14 jan 20  | Architectural Digest

The 11 Most Anticipated Buildings of 2020

By Nick Mafi

In the words of architect Robert Venturi, we believe these buildings will allow you to “see familiar things in an unfamiliar way.

Looking back at the year that was, 2019 had several difficult, if not defining, moments in the world of architecture. In May, the inimitable architect I.M. Pei died at the age of 102. Argentine starchitect César Pelli, a decade younger than Pei, passed away two months later. And then, of course, Notre-Dame Cathedral was within minutes of completely burning a millennium of history to the ground.

Yet architecture is nothing if not a forward-thinking enterprise. A century ago, this meant building shockingly tall skyscrapers such as the Empire State Building. Today, while we are still searching for the sky’s upper limits with our buildings, new focus has narrowed on designing eco-friendly structures, and more affordable housing in major urban enclaves. Echoing Winston Churchill's philosophy when he stated, “We shape our buildings, and afterwards, our buildings shape us,” these are the trends that will carry us through the 21st century, leading our society into a more just future.

Ultimately, however, architecture is a medium meant to be experienced not through two-dimensional writing, but in everyday life. It’s through the craning of one's neck to take in the magnificence of a skyscraper such as New York’s Central Park Tower; or the almost indescribable individuality of Zaha Hadid Architects’ tower that features a gaping hole in its center; or the striking beauty that can be produced when modern and ancient architecture, as with MAD Architects' kindergarten in China, are juxtaposed next to each other. So, in 2020 and beyond, we at Architectural Digest urge you to go out and experience these spectacular structures that will be completed next year. Oftentimes, we can’t imagine the necessity of architecture until the project is completed and the landscape is altered for the better. We believe these 11 buildings will meet that high bar.


Opus by Zaha Hadid Architects (Dubai, U.A.E.)

Over the past two decades, Dubai has become a virtual playground for architects who want to put their wildest dreams to the test. And perhaps no architect has explored the potential curve of an angle more than the late Zaha Hadid. The firm that still bears her name, Zaha Hadid Architects, (ZHA), will soon complete a building that will surely stand out in a city chock-full of head-turning architecture. The Opus, as the building is being called, will house a hotel, 12 restaurants, a rooftop bar, and 56,000 square feet of office space. But you can excuse those of us who will quickly forget what’s inside of the building when we simply look at what’s outside. The structure miraculously has a gaping hole in the middle of it, continuing the firm's lengthy tradition of designing objects that seem to perform a dance with the same trio: gravity, space, and voids. While the design seems like something we’d likely see on another planet, ZHA’s method in creating such a striking structure is rather logical. “We designed the Opus as two separate towers that are connected at their base and top where many of the guest amenities and services are located,” says Christos Passas, ZHA’s director on the project. “These connections coalesce the two towers into a singular cube with the void at its center.” To do this, the firm detailed the “void’s surface with a combination of glass with varying thickness, bent in different ways and fitted by using several different techniques,” Passas explains. One of those techniques was heating pieces of glass in temperatures as high as 1,300 degrees Fahrenheit before molding and quickly cooling them to increase their breaking strength.


Central Park Tower by Adrian Smith + Gordon Gill (New York City)

Designing a skyscraper in New York is an experience unlike building in nearly any other city in the world. The combination of architectural history, coupled with the sheer volume of foot traffic walking past (and flying above) buildings in the Big Apple, makes their presence a vital part of the city's identity. So when the Chicago-based architectural firm Adrian Smith + Gordon Gill was tapped to design the Central Park Tower, it recognized the sky-high expectations. Slated to be completed in 2020, Central Park Tower will be a shocking 1,549 feet tall, making it the second-tallest skyscraper in the United States and the Western Hemisphere (behind One World Trade Center), the 15th-tallest building in the world, and the tallest residential building in the world. Adrian Smith + Gordon Gill Architecture, however, is no stranger to working at these heights. The firm is responsible for extending the skyline in the Middle East with such structures as the Burj Khalifa in Dubai and the Kingdom Tower in Saudi Arabia. Yet, unlike those aforementioned locations, no matter the height, building in New York brings on a whole new host of challenges. “New York is one of the most iconic cities in the world,” says Gordon Gill, a founding member of the firm. “And much of this comes from its beautiful architecture. Understanding that and trying to design a building that will retain its own stature within that context has been a great opportunity. Contributing to New York’s skyline at that scale and becoming part of that legacy is a defining moment for any architect. That doesn’t happen every day." The structure consists of 179 luxury residences, while at the base, Nordstrom's will house its seven-floor flagship store. The location, on 57th Street between Columbus Circle and the Plaza District, means occupants will have uninhibited views of Central Park to the north. In the past, travelers arrived to New York (by car and air) would be greeted by dominating structures such as the Statue of Liberty and the Empire State Building. Now we can add Central Park Tower to that exclusive list of buildings that stand out upon first experience.