Year in Architecture 2021
13. December 2021
As 2021 — year two of the coronavirus pandemic — draws to a close, World-Architects takes a month-by-month look back at some of the stories that transpired over the last twelve months: awards, competitions, buildings, exhibitions, and passings.
Moynihan Train Hall (Photo: Lucas Blair Simpson © SOM)In January 2021:
- We remembered Swiss architect Luigi Snozzi, who died at the end of December, 2020.
- SOM's Moynihan Train Hall at Pennsylvania Station opened on the first day of 2021; we visited the building and its artworks.
- Munich's DETAIL magazine turned 60.
- Blair Kamin stepped down from his nearly thirty-year post as architecture critic of the Chicago Tribune.
- Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman unveiled THE LINE, a "170-kilometer revolution in urban living."
- A third suicide shuttered Thomas Heatherwick's The Vessel at Hudson Yards in New York City. (see also July)
- London's Design Museum named the "Teeter-Totter Wall," a temporary installation at the US-Mexico border, the Beazley Design of the Year 2020.
- Kate Macintosh and Lesley Lokko were named this year’s recipients of the Jane Drew Prize and Ada Louise Huxtable Prize, respectively.
- France's cultural minister announced the Centre Pompidou would close for four years (2023–27) for renovations.
- DAM Preis for Architecture in Germany 2021 was awarded to MVRDV and N-V-O Nuyken von Oefele Architekten for WERK12.
Selected Found: Věčná loviště (Hunting Grounds), a pet crematorium inserted into an old military bunker near Prague, designed by architect Petr Hájek.
Selected Insight: Formgiving, the latest monograph by BIG – Bjarke Ingels Group and the third in a trilogy produced by Taschen in the context of major exhibitions on BIG.
The Helix (Image courtesy of Amazon)In February 2021:
- JGMA's Esperanza Wellness Campus on Chicago's South Side was voted by our readers as 2020 US Building of the Year.
- Amazon unveiled The Helix, designed by NBBJ as the centerpiece of the tech company's new HQ2 in Arlington, Virginia.
- The Obama Foundation cleared one last legal hurdle, paving the way for construction to start on the Obama Presidential Center on Chicago's South Side.
- The Hudson River Park Trust unveiled plans for Gansevoort Peninsula, designed by James Corner Field Operations and just steps from the High Line.
- A team led by James Corner Field Operations won the competition to transform an unused railway in London into the Camden Highline.
- London's National Gallery announced plans that include reconfiguring parts of The Sainsbury Wing, designed in 1991 by Robert Venturi and Denise Scott Brown. (see also July)
- Mario Cucinella Architects and WASP developed TECLA, a project that addresses the housing crisis through 3D printing.
- Diller Scofidio + Renfro's competition-winning design for the Centre for Music at the Barbican in London was cancelled.
- US President Joe Biden revoked the controversial executive order, "Promoting Beautiful Federal Civic Architecture," that former President Donald Trump signed in December, 2020.
- The first phase of the Underline, the transformation of the space beneath Miami’s MetroRail into a park, trail, and art destination, opened on February 26.
Selected Found: A manga biography on architect Denise Scott Brown, by artist Hiroki Otsuka for the Vilcek Foundation.
Selected Insights: Two book reviews: Japan: Nation Building Nature by Joachim Nijs; and the Atlas of Digital Architecture: Terminology, Concepts, Methods, Tools, Examples, Phenomena.
Louis Vuitton Ginza Naminki (Photo: Neoplus Sixten Inc.)In March 2021:
- MARABAR, Elyn Zimmerman's site-specific installation in Washington, DC, was saved from demolition.
- Hugh Newell Jacobsen, an architect based in Washington, DC, died on March 4 — exactly one week shy of his 92nd birthday.
- La Biennale di Venezia announced that Lina Bo Bardi would be given a Special Golden Lion for Lifetime Achievement in memoriam.
- Aldo Rossi: The Architect and the Cities opened on March 10 at MAXXI, the National Museum of 21st Century Arts in Rome.
- When Practice Becomes Form: Carpentry Tools from Japan, with an exhibition design by Sou Fujimoto, opened on March 11 at Japan Society in New York City.
- French architects Anne Lacaton and Jean-Philippe Vassal were chosen as laureates of the 2021 Pritzker Architecture Prize
- Indian architect Bijoy Jain and his office, Studio Mumbai, won the 14th Alvar Aalto Medal.
- On March 20, Louis Vuitton opened its transformed Ginza Naminki store in Tokyo, designed by Jun Aoki and Peter Marino.
- Francis Kéré was named the recipient of the 2021 Thomas Jefferson Foundation Medal in Architecture.
- The Royal Architectural Institute of Canada (RAIC) gave the 2021 RAIC Gold Medal to architects Brigitte Shim and A. Howard Sutcliffe.
Selected Found: Architect Junya Ishigami's Restaurant Noel, a series of cave-like spaces seemingly carved into the earth.
Selected Insight: Richard Saul Wurman on Louis I. Kahn and the return of The Notebooks and Drawings of Louis I. Kahn after nearly 60 years.
Olafur Eliasson, Life, 2021 (Photo: Pati Grabowicz. Courtesy of the artist; neugerriemschneider, Berlin; Tanya Bonakdar Gallery, New York / Los Angeles © 2021 Olafur Eliasson)In April 2021:
- Vienna's Coop Himmelb(l)au won an international competition to design the SCA Arena and Park in St. Petersburg.
- Paris's Bruther, the firm of Stéphanie Bru and Alexandre Theriot, won the seventh biennial Swiss Architectural Award.
- The Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art revealed plans for a major expansion by Safdie Architects, the architect of its original museum.
- Genevese architect/landscape architect Georges Descombes was named one of three recipients of the Prix Meret Oppenheim.
- Fundació Enric Miralles launched MIRALLES, a series of exhibitions and events celebrating the life of Enric Miralles, the Catalan architect who died in 2000.
- Basel's Christ & Gantenbein and Barcelona's Harquitectes won the international competition to extend MACBA, the Museu d'Art Contemporani de Barcelona.
- Olafur Eliasson's immersive Life installation opened on April 16 at the Fondation Beyeler in Riehen, Switzerland.
- The American Institute of Architects and its Committee on the Environment (COTE) revealed the ten winning projects in the 2021 COTE Top Ten.
- La Biennale di Venezia announced Spanish architect Rafael Moneo as recipient of the Golden Lion for Lifetime Achievement.
- David Chipperfield Architects' refurbishment of Ludwig Mies van der Rohe's Neue Nationalgalerie in Berlin was completed, marked by a virtual handover of the keys on April 29.
Selected Found: At Home: Projects for Contemporary Housing at Garagem Sul / Centro Cultural de Belém in Lisbon.
Selected Insight: An interview with architect Saikal Zhunushova, "the young woman with the low-tech approach."
American Framing, US Pavilion at the Venice Architecture Biennale (Photo © Flavia Rossi)In May 2021:
- The American Institute of Architects announced that Robert Ivy would retire after ten years as the AIA's Executive Vice President and Chief Executive Officer.
- The State of Illinois put Helmut Jahn's James R. Thompson Center in Chicago's Loop up for sale, raising the specter of its potential demolition and renewing calls to protect it.
- A team led by Milan Ingegneria, with architecture by Labics and Fabio Fumagalli, won a competition to design and build a retractable floor at the Colosseum in Rome.
- Architect Helmut Jahn died on Saturday, May 8, at the age of 81, when he was struck by two cars while riding his bicycle west of Chicago.
- M. Arthur Gensler, Jr., founder of the global architecture and interior design firm Gensler, died on Monday, May 10, at the age of 85.
- Terence Riley, architect and former MoMA curator, died at the age of 66.
- The Nakagin Capsule Tower, designed by Kisho Kurokawa and built in 1972, made headlines once again, with reports of owners selling their units and moving out signaling its imminent demolition.
- Will Bruder's Burton Barr Phoenix Central Library was awarded the 2021 Twenty-five Year Award.
- Thomas Heatherwick's Little Island, formerly known as Pier 55, opened to the public on Friday, May 21.
- Canadian landscape architect Cornelia Hahn Oberlander died on Saturday, May 22, about a month shy of her 100th birthday.
- Brazilian architect Paulo Mendes da Rocha died on Sunday, May 23, at the age of 92.
Selected Found: Scenes from the 2021 Venice Architecture Biennale, which opened to the public on May 22.
Selected Insight: Susanna Koeberle's review of the 17th Venice Architecture Biennale, How will we live together?, curated by Hashim Sarkis.
LUMA Arles Tower by Frank Gehry (Photo © Adrian Deweerdt)In June 2021:
- The Stavros Niarchos Foundation Library in New York, renovated by Mecanoo and Beyer Blinder Belle, celebrated its reopening on June 1.
- Plans to open an outpost of the Pompidou in Jersey City, New Jersey, were revealed for a city-owned building that will be renovated by OMA New York.
- The 20th Serpentine Pavilion, designed by Johannesburg's Counterspace, opened to the public on June 11th, following a one-year pandemic-induced delay.
- German architect Gottfried Böhm, recipient of the 1986 Pritzker Architecture Prize, died on Wednesday, June 9, at the age of 101.
- MoMA named Carson Chan the inaugural director of the Emilio Ambasz Institute for the Joint Study of the Built and the Natural Environment.
- Vectorworks announced the winners of its annual scholarships for students in the fields of architecture, landscape architecture, interior design, and entertainment.
- Richard Meier & Partners Architects changed its name to Meier Partners, in an attempt to get past the sexual harassment charges leveled at Richard Meier in 2018.
- To pay for restoration work for Puppy, the Jeff Koons sculpture in front of the Guggenheim Museum Bilbao, the museum asked the public to fund the work through donations.
- The tower designed by Frank Gehry for the LUMA Foundation opened in Arles, France.
- The Domus Aurea, Emperor Nero's first-century palace, opened to the public on June 23 with a new entrance designed by Stefano Boeri.
Selected Found: "Vitra in Bloom," the perennial garden added by Piet Oudolf to the campus of Vitra in Weil am Rhein, Germany.
Selected Insight: The five-part D-A-CH series: "Between Emergency and Opportunity," "Planning Means Asking What Kind of Society We Want to Live In," "Emotional Buildings Are Needed," "Explaining, Mediating, Selling," and "The Return of the Inventors."
The Vessel (Photo: John Hill/World-Architects)In July 2021:
- Alison Killing, an architect and geospatial analyst, was part of a team that won the 2021 Pulitzer Prize in International Reporting.
- Diller Scofidio + Renfro's pedestrian bridge at their US Olympic Museum in Colorado opened on July 1, one year after the museum opened to the public.
- Plans were revealed to save some of capsules from Kisho Kurokawa's Nakagin Capsule Tower, refurbish them, and donate them to museums in and beyond Japan.
- London's National Gallery selected a team led by Selldorf Architects to work on "a suite of capital projects" that includes remodeling The Sainsbury Wing. (see also February)
- Glenstone Museum released renderings of a new building designed by Thomas Phifer and Partners that will house a major sculpture by Richard Serra.
- The Royal Institute of British Architects announced the 16 projects from 11 countries receiving 2021 International Awards for Excellence.
- MVRDV's Marble Arch Mound opened in London, not to fanfare, but to derision from visitors who criticized it for failing to meet expectations.
- After reopening in May (see January), The Vessel in Hudson Yards closed following a fourth suicide, renewing calls to install higher barriers on Thomas Heatherwick's accessible sculpture.
Selected Found: A list of ten "Summer Reads."
Selected Insight: "Alone among Men: Astra Zarina in Berlin" by Eduard Kögel.
Aboriginal Art and Cultures Centre (Image: Diller Scofidio + Renfro and Woods Bagot)In August 2021:
- Plans for the Aboriginal Art and Cultures Centre, designed by Diller Scofidio + Renfro and Woods Bagot, were submitted for planning approval, accompanied by updated renderings.
- Construction commenced on a 34-story tower designed by Renzo Piano Building Workshop for Columbia University, across the street from its Piano-designed Manhattanville campus.
- Indian architect Anupama Kundoo was named the 2021 recipient of the RIBA Charles Jencks Award.
- New Middles, the third Exhibit Columbus exhibition, opened on Saturday, August 21.
- The Museu de Arte de São Paulo (MASP) revealed plans for an expansion to its iconic building designed by Lina Bo Bardi.
- The awards for participation in the 17th International Architecture Exhibition, How will we live together?, and for the best national pavilions were announced on Monday, August 30.
Selected Found: NEBULOSUS, an installation of vapor clouds created by AUTHOS.ch and Stella Speziali for the third iteration of Design Biennale Zurich.
Selected Insight: Dietmar Feichtinger Architectes' pedestrian promenade in Bastia, a "masterpiece of urban design and engineering."
Christo and Jeanne-Claude: L'Arc de Triomphe, Wrapped, Paris, 1961-2021. (Photo: Wolfgang Volz © 2021 Christo and Jeanne-Claude Foundation)In September 2021:
- New York's Cooper Hewitt announced the winners of the 2021 National Design Awards.
- Jörg Schlaich, of Stuttgart's schlaich bergermann partner, died on September 4 at the age of 86.
- We presented a visual tour of the World Trade Center on the 20th anniversary of the September 11 attacks.
- Australian architect Glenn Murcutt was named a recipient of the Japan Art Association’s 2021 Praemium Imperiale International Arts Award.
- Design District opened on the Greenwich Peninsula, with a campus of sixteen buildings designed by some big-name architects.
- The 2021 Chicago Architecture Biennial opened its three-month run on September 17, activating some vacant lots in a half-dozen neighborhoods through site-specific architectural projects.
- Charles Jenck's Cosmic House opened to the public on Friday, September 24, two years after the famed architectural historian and landscape designer died.
- L'Arc de Triomphe, Wrapped, a temporary artwork by the late artists Christo and Jeanne-Claude, opened in Paris on September 18.
- The Academy Museum of Motion Pictures, designed by Renzo Piano Building Workshop, opened to the public on September 30.
- Residents of 432 Park Avenue, the supertall tower designed by Rafael Viñoly, sued the building's developer over "some 1,500 construction and design defects."
Selected Found: The Fourth Chamber, Hiroshi Sambuichi's expansion of the Cisternerne in Copenhagen.
Selected Insight: Draw love build, a large exhibition on Sauerbruch Hutton at the M9 Museum outside Venice.
Japan Pavilion at Expo 2020 (Photo © Japan Pavilion, Expo 2020 Dubai)In October 2021:
- Expo 2020 opened to the public in Dubai on October 1, 2021, one year behind schedule and with a lot of "short attention span architecture."
- Architect of Death and Life, a major monographic exhibition on Sigurd Lewerentz, opened at ArkDes on October 1.
- The Brooklyn Bridge Park, designed by Michael Van Valkenburgh Associates, was named the winner of the 2021 Rosa Barba International Landscape Prize.
- The third Obel Award, the international prize for architectural achievement presented annually by the Henrik Frode Obel Foundation, was given to the 15-Minute City.
- The inauguration of the new Aarhus School of Architecture was held on October 4.
- The first phase of OMA's reconfigured Kaufhaus des Westens (KaDeWe) department store opened its doors.
- Julie Bargmann won the inaugural Cornelia Hahn Oberlander International Landscape Architecture Prize, a biennial award initiated by The Cultural Landscape Foundation.
- Grafton Architects' Town House for Kingston University London was named the 25th RIBA Stirling Prize winner.
- Renderings were released for a proposed 1,500-foot tower designed by the firm of David Adjaye for a parcel near New York's Hudson Yards.
- In Hudson Yards, just steps from the closed Vessel, a "thrill experience" called City Climb opened on the top of 30 Hudson Yards.
Selected Found: Momentum of Light, an inspiring illustrated book documenting the travels of Iwan Baan and Francis Kéré in Burkina Faso.
Selected Insight: Annie Coggan's The Book of Errors, a "playful exploration of preservation."
The proposed Munger Hall at UC Santa Barbara (Image via "Scoping Hearing on Munger Hall" presentation document)In November 2021:
- Plans for a 4,500-bed dormitory at UC Santa Barbara designed by 97-year-old billionaire Charles Munger drew criticism over the fact only 6% of the dorm rooms would have windows.
- The Aspen Art Museum announced that a site-specific artwork by Gaetano Pesce will cover the facade of the museum's Shigeru Ban-designed building next year.
- The tower at 8 Spruce Street in Lower Manhattan designed by Frank Gehry was listed for $850 million.
- Norman Foster's 305-meter-tall Tulip tower was rejected over its "unsustainable concept" and its visual impact on heritage buildings.
- Herzog & de Meuron's much anticipated M+ opened to the public on Friday, November 12, in Hong Kong.
- On November 13, the Holcim Foundation announced the winners of the Global Holcim Awards for Sustainable Construction.
- Bangladeshi architect Marina Tabassum was named the fourth recipient of the Soane Medal, given out annually by the Sir John Soane's Museum in London.
- John Puttick Associates' preservation of the Preston Bus Station in England won the 2021 WMF/Knoll Modernism Prize.
- Never Demolish, the installation of "Transformation of 530 Dwellings in the Grand Parc Bordeaux" opened at the Barcelona Pavilion on November 26.
- Influential artist and designer Virgil Abloh died of cancer at the age of 41.
Selected Found: "A building that's also a book," the recently completed Babyn Yar Synagogue in Kyiv, Ukraine, designed by Manuel Herz.
Selected Insight: Engineer Mike Schlaich on the wrapping of the Arc de Triomphe.
House of Hungarian Music (Photo © Liget Budapest Project)In December 2021:
- Madrid's renovated Plaza de España, designed by architects Fernando Porras-Isla, Lorenzo Fernández-Ordoñez, and Aránzazu La Casta, opened to the public.
- The seventh MPavilion, MAP studio's Lightcatcher, opened in Melbourne's Queen Victoria Gardens.
- The recipients of the 32nd annual Piranesi Awards were announced, with the highest award going to Saint Gellért Hall by Építész Stúdió.
- The same week that Barbados became a republic, it announced the creation a slavery memorial designed by Adjaye Associates.
- Hiroshi Sugimoto's redesign of the Hirshhorn Museum's Sculpture Garden in Washington, DC, was approved by the National Capital Planning Commission.
- BIG's Copenhill was named World Building of the Year at the World Architecture Festival, held virtually over the first few days of the month.
- Renzo Piano Building Workshop’s GES-2 House of Culture opened in Moscow on December 4.
- The Royal Institute of British Architects named India's Balkrishna Doshi the 2022 recipient of the Royal Gold Medal.
- And across the Atlantic, the American Institute of American Architects named Angela Brooks and Lawrence Scarpa winners of the 2022 Gold Medal.
- Lesley Lokko was chosen to curate the 2023 Venice Architecture Biennale.
- Helmut Jahn's Thompson Center was saved from the wrecking ball.
- British architect Richard Rogers, of Pompidou and Lloyd's of London fame, died at the age of 88.
Selected Found: Photos of Sou Fujimoto's completed House of Hungarian Music in Budapest.
Selected Insight: An interview with timber construction entrepreneur Katharina Lehmann.