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The industry's top buildings of 2016

Ahm House by Jorn Utzon
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Architects, engineers and others pick the standout schemes of 2016

King’s Cross Skip Garden, London, by Bartlett School of Architecture

Chosen by Peter Barber, founder, Peter Barber Architects

King’s Cross Skip Garden by Bartlett School of Architecture

King’s Cross Skip Garden by Bartlett School of Architecture

Jan Kattein’s Skip Garden at King’s Cross is a magic ray of sunshine. It is cosy, loved, crafted, smooth, rough, recycled, complex, cheap, public spirited, humorous and serious. It’s a tiny oasis of humanity and good sense in our moronic land-grab city and the antithesis of anaemic anti-urban world. I expect it’ll bulldozed before too long.

Faena Forum Arena, Miami, by OMA

Chosen by Hanif Kara, co-founder, AKTII

Faena Forum Arena by OMA

Faena Forum Arena by OMA

Source: Iwan Baan

In an age of uncertainty it is the most optimistic building I have seen recently.

As always it is the disarming simplicity of the OMA diagram, which then goes on to turn into a wonderful building that draws you in – literally a kind of ‘smiley face’ (a reference the architect may not enjoy) on a street where one could build almost anything and get away with it.

OMA has put effort into a special piece. Most of the time as we walk or drive the street, effort is spent on how good one looks, the wonderful mood the climate creates and the adrenalin to otherwise get to the beach as quick as one can, but this building makes you stop and take a good look, and potentially get interested in architecture.

I saw it almost finished early this year and managed to get in by just asking the site supervisor. I would like to see it with people in it, and see a performance given the shapes and proportion. It’s walking distance from arguably the other important curved building: Morris Lapidus’s infamous Fontainebleau hotel – a 1950s classic and, I am told, Miami’s first ever curved building.

Ahm House, Hertfordshire, by Jorn Utzon

Chosen by Alan Dunlop, founder, Alan Dunlop Architects

Ahm House by Jorn Utzon

Ahm House by Jørn Utzon

My building of the year, was actually built in 1962, but only ‘discovered’ this year. It’s the house built by Jørn Utzon in Herefordshire for his friend Povl Ahm, which featured in the AJ in September when it was put up for sale. It took my breath away and is, in my view, a masterclass in house design by a master architect. Hugh Pearman thinks it the best modern house in the world; I think he may be right. The clarity of plan and structure, the choice of a limited but well-considered pallete of materials and, particularly how Utzon brings the exterior garden spaces inside is genius and a lesson for all architects.

Tate Modern Switch House, London, by Herzog & de Meuron

Chosen by Jane Duncan, president, RIBA

Tate Modern Switch House by Herzog & de Meuron

Tate Modern Switch House by Herzog & de Meuron

Source: Jim Stephenson

This is the scheme to watch in next year’s awards. It is a sensational new contribution to London by a highly celebrated practice. Built for the people, using the local vernacular of brick in exciting and dynamic forms, there is so much to take delight and inspiration from. Plus it’s free to explore, and the view from the top over London and onto the Neo Bankside apartments is magnificent – just don’t get caught staring!

University of Engineering Campus, Lima, by Grafton Architects

Chosen by Cindy Walters, co-founder, Walters & Cohen

University of Engineering Campus by Grafton Architects

University of Engineering Campus by Grafton Architects

Source: Iwan Baan

Grafton’s university building in Lima, Peru, is my favourite building of 2016. I have followed its design development since the 2012 Venice Biennale when it was first exhibited. The design is fresh and original and not quite like anything I have seen before; I love the majesty and scale of it. It is also a departure for the practice and I admire their ability to keep reinventing themselves.

The Malings, Newcastle, by Ash Sakula

Chosen by David Birkbeck, chief executive, Design for Homes

The Malings by Ash Sakula

The Malings by Ash Sakula

Source: Hunter Johnstone

These homes for sale in the shadow of the Byker Wall gain market appeal by having their own front doors, resulting in negligible management costs and a not-for-profit operation for their charming communal courtyards, parcelled up with generous roof terraces and views of the Tyne valley. We need so many more schemes like this.

Fondazione Prada, Milan, by OMA

Chosen by Rab Bennetts, co-founder, Bennetts Architects

Fondazione Prada by OMA

Fondazione Prada by OMA

Maybe I discovered the Prada Foundation in Milan a year too late, but it’s the best new project I saw this year. David Chipperfield’s Neue Museum in Berlin, which I saw at New Year, is too old to qualify for 2016, but can I still mention it? How it didn’t win the Stirling is beyond me. Two projects completed by Bennetts Associates this year were particularly rewarding: the fly-tower for the Shaftesbury Theatre and 40 Chancery Lane for Derwent London. 


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