Year in Architecture 2020

John Hill
14. December 2020
Slices of just a dozen of the many buildings we featured in the World-Architects magazine in 2020. (Larger images and photo credits below)

For sure, 2020 is a year many people would like to soon forget, what with the coronavirus pandemic derailing the events that regularly attracted architects and leading to the deaths of some notable figures in architecture, among other things. Nevertheless, against the backdrop of the pandemic, we're taking a month-by-month look at some of the notable stories — the good and the bad — that happened in 2020.


Williams Park Fieldhouse (Photo: Ignacio Espiqares)

Week 1: We started the year with a review of the 21st edition of Sir Banister Fletcher's A History of Architecture, a dramatic departure from previous editions.

Week 2: With bush fires raging across Australia, Architects Assist was created to offer pro bono architectural services for rebuilding. Snøhetta's changes to the base of Philip Johnson's 550 Madison, aka the AT&T Building, were approved.

Week 3: Roger Scruton, author of The Aesthetics of Architecture, died on January 12 at the age of 75. Artist Cristina Iglesias won the Royal Academy Architecture Prize 2020.

Week 4: Thai architect Ong-ard Satrabhandhu won the 2020 Richard H. Driehaus Prize for traditional architecture. On the other end of the spectrum, the Getty Research Institute acquired dozens of Lebbeus Woods' drawings.

Week 5: The School of Architecture at Taliesin, founded by Frank Lloyd Wright in 1932, announced it would close for good come June (see also week 24). The inaugural The World Around summit took place in NYC; it turned out to be the first and last non-virtual event this writer attended in 2020.


Selected Building: Williams Park Fieldhouse by STL Architects

Selected Insight: Madeline Carey examined the impact of "Baukultur," the policy of the 2018 Davos Declaration, on Spain's urban landscape.


XS House (Photo: Sam Oberter)

Week 6: A draft of an executive order from the Trump administration was leaked, calling for classical architecture as the preferred style for federal buildings (see also week 34). World-Architects readers voted the Ed Kaplan Family Institute for Innovation and Tech Entrepreneurship by John Ronan Architects as US Building of the Year.

Week 7: The Serpentine Pavilion 2020, designed by Johannesburg's Counterspace, was unveiled (see also week 18). A film teased the opening of Countryside, the long awaited exhibition by Rem Koolhaas at the Guggenheim (see also week 46).

Week 8: Visionary French architect Yona Friedman died at the age of 96. Herzog & de Meuron unveiled their design for a roadside chapel near Andeer, Switzerland.

Week 9: The first of a few pandemic-related postponements befell the Salone del Mobile furniture fair in Milan. OMA won a competition for the SNCB Headquarters in Brussels.


Selected Building: XS House by ISA

Selected Insight: Ulf Meyer took an early look at the New Springer-Verlag Building in Berlin designed by Rem Koolhaas and OMA.


Munch Museum (Photo: Ivar Kvaal)

Week 10: Irish architects Yvonne Farrell and Shelley McNamara won the 2020 Pritzker Architecture Prize. The Venice Architecture Biennale got bumped (optimistically, in hindsight) to August (see also week 21). American architect Henry Cobb died at the age of 93.

Week 11: Aaron Betsky, head of the School of Architecture at Taliesin (see week 5), took a job as director of Virginia Tech’s School of Architecture + Design.

Week 12: Italian architect Vittorio Gregotti became the first high-profile architect succumbing to COVID-19, dying at the age of 92. Rem Koolhaas's Countryside closed a few weeks after opening, so we read the book instead.

Week 13: Architect, critic and educator Michael Sorkin died at the age of 71 from complications brought on by the coronavirus. Italian architects Carlo Ratti and Italo Rota unveiled an open-source design for ICUs made from shipping containers (see also week 17).

Week 14: New York City halted "non-essential" construction to curtail the pandemic. Michael McKinnell, architect of Boston City Hall, died on March 27 following complications from COVID-19.


Selected Building: Munch Museum by Estudio Herreros

Selected Insight: Paola Pierotti spoke with five architects from Lombardy on what the world of architecture could learn from the Covid-19 experience.


KUAD Botenkan (Photo: Shigeo Ogawa)

Week 15: Brothers Laurids and Manfred Ortner were given the Grand Austrian State Prize, the first architects to win the prize since 2015. William Menking, co-founder and editor-in-chief of The Architect's Newspaper, died at the age of 72

Week 16: LACMA started demolishing some of its buildings to make way for the new galleries designed by Peter Zumthor. Australia pulled out of the Venice Biennale, which was still set to open in August, while the AIA canceled its Conference on Architecture scheduled for the following month.

Week 17: CURA, unveiled in April (see week 13), was installed inside a temporary hospital in Turin.

Week 18: The Serpentine Pavilion, designed by Johannesburg's Counterspace, was delayed until summer 2021 due to COVID-19. The Citizens’ Brigade to Save LACMA unveiled a half-dozen designs in a competition exploring alternatives to Peter Zumthor's museum design.


Selected Building: KUAD Botenkan by Waro Kishi + K.Associates

Selected Insights: Eduard Kögel communicated with a bevy of Chinese architects about the coronavirus pandemic and their "new normal." I interviewed Italian architects Simone Sfriso and Raul Pantaleo of TAMassociati, whose motto is "Taking Care in Architecture." Elias Baumgarten interviewed Binke Lenhardt of Crossboundaries.


Ashen Cabin (Photo: Andy Chen)

Week 19: Sidewalk Labs abandoned its controversial Quayside project in Toronto. Architect and educator Marvin Malecha, a constant presence at AIA conventions, died at the age of 70.

Week 20: Copenhagen was named UNESCO World Capital of Architecture 2023 thanks to projects like CopenHill by BIG.

Week 21: The opening of the Venice Architecture Biennale got bumped from August 2020 to May 2021 (after getting bumped to August in week 10). Dietmar Steiner, founding director of the Architekturzentrum Wien, died at the age of 68.

Week 22: Europe's largest green facade, designed by Ingenhoven architects with Werner Sobek, was completed in Düsseldorf.


Selected Building: Ashen Cabin by HANNAH

Selected Insight: My interview with Belgium's Osar Architects, a leader in designing healing communities in healthcare and related sectors, as part of our media partnership with Vectorworks Design Summit, which was canceled this year, like so many other events.


Longquan Well-Chengdu Jingkai White Building (Photo: Li Guomin)

Week 23: Famed environmental artist Christo died at the age of 84. AIA Minnesota made an eloquent statement following the murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis.

Week 24: I interviewed photographer Iwan Baan, the keynote speaker of the second Architecture & the Media conference. The School of Architecture at Taliesin (see week 5) announced it would be parting with the Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation and moving to Cosanti and Arcosanti, the campuses started by Paolo Soleri.

Week 25: Raffles City Chongqing's "horizontal skyscraper," designed by Safdie Associates, opened in Chongqing. With Black Lives Matter protests across the US, many architecture schools issued statements voicing their support and promising changes.

Week 26: London decided to move out of the City Hall designed by Foster + Partners for The Crystal designed by WilkinsonEyre. The American Society of Landscape Architects announced the recipients of its highest honors.


Selected Building: Longquan Well-Chengdu Jingkai White Building by CROX

Selected Insight: Our recap of the second Architecture & the Media conference, which was organized by the Fundació Mies van der Rohe and took place online over five days in May.


Argyle House (Photo: Portlandrone)

Week 27: The University of Southern California School of Architecture and Getty Research Institute jointly acquired the archive of African American architect Paul Revere Williams.

Week 28: David Adjaye's design for the Cherry Groce Memorial in London was revealed, while in New York City, ODA unveiled a huge development proposal for Astoria, Queens, just steps away from this writer's office.

Week 29: The Architectural Association in London fired director Eva Franch i Gilabert, just two years after she was selected for the post. The recipients of the Getty Foundation final Keeping It Modern grants were announced.

Week 30: On summer break.

Week 31: The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) celebrated its 30th anniversary on July 26. The US Olympic and Paralympic Museum, designed by Diller Scofidio + Renfro, opened on July 30.


Selected Building: Argyle Gardens by Holst Architecture

Selected Insight: On summer break.


Gardenhouse (Photo: Nic Lehoux)

Week 32: Construction resumed on Santiago Calatrava long-stalled St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church at the World Trade Center. Chybik + Kristof completed the Lahofer Winery in Dobšice, Czech Republic.

Week 33: Simon Allford of AHMM was elected the 79th president of the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA). Public toilets designed by famous architects started appearing across Tokyo.

Week 34: The World Architecture Festival (WAF) rescheduled, moving its Lisbon event from December 2020 to June 2021. The draft executive order leaked in week 6 was never signed, but that didn't stop the Trump administration from pushing its neoclassical mandate into contracts for federal buildings.

Week 35: OMA New York unveiled its design transforming the Tiffany & Co. flagship store in Midtown Manhattan. It was announced that Italian architect Vittorio Gregotti, who died in March (see week 12), would receive a Golden Lion from La Biennale di Venezia. Sculptor Siah Armajani died on August 27 at the age of 81.


Selected Building: Gardenhouse by MAD Architects

Selected Insight: Georg Windeck reviewed the second, expanded edition of Michael Green and Jim Taggart's Tall Wood Buildings: Design, Construction and Performance.


The Niemeyer Sphere (Photo: Margret Hoppe / Sebastian Stumpf)

Week 36: Herzog & de Meuron's restored and expanded home for the Basel Symphony Orchestra opened. 87-year-old British architect Richard Rogers announced he's retiring.

Week 37: An assemblage of buildings designed by Eric Owen Moss won the AIA's 25-Year Award. I wrote a "remote review" of La Biennale di Venezia's The Disquieted Muses.

Week 38: Brazilian architect Paulo Mendes da Rocha donated his extensive archive to Casa da Arquitectura in Portugal. Twenty years in the making, Frank Gehry's Dwight D. Eisenhower Memorial opened in Washington, DC. Snøhetta won the competition for the Theodore Roosevelt Presidential Library.

Week 39: David Adjaye presented his firm's design for the Princeton University Art Museum's new home. New renderings of Peter Zumthor's LACMA building revealed dark galleries.

Week 40: While the RIBA canceled the Stirling Prize, it awarded the Royal Gold Medal to David Adjaye. Frank Gehry designed a $17,000 bottle of cognac.


Selected Building: The Niemeyer Sphere by Oscar Niemeyer

Selected Insight: Falk Jaeger recounted the scandal-ridden new Berlin Brandenburg Airport Willy Brandt and took a peek inside before its October opening.


Imperial Kiln Museum (Photo: schranimage)

Week 41: Winners in the third biennial Young Talent Architecture Award (YTAA) were announced, as were the winners of the inaugural YTAA Asian Edition. OMA's Axel Springer Building (see February Insight) opened in Berlin.

Week 42: The Eileen Gray exhibition at Bard Graduate Center in New York reopened on October 13. Anupama Kundoo – Taking Time opened at the Louisiana Museum of Modern Art in Humlebæk, Denmark.

Week 43: Anna Heringer's Anandaloy Building in Bangladesh won the second annual Obel Award. The Chicago Architecture Biennial announced the details of its fourth edition that will open in September 2021.

Week 44: The Association of German Architects gave its BDA Grand Prize to French architects Anne Lacaton and Jean-Philippe Vassal. The Pritzker Architecture Prize announced a new jury chair and executive director. A satirical Donald J. Trump Library went viral.


Selected Building: Imperial Kiln Museum by Studio Zhu-Pei

Selected Insight: Elias Baumgarten interviewed Wolf D. Prix of Coop Himmelb(l)au, who stressed the urgent need for fresh concepts for the next twenty years.


Powerhouse Telemark (Photo: Ivar Kvaal)

Week 45: The future of Norman Foster's Tulip, unveiled in November 2018, went up for public inquiry. The winners of the second Lilly Reich Grant for Equality in Architecture were announced.

Week 46: Rem Koolhaas's Countryside reopened in October, so we took a look at the exhibition by the numbers. The National Museum of the United States Army, designed by SOM, opened on November 11, Veterans Day.

Week 47: The Nancy and Rich Kinder Building at the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, designed by Steven Holl Architects, opened on November 21. MoMA announced the establishment of the Emilio Ambasz Institute for the Joint Study of the Built and the Natural Environment.

Week 48: Patrik Schumacher of Zaha Hadid Architects was in the news. Biennale Architettura Sneak Peek was launched with short films and other content leading up the Biennale's May opening.


Selected Building: Powerhouse Telemark by Snøhetta

Selected Insight: Katinka Corts on the fascinating life of Rudolf Hamburger, the subject of a new biography by Eduard Kögel.


Bamboo Bamboo (Photo: Arch-Exist Photography)

Week 49: The Circle at Zürich Airport, designed by Japanese architect Riken Yamamoto, opened to the public. MPavilion announced it would be taking up residency in a parking garage in Melbourne rather than building a namesake temporary pavilion.

Week 50: Edward Mazria, founder and CEO of Architecture 2030, was named recipient of the 2021 AIA Gold Medal. Dong Mei and Liu Xiaochuan of China's BCKJ Architects won the 2020 RA Dorfman Award. The keys to David Chipperfield Architects' extension to Kunsthaus Zürich were handed over to the museum on December 11.

Week 51 & 52: On holiday break.


Selected Building: Bamboo Bamboo by llLab.

Selected Insight: The one you just finished reading!

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