Contract and Flos, sit on original side tables by Porro. “Mamilla wants to express harmony with a solution that brings modernity and high class in a soft way, respecting the local traditions,” Lissoni says.

Hotel Mare Pineta

Hotel Mare Pineta

Harmony between tradition and modernity is also evident at Hotel Mare de Pineta, a recent project along Italy’s Adriatic. Lissoni added a new wing and 16 rooms to the 1920s hotel, one of the region’s most exclusive, in the form of two overlapping volumes originally occupied by the building’s terrace. Inside he created a clean canvas of white walls with teak, bronze and glass. Outside on the roof, which is visible from the upper floors of the historic core, he created a roof garden complete with boxes in the grass, river pebbles and geometric patterns in teak.

After graduating from the Milan Polytechnic with a degree in architecture in 1978, he went on to work as an Art Director and Designer at Boffi. In 1986 he founded the firm Lissoni Associates with Nicoletta Canesi and today his studio works on all aspects of architecture, interiors, industrial design and graphics projects. His exhaustive list of furniture clients reads like a luxury showroom catalogue and includes Alessi, Boffi, Cappellini, Cassina, Desalto, Fantini, Flos, Fritz Hansen, Glas Italia, Kartell, Knoll, Living Divani and Porro. Recent architectural projects include the Grand Hotel Billia and the Parc Hotel Billia in Saint Vincent, the Conservatorium Hotel in Amsterdam, the Mamilla Hotel in Jerusalem, the Mitsui Garden Hotel in Tokyo and the interior design of the Hotel Monaco & Grand Canal Hotel in Venice.

Traditional Architecture - The Mamilla Hotel, Jerusalem

Traditional Architecture – The Mamilla Hotel, Jerusalem

Today, the studio has projects underway in the UAE, South Korea, Shanghai (for Swire Hotels Group) and Miami where Lissoni is designing a complex of condos and villas for The Ritz-Carlton Residences Miami Beach. Developed by Lionheart Capital, the waterfront development is located on seven acres facing a lagoon and will feature 111 condominiums and 15 villas, as well as 36 private boat dockages. Prices range from $2 million to $40 million.

Bedroom Suite - The Mamilla Hotel, Jerusalem

Bedroom Suite – The Mamilla Hotel, Jerusalem

Lissoni says Miami reminds him of Portofino — the Italian vacation resort famous for its picturesque harbor and its historical association with artists and celebrities. “In Miami, similar to a European seaside town, the architecture is built around the landscape, rather than on top of the landscape, to complement the setting.” The Ritz Carlton Residences are also positioned in “beautiful combination” with the waterfront, he says, with framed views and a design that mirrors the shape of the lagoon.

K20 Steel fitted kitchen designed for Boffi

K20 Steel fitted kitchen designed for Boffi

For the interiors, Lissoni has selected Boffi kitchens, oversized stone countertops and Gaggenau appliances for a look that is modern Italian-meets-tropical-warmth. “My vision was to create a contemporary and modernist project, one of purism, cleanliness, and openness,” he says. “The expansive, open floor plans at The Residences and the organic materials used in the design have facilitated a space that links directly to its surrounding environment. Each and every element was designed in harmony with Miami Beach”.

Q & A

In recent years you’ve worked on several residential projects in Miami. What interests you about design and architecture in the city?

Miami is, for me, a city with two faces of modernism. There is the art décor aspect, which is a historically modern style of building, as well as a contemporary wave of modern architecture being constructed throughout the city. Miami also features a distinctive, complementary combination of vertical and horizontal architecture unlike other cities in the United States. You have beachfront skyscrapers living the coast and yet, just behind Lincoln Road, you have entire flat neighborhoods that contrast with their more vertical counterparts. This unique combination is aesthetically pleasing, and has contributed to Miami’s reputation as an architectural destination.

When designing a new project, where do you begin?

I begin with taking a classical, European approach working around the individual and the context, to respect the nature in which I design. I work with the water, the existing dimensions of the space – and I design projects that contribute substance to the neighborhoods in which they are built.

You’ve remarked before that the quality of light in Miami left a strong impression on you. Did this influence your design for the Ritz Carlton Residences Miami Beach?

If you are visiting Miami for the first time, the initial feeling you get is the quality of light encompassed throughout the city. However, beautiful light also produces strong shadows. I wanted to reflect Miami’s quality of light in the design for The Residences, to create a building that reflects both the light and the shadow. It was important to me to respect the natural light and shadow, as this is an integral contextual element of the building.

The Residences include many state-of-the art features. What role does technology play in the project design?

From a designer’s perspective, the most significant technology for me is in creating a clean and clear building that contributes to a more sustainable Miami. With an intelligent water system that filters black water, we were able to focus on clean water with zero water waste. Overall, we incorporated appropriate materials, glass, screens and façade to create an honest building in an increasingly sustainable city.

Staff Credits

Text by Sophie Kalkreuth

This article was originally published in PALACE 15

Biré Bitori Promises Extreme High

The architecture and design firm Tall Arquitectos has a plan for a bar cum evil-mastermind-death-fortress jutting out the side of a cliff. The Biré Bitori looms ominously over the forests of Mexico’s Copper Canyon as a strange structure that, to any curious upwards climbing mountaineers, feels like a mostly white monolith from another dimension or planet. Of course, alien structures probably don’t contain smooth cocktail-making bartenders inside them.


You enter the area through a set of small steps traveling underneath a small pool (left of the entrance for the upper observation deck), where the bar can eventually be found. As long as you don’t suffer from serious vertigo, the design even includes a nice glass floor in the center of the structure so that you can drink, chatter, and tango while the 6,000-foot drop stares at you amiably in the face.


The building merely exists as a proposal for now, but if it ever comes becomes a reality, it would be the go-to drinking spot for any of the adventurous affluent out there.

For more information, you can check out Tall Arquitectos.

Images courtesy of Tall Arquitectos and Uncrate

6 Rising Talents at Maison&Objet Asia

More and more designers are flashing hyphenate designations as badges of their ability to move through various creative fields. Arik Levy easily comes to mind with his outdoor sculpture pieces that double as indoor furniture. Roy Lichtenstein, Joseph Beuys, Donald Judd, and many more have made solid contributions in the functional sphere of furniture design without losing one bit of their stature as artists.

If the game was previously played according to the rules of specialization, today it is hinged on one’s ability to perform and deliver in diverse capacities and on multiple platforms.

At major design expositions, artists have been presenting solutions for everyday design challenges; the same can be observed in art shows where designers have shown works that explore materials to articulate new thoughts. Changrai Ferrari by Thai designer Anon Pairot, a detailed life-size model of a sports car woven in rattan, was a crowd-drawer at a recently concluded major art fair.

The practice is far from new—from Da Vinci to Salvador Dali to Charles and Ray Eames, creatives have never put labels on their talents. No one measures Alexander Calder’s output by his mobiles alone, when his furniture pieces are also part of his artistry. And although Fortuny is best remembered for his fabrics, people eagerly collect his artworks.

The border that separates art and design is not coming down anytime soon—or for that matter the one that comes between science and art. But one thing that looks set to last is the constant criss-crossing of disciplines.

Here is Maison&Objet Asia’s line-up for top cross-pollinators in the time to come.



Origins: Taiwan/Finland

What: Design Collective

Who: Kelly, Ketty & Alex

Stoked by: Cultures, east and west chemistry, childhood dream of being archaeologists

MO: Bring more classic and traditional objects into modern day life via beautiful and poetic solutions, discover new soul in old living objects

New Old Light Table Kimu Design 2


The creative balance of form and function is always present in every KIMU-designed product, but their completion is found in its everyday use.



Origin: Bangkok

What: Embroidery design studio based in Bangkok

Backstory: Launched in 2014 but built on family’s embroidery business with 30 years’ experience

MO: Combine industrial embroidery, art, and craftsmanship to create new experiences through experimental design

Ease 2

Ease Print

Ease 3

By seeking to integrate and express emotional attachment into their products, ease recreates ordinary yet meaningful objects that reflect everyday life. Their focus on function is always in tandem with a commitment to the art of storytelling. Ease applies traditional embroidery techniques to a myriad objects outside apparel.


Stanley Ruiz

Origin: Manila/Bali/NYC

True Calling: Trans-cultural designer

Background: Principal and creative director at Estudio Ruiz Design Consultancy

MO: Explore commonplace and familiar to bring about new meaning and interpretation; extensive background in craft design and production

Cred: Exhibited at the Museum of Arts and Design (NYC), New Museum of Contemporary Art (NYC). Sold at Habitat, Takashimaya, Urban Outfitters, Anthropologie, among other boutiques and galleries worldwide

Blips: Named one of Avant Guardians of 2010 by New York-based Surface Magazine. Bronze Award, A’ Design Awards (Italy, 2013). Outstanding Asia Talent, Bangkok International Gift Fair (Thailand, 2014).

Stanley Ruiz Symbiosis II - Paper Speakers

Stanley Ruiz 2

Stanley Ruiz 1

Using his expertise as industrial designer, Ruiz easily moves across barriers to create products for different categories.


Lekker Architects portrait

Origin: Shing – Singapore/UK;Josh – Chicago

What: Singapore-based multi-disciplinary and architecture design practice

Who: Ong Ker-Shing, director; Joshua Comaroff, design consultant

Backstory: Met 20 years ago at Harvard GSD, working and writing together since. Following birth of their two children, developed an interest in designing preschools, kindergartens, playgrounds, as well as events and cultural spaces for younger audiences

Recent Projects: Buildings and landscape with a focus in residential and educational projects

Believe in: Design as key factor in enhancing the development of creative and analytical thought from an early age

Recently Published: Horror In Architecture (ORO Editions), a tongue-in-cheek survey of perverse and dream-like buildings

Lekker Architects 2

Lekker Architects 3

Lekker Architects 1

For his doctorate thesis Comaroff wrote about haunted landscapes and urban memory in Singapore. Wheelwright Fellow Shing, meanwhile, moved to Shanghai to research the Art Deco housing of the French Concession. www.lekker.sg


Labdestu Portrait

Origin: Australia

Founded by Dale Hardiman, Andre Hnatojko, and Adam Lynch in 2011, the three-member LAB DE STU works on various projects and platforms across Australia. The award-winning design collective is behind representing and commissioning body 1-OK CLUB, furniture and everyday object manufacturer Dowel Jones, and A OFFICIAL, a contemporary computer-free manufacturing house and design brand. Although formed as a vehicle for the designers to promote their individual works and practices, LAB DE STU has metamorphosed a collective and uniform banner.

LabDeStu Full Hurdle

LabDeStu_Mr Dowel Jones_Portrait

LabDeStu FactoryWorks

Hardiman exploration of the localisation of production is manifested in his chosen materials and overall practice. Lynch focuses on the simplification of objects down to their bare essentials; Hnatojko connects business with design, attempting to cross-contaminate different design industry models to experiment with the perceived value of furniture and lighting. www.labdestu.com.au



Origin: Kanagawa, Japan

MO: Explore the art and design aspects of lighting

Route: Apparel Design, Bunka Fashion College, joined Issey Miyake Inc., planner/designer at HaaT, established lighting brand Chihiro Tanaka

Exhibited: At nearly all major trade expositions including 100% Design, Salone del Mobile Milano, ICFF, New York International Gift Fair, Ambiente

Cred: BankART Artist in Residence 2015 at BankART Studio NYK, Yokohama




Although highly functional, Tanaka’s light installations cross over to art exhibitions. Another image of one his works acts the opener for this story. www.chihirotanaka.jp

Story Credits

Text by Marc Almagro

This story was originally published in Form magazine, Singapore

Wind Eaves by Kengo Kuma

Set in the garden of The One Nanyuan Hotel in Hsinchu, Taiwan is Wind Eaves, a multi-purpose pavilion designed by architect Kengo Kuma (Kengo Kuma & Associates). The One Nanyuan is a small hotel that proposes a fresh, nature-oriented lifestyle, and this structure couldn’t have found a more appropriate location.

The organic-shaped framework is made of hinoki, a Formosan cypress. The work was inspired by scenes on Mount Jiuchong, which overlooks Nanyuan, and is informed by the local weather phenomenon ‘winds of September’. Its form recalls an arch constructed with loosely assembled tree branches. Wind Eaves has 17 such arches constructed with wooden strips of various lengths. These wooden units are joined in different angles in order to achieve the desired form.

Wind Eaves by Kengo Kuma Front

The structure is covered on top with transparent ETFE film, a highly durable, lightweight, translucent, and recyclable material that allows sunlight to permeate the structure. Wind Eaves covers an area of 180sqm; inside one feels as though surrounded by a forest of cypress trees.

Wind Eaves is a Golden Pin Design Award 2015 Design Mark Recipient. It stands from 2 to 6 meters in height from entrance to rear.

Wind Eaves by Kengo Kuma Close Up

Wind Eaves by Kengo Kuma Night

This story was first published in Form magazine, Singapore.

Zaha Hadid Awarded Royal Gold Medal

Honored as a Dame Commander of the British Empire for her work four years ago, architect Zaha Hadid has made history by becoming the first individual woman to be awarded Britain’s Royal Gold Medal earlier this week. She is best known for her work on the Guangzhou Opera House and the Aquatics Centre in London. The Iraqi-British architect was selected and approved personally by Queen Elizabeth II and presented the award by the Royal Institute of British Architects.

“I am very proud to be awarded the Royal Gold Medal, in particular, to be the first woman to receive the honor in her own right,” Hadid said.

“We now see more established female architects all the time. That doesn’t mean it’s easy. Sometimes the challenges are immense. There has been tremendous change over recent years and we will continue this progress.”

Hadid joins Frank Gehry, Norman Foster and Frank Lloyd Wright in receiving the medal, which has been awarded since 1848 to groups or individuals who have had a strong influence “either directly or indirectly on the advancement of architecture”.

Hadid’s work is recognizable for its sweeping curves, but has sometimes been criticized for extravagance and cost overruns.

Most recently, she was embroiled in a row after Japan ditched her design for a new national stadium for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics as expenses spiralled and due to complaints over the design.

Fellow architect Peter Cook, a founder of avant-garde group Archigram which won the award in 2002, praised Hadid as he presented the medal.

“Let’s face it, we might have awarded the medal to a worthy, comfortable character. We didn’t, we awarded it to Zaha: larger than life, bold as brass and certainly on the case,” Cook said.

“Our heroine. How lucky we are to have her in London.”

Chile’s Alejandro Aravena wins 2016 Pritzker Prize

Chilean architect Alejandro Aravena has been selected as the Pritzker Architecture Prize Laureate for 2016. Tom Pritzker, Chairman and President of the Hyatt Foundation, which sponsors the prize, made the announcement on January 13.

“Alejandro Aravena has pioneered a collaborative practice that produces powerful works of architecture and also addresses key challenges of the 21st century. His built work gives economic opportunity to the less privileged, mitigates the effects of natural disasters, reduces energy consumption, and provides welcoming public space. Innovative and inspiring, he shows how architecture at its best can improve people’s lives,” said Pritzker in the statement.

Aravena is the 41st laureate of the prize and the first from Chile. Since 2001 he has been the executive director of the Santiago-based ELEMENTAL “Do Tank”. The organization focuses on projects of public interest and social impact, including housing, public space, infrastructure and transportation. ELEMENTAL has designed over 2,500 low-cost social housing units.

Aravena’s firm is known for its use of a participatory design process, in which the architects work closely with the public. ELEMENTAL employs an innovative approach to low-income housing that is called “incremental housing”. This involves designing what they call “half a good house,” leaving residents space to complete their houses themselves. In this way, ELEMENTAL aims to help them raise themselves to a middle class standard of living and give them a sense of accomplishment and personal investment. This also allows social housing to be built in more expensive areas closer to economic opportunity.


The workings of the Pritzker Architecture Prize

The Pritzker Architecture Prize was created in 1979 by the Hyatt Foundation to “annually honor a living architect whose built work demonstrates a combination of those qualities of talent, vision, and commitment, which has produced consistent and significant contributions to humanity and the built environment through the art of architecture,” according to the official site. The laureate receives $100,000 and a bronze medal.

Nominations are accepted from all nations, government officials, writers, critics, fellow architects and academics. The final selection is made by an international jury that votes in secret.

The winner is chosen by a jury of between five and nine experts drawn from a wide range of fields not limited to architecture. Professionals from fields such as business, publishing and academics sit on the jury. They serve for multiple years to assure balance between past and new members. This year’s jury is chaired by Lord Peter Palumbo, an arts patron and Chairman of the Trustees of London’s Serpentine Gallery.

The formal award ceremony for the 2016 Pritzker Prize will be held at the United Nations Headquarters in New York on April 4, 2016.

Louvre Abu Dhabi Dome

Abu Dhabi’s Louvre museum gains star canopy dome

Abu Dhabi Louvre construction

The last of nearly 4,500 metal stars was placed Sunday on the outer layer of the dome on Abu Dhabi’s Louvre museum, expected to open by the end of 2016.

The final star was added in the presence of French architect Jean Nouvel, said Abu Dhabi’s Tourism Development and Investment Company (TDIC).

“The outer cladding consists of 4,481 stars which is now 100% complete.”

Louvre Abu Dhabi Dome

The giant 180-metre (yard) dome is perforated with designs that will project light patterns in the shape of palm trees onto the exhibition space below.

The outer canopy is part of eight layers of cladding comprised of 7,850 star-shaped pieces of aluminium and stainless steel, the largest of which measures 13 metres in diameter and weighs 1.3 tonnes.

Louvre Abu Dhabi

TDIC said major work was expected in the next few months to lay the museum’s stone flooring, display cases for galleries and to complete the administration building.

Louvre Abu Dhabi, built on the island of Saadiyat in the oil-flush Emirate, is to have 9,200 square metres of art galleries.

Louvre Abu Dhabi Museum

Aladdin City Dubai

Aladdin City Coming To Dubai

Aladdin City Dubai

Construction work on ‘Aladdin City’, a project inspired by the tales of Aladdin and Sindbad, will start next year, according to emirates 24/7.

The project will have three towers, comprising commercial and hotel space, with the towers spread over a distance of 450 metres on Dubai Creek.

The project aims to develop towers to be the icons of legends of the past with a touch of beauty and tourism characteristic of the city.

Aladdin City

It comes in the prime location of Dubai Creek maintaining the activities of the port heritage. The project is located outside the zone waiting to be registered with the World Heritage by Unesco.

It will have air-conditioned bridges with moving floor to connect the towers, driveways and parking lots. The shape of the bridge represents the form of exotic marine life such as dragon and snakes.

Three towers will have a built up area of 110,000 square metres with the highest tower of 34 storeys. The other two towers will have 26 and 25 floors respectively. There will be a total parking space for 900 cars.

Olafur Eliasson designs new bridge in Copenhagen


A new pedestrian bridge designed by the Danish-Icelandic artist Olafur Eliasson has been inaugurated in Copenhagen, where its maritime-inspired design creates a walkway spanning the Christianshavn Canal.

For his “Cirkelbroen”, Eliasson took inspiration from sailboats in creating a series of five circular platforms, each with its own central mast.

With its non-linear design, the bridge aims to encourage those crossing it to reduce their speed, possibly using it as a meeting point or taking a break before they continue on their way. Eliasson hopes it will not just provide a new route but actually create a new urban space of its own.

“To hesitate on our way is to engage in bodily thought. I see such introspection as an essential part of a vibrant city.”

It is expected that more than 5,000 cyclists and pedestrians will cross the bridge daily as they travel between the Christiansbro area and Applebys Plads. In linking those areas, the Cirkelbroen makes the waterfront more accessible to walkers, joggers and bicyclists.

A swivel design, meanwhile, allows it to clear the way for boats traveling along the canal. Eliasson said the bridge “celebrates pedestrians” and reflects “the daily life and intimacy that you will find around the canal.”

The circle bridge

Building on the Cirkelbroen began in March 2012, and the finished bridge was inaugurated over the weekend.

Sky Pool

Suspended ‘sky pool’ coming to London

Sky Pool

In what appears to be a word first, developers in London are planning a swimming pool suspended high between two buildings with a clear shell that enables swimmers to feel like they’re in the sky.

The 25-meter-long pool would connect two apartment complexes that are part of the 2,000-home Embassy Gardens development in London’s new Nine Elms quarter, reports Dezeen.

Sky Pool London

It’s the work of architecture firm Arup Associates with help from structural design engineers at Eckersley O’Callaghan and also from Reynolds, an aquarium design firm.

It has reached the second stage of construction and developers from the Ballymore Group say it will include a bar, spa and orangery.

Embassy Gardens

Vincom Landmark 81

Vietnam to have new tallest building in 2017

Vincom Landmark 81

A new skyscraper in Ho Chi Minh City aims to be the country’s tallest when it is completed in 2017.

Vincom Landmark 81, designed by UK architecture firm Atkins, is expected to reach a height of 460 meters and will add to the ever-growing skyline of Ho Chi Minh City, which has seen a boom in the construction of high-rise buildings in recent years.

The 81-storey building is located in Vinhomes Center Park, facing the Saigon River. At its base will be a shopping center, while the mixed-use development also includes space for a hotel and for apartments.

The architectural design is “modern and unusual,” says Atkins, “symbolizing the diversity and fast-emergence” of the city. A contemporary landscape design will bring nature into the 241,000 square meter development.

As construction gets under way on Landmark 81, another major new skyscraper is already preparing to eclipse it!

The 86-storey Empire City Tower, an observatory tower at the center a larger complex to include shopping, a five-star hotel, offices and apartments, is expected to be finished in Ho Chi Minh City by 2022.

Both buildings are the latest in a race to build Vietnam’s tallest building. Currently, the distinction goes to Hanoi’s Landmark 72, finished in 2011, followed by the Lotte Center Hanoi (2014), while in Ho Chi Minh City the Bitexco Financial Tower (2010) takes the top spot with 68 storeys, followed by the Vietcombank Tower (2014) and Saigon One Tower (2011).

shanghai tower China

Shanghai Tower nears completion

shanghai tower China

The Shanghai Tower, the tallest building in China and the second tallest in the world, is nearing completion.

Located in the Pudong financial district, the 632m tower composed of 128 floors is a striking addition to the Shanghai landscape.


Composed of a tapering outer skin of glass and steel that wraps itself around the building’s circular core, Gensler, the American firm behind the design, claims this twisting shape reduces wind load on the building by 24%, thus saving approximately $58 million in steel and structure costs.

While still dwarfed by the 829.2m Burj Khalifa in Dubai, Shanghai Tower is now Asia’s tallest skyscraper and a bold statement about the country’s economic prosperity going forward in the 21st century.

A soft opening of Shanghai Tower has seen some tenants allowed into the building to conduct interior construction. An official public opening has yet to be announced but is expected sometime this autumn.

Tours Triangle interior

Paris to get new triangle-shaped glass skyscraper

Tours Triangle interior

It seems Paris is fond of glass pyramids. Because city officials have just approved plans to build another giant pyramid or triangle-shaped structure, this time on the southwest edge of the city.

After years of wrangling, opposition and rejection related to environmental and esthetic concerns, Paris mayor Anne Hidalgo scored a major victory Monday after councillors narrowly approved plans to begin construction of the Tour Triangle, a soaring, 180-meter (590-foot) tower.

Since first being introduced in 2008, the project has divided the city and generated heated debate, with critics charging that the project will become a glaring blight on the Paris skyline and supporters pointing out that the tower will create 5,000 jobs and new, modernized work spaces.

triangle tower paris

When construction is complete, in 2020, the tower will house a four-star hotel with 120 rooms; a sky bar; restaurants; office and retail spaces; as well as a child care center, health center and cultural center for locals.

The 43-storey building, designed by Swiss architects Herzog and De Meuron, will be located at Porte de Versailles in the 15th arrondissement at a cost of around 500 million euros.

The Tour Triangle will be the first skyscraper in Paris since the opening of the Tour Montparnasse (below) in 1973, a building Parisians love to hate.

Paris' Tour Montparnasse

The ensuing uproar resulted in a height limit that banned the construction of buildings taller than 37 meters, and confined high-rise buildings to the city’s financial district, La Défense.

In 2010, the rules changed to allow for the erection of office buildings up to 180 m along the city periphery.

louvre museum paris

Paris is already home to an iconic, glass pyramid structure at the Louvre.

Mall of qatar

New Mall of Qatar to equal the size of 50 soccer fields

Mall of qatar

More details have emerged on a new luxury mall set to open in Doha, Qatar that will feature the biggest 3D IMAX theater in the world.

Set to open its doors in 2016, Mall of Qatar will become the biggest shopping and entertainment complex in Qatar and aims to become a premier shopping destination in the Middle East.


At the core of the of 500,000-square meter complex is the Oasis, a glass-domed space equal to the size of three football fields, specifically designed to bring light and greenery to the indoor retail center.

The Oasis will include restaurants, 17 cinemas, what’s being billed as the world’s largest 3D IMAX theater in the world, as well as gardens, cafés, fountains and artistic programs.

Other features include zones dedicated to families and children, a Hilton Curio Collection hotel, and 100 restaurants.

Located near the Al Rayyan stadium for the FIFA World Cup 2022, in total the Mall of Qatar will house 500 boutiques, restaurants and tourist attractions, and is expected to attract 20 million visitors in its first year.

The construction of a mall equal to the size of 50 FIFA soccer fields will fill the need not yet met in the area for modern, luxury retail and entertainment facilities, said director general Rony Mourani in a statement.

The 3 billion Qatari Riyal project ($823.8 million) is set to open in 2016.

When complete, the Mall of Qatar will join The Dubai Mall, the largest shopping center in the world, in catering to affluent locals and visitors in the Middle East.

Falcon Nest Arizona Home

Phoenix architect puts tallest house in US up for sale

Falcon Nest Arizona Home

Falcon Nest in Prescott, Arizona is up for sale! The 124 ft tall home is 6200 sq ft and is selling for $2.8 million.

Falcon Nest Arizona bedroom

Shaped like a chimney, this 10-story residence in Prescott is the creation of an architect who wanted to build an energy-efficient home. After eight years of planning and construction, the final result features a master bedroom made for watching shooting stars, a ‘tea kitchen,’ and an elevator.

Falcon Nest Arizona Kitchen

NetDragon headquarters

VIDEO: Chinese millionaire builds Star Trek office

NetDragon headquarters

China’s online gaming operator NetDragon has its headquarters modeled after the Star Trek’s Starship Enterprise, new reports have confirmed.

The Y600m ($97m USD), six-floor building near Changle, southeast China, was made with the agreement of US rights holder CBS, reports the Wall Street Journal; NetDragon founder Liu Dejian is a big fan of the series.

NetDragon headquarters China

Construction started in 2010, with the building opening in May 2014; also contained within its halls is a full-size replica of a Tyrannosaurus rex.

The company runs a number of MMOs, including “Disney Fantasy Online,” as well as mobile apps that cover enterprise productivity, 3D home remodeling and weather reports.

"Bamboo Nest Towers

Could these futuristic green towers be Paris in 2050?


Paris is aiming to reduce 75% of its greenhouse gas emissions by 2050, so could these futuristic green skyscrapers be the way forward?

“2050 Paris Smart City” is a research and development project for Paris City Hall carried out by Vincent Callebaut Architectures.



It features eight high-rise buildings which recycle their own energies in a short loop through innovative systems.

The buildings include “Mountain Towers” in the city’s first arrondissement or district, that blend solar, hydrodynamic and planted buildings, using bio-air conditioning systems.

Mountain Towers

The “Antismog Towers” in the 14th district are described as an “ecologic corridor” 23 km long, punctuated by depolluting photo-catalytic towers.

Photosynthesis Towers

A striking complex called “Photosynthesis Towers” in the 15th, to be built in a vertical spiral and featuring organic facades of green algae, has been suggested, alongside “Bamboo Nest Towers”, a series of thermodynamic garden structures featuring food gardens and orchards on balconies.

To view the project in full, see vincent.callebaut.org.

Brisbane River in Toowong

Architecture and design personalities of 2014

2014 was a busy year for architecture and design. Here are some of the top players who shook the scene this year:

Zaha Hadid

From winning “Design of the Year 2014” for her stunning creation the Heydar Aliyev Center in Azerbaijan to designing the “Women Fashion Power” exhibit in London, it has been a big year for the Pritzker Prize-winning British Iraqi architect.

Brisbane River in Toowong

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Zaha Hadid unveils “blooming” towers in Australia
Macau’s City of Dreams Hotel by Zaha Hadid
Zaha Hadid designs crystal vase collection for Lalique


Japanese design collective Nendo has had a busy year, extending its “Peg” furniture collaboration with Cappellini, inventing the “Stay-brella”, which stands on its own two feet to drip-dry, and being named “Designer of the Year” for the upcoming January 2015 edition of Maison&Objet Paris.

nendo-designed stay-brella

Shigeru Ban

Japanese architect Shigeru Ban achieved the highest accolade possible within the industry in March this year when he was awarded the Pritzker Prize. He also saw his Aspen Art Museum open up to the public.

Kenneth Cobonpue

Kenneth Cobonpue made his debut on the world stage in March, when he was named “Designer of the Year” for the inaugural Maison&Objet Asia edition. Best-known for his intricate rattan furniture designs, Philippines-born Cobonpue is a graduate of the famous Pratt Institute in New York.

Rem Koolhaas

The Dutch Pritzker Prize-winning architect was in the spotlight over the summer when he curated the 14th Venice Architecture Biennale.

One of the main highlights was ‘Luminaire’, a collaboration between Koolhaas’s studio OMA and crystal house Swarovski at the entrance to the Biennale. The six meter-high light installation featured 15 kilograms of gems set into glittering archways.

Frank Gehry

This year Frank Gehry made headlines with the opening of his first major design project for Latin America, Panama’s Biomuseo, a multicolored building that houses exhibits on biodiversity, as well as his Fondation Vuitton in Paris, intended as a true temple to contemporary art, inspired by the greenhouses of 19th-century gardens and characterized by the organic shapes that are the Canadian-American architect’s signature.

Fondation Louis Vuitton

He also got attention this year for making disparaging comments about the state of contemporary design at a ceremony in Spain where he received the Prince Asturias Award for the Arts.

Read More
Opus Hong Kong by Frank Gehry

Living inside New York by Gehry Residential Tower

Eugeni Quitllet

A regular collaborator of major design brands such as Kartell and Flos, Quitllet is known in particular for his frequent use of plastic.

The Catalan designer’s long and illustrious career was crowned this year with a miniature retrospective at the boutique of the Centre Pompidou during 2014 Paris Design Week.


Founded in 1764 by decree of Louis XV, Baccarat is one of the most renowned crystal makers in the world today.

Its glassware and other delicate transparent creations have adorned illustrious tables over the centuries, including those of Louis XVIII, Tsar Nicolas II and several maharajahs.

Nowadays, well-known designers such as Marcel Wanders breathe new life into the Baccarat name, reinventing its classic items. In 2014, the brand celebrated 250 years of its history with a coffee table book published by Rizzoli, a new crystal chess board and a special holiday collection.

Not to mention two exhibitions in Paris, one in the gallery of the Musée de la Maison Baccarat and the other in the Petit Palais.

Baccarat Hotel Restaurant

The crystal house plans to keep up the momentum in 2015, when it plans to open its first hotel in New York.