Today’s finest architecture is more than just exceptionally easy on the eye – it is relevant, practical and sustainable. Thanks to a luxurious new coffee-table tome by gestalten – The ArchDaily Guide To Good Architecture – we bring you a sneak peek into some of the world’s most stunning structures
Words and pictures copyright gestalten
VILLA Z, CASABLANCA, MOROCCO
ARCHITECT: MOHAMED AMINE SIANA
Despite overlooking a busy Casablanca avenue. Villa Z’s sculptural design shields it from the bustling city, providing a calm, light-flooded retreat. Architect Mohamed Amine Siana’s design cleverly embeds a contemporary home within urban Casablanca by referencing the city’s Modernist buildings while remaining sensitive to tradition. “The project draws its inspiration from Moroccan cultural roots, while opening up to new horizons,” says Siana. “In the city of Casablanca, traditional Modernism has been the norm in recent years. It was a laboratory for some brilliant architects and this villa does well to not poke anyone in the eye, while in the same breath maintaining a characteristic, distinct plausibility to its integrity as a modern artefact in the city.”
Given a small block to work with, and strict city planning regulations, Siana worked outwards from the structural blueprint of the cube, subverting it with curvatures. “My principal intention was to go out from this cuboid perception to answer to the client’s programme and routine, and to find the best way to preserve privacy and protect the project from the noise of the prominent front avenue,” explains the architect. “The intention was –working closely with the client’s lifestyle in mind – to build a house with discretion and introversion. The design centres on the opacity of the main façade, combining the principles of traditional architecture with a strong contemporary identity.” Following the programme, the west-facing façade is devoid of any visible openings to the street. Down a path, the front door is hidden behind elegant wooden panelling while intersecting shapes conceal the windows, angled efficiently towards sun-catching aspects. Large windows on the rear façade overlook a pool and are angled inwards, away from neighbours, flooding the open-plan space with light, with an ‘automatised’ roof canopy that allows for climate control. Using its angular geometry and the fluidity of sculpture, the design provides privacy without compromising open airiness and has the added environmental benefit of passive cooling.
With its white façade, angles and curves, the building addresses the cultural shift under way in Morocco, balancing the contemporary with the local flavour of Modernism and the traditional desire for a private home. “The project is an experience in which we try to develop practical spaces for the new way of Moroccan life, a cultural dilemma between privacy and the contemporary, open way of life,” explains Siana.
HOUSE IN GRÂNDOLA, PORTUGAL
ARCHITECT: BAK GORDON ARQUITECTOS
Built of local materials, the House in Grândola is a coherent and geometric family home built to endure and to celebrate its environment. The 375sqm building is located in Monte dos Patos, Grândola, in Portugal’s huge southern region of Alentejo. A hot, rural area on the Atlantic coastline, Alentejo’s land is quarried for limestone, marble, and copper, while one of its greatest exports is cork, its trees producing two-thirds of the world’s entire cork supply.
To create a building that could withstand the parched, sun-baked conditions, Lisbon-based studio Bak Gordon Arquitectos took cues from such endemic materials. The resulting house is clad in lime mortar and insulated with cork from the outside. Depending on the light, it takes on the dusty hues of the land, ranging from a pale, sun-bleached peach to a deep, rusty rose. The striking geometry of the T-shaped house is at once clear from the long, diamond-shaped pool that faces south, where blue water meets dusty earth just as Alentejo reaches the Atlantic. Against the “vast territory of Alentejo, the house emerges from an extensive pool leaning against a wall facing south, as if it were a sounding board for the entire landscape,” the architects explain of their poetic vision.
The structure of the house juts out of this swimming pool and is reached by two indoor/outdoor rooms, akin to vestibules, on either wing of the house. According to the architects, the spaces “act as places as transition between interior and exterior”, rendering them ideal spots for rest and relaxation. These liminal rooms are shaded by wooden pergolas that cast changing shadows throughout the day. The weatherproofing is vital for summertime in the region, when temperatures regularly exceed 40°C. The walls of the leisurely structures are thronged by inbuilt seating for relaxation, while large square cutouts bring in light and allow views to the countryside.
The interior areas of the house are laid around a small courtyard, with a petite corner pond. The geometric building was arranged at different heights to accommodate for the sloping land beneath it, but inside feels wholly unified. The materiality of the building brings the tones of the outside in, while the layout serves to counteract the harsh elements. Two shaded recesses on the east and west axes allow daylight to gently enter the building and bounce into the patio, directed by curved walls – a clever route that leaves the building well-lit but cool.
THE SILO, COPENHAGEN, DENMARK
In a fledgling Copenhagen neighbourhood, a 17-storey grain silo has been given a new future as a modern residential and public-serving building. Designed by Cobe, The Silo’s reinvention is part of a project to transform the industrial area of Nordhavn (North Harbor) into a new district. “By revitalising our industrial heritage, we discover new potential and highlight historical traces in our cities,” says Dan Stubbergaard, Cobe’s founder. “They represent a built resource. They represent our history.”
The exterior of the existing silo has been clad to current standards, with a faceted, climate-shielding façade made of angular galvanised steel that structurally maintains the original shape of the slender building. The steel is a nod to the industrial setting and will patinate and gain its own character over time. “We wanted to retain the spirit of the silo as much as possible, both in terms of its monolithic exterior and majestic concrete interior, by simply draping it with a new overcoat,” explains Stubbergaard. “The aim was to transform it from the inside out in such a way that its new inhabitants and the surrounding urban life would highlight the structure’s identity and heritage.” The interior, meanwhile, has been left as untouched as possible.
The spacious building contains private and public spaces. There are 38 high-ceilinged, single and multi-level apartments with panoramic views of Copenhagen. On the rooftop, encased in glass is a restaurant offering 360° views, while the ground floor houses a public event space. The integrative mix of functions ensures that The Silo will play a formative and enduring role in Nordhavn’s new history. “Private housing and public functions ensure that the building remains active all day. The public functions at the top and bottom also ensure a multidimensional experience for the various users of the building,” says Stubbergaard. “The Silo will be inhabited, but will also be a destination, an urban focal point for the new development at Nordhavn.”
HENDERSON CIFI TIANDI, SHANGHAI, CHINA
ARCHITECT: ATELIERS JEAN NOUVEL
Linking the Ma Dang and Dan Shui thoroughfares, the passageway formed by Shanghai’s Henderson Cifi Tiandi building is known as The Street of 1,000 Red Jars. Combining offices and commercial units, the building was created by Paris’s Ateliers Jean Nouvel, and sits in the former French concession district of Huangpu. As the site runs an entire block, the architect Jean Nouvel admits he could not resist linking the streets with an “urban and commercial passageway” – and the idea was born.
The passage references the district’s varied history, equally inspired by its French concession-era architecture as it is traditional Chinese shopping streets. In China, red is a symbol of luck and happiness, lending the colour’s on-site abundance added significance. According to Nouvel, the building evokes its “vanished surroundings that have been completely reimagined and are new and modern.”
The red passageway breaks up the building’s muted façade and calls out to be discovered from the adjacent street. Multiple bridges link the two-winged structure, offering utility and visual charm. Plant pots overflowing with greenery line the many levels of the passageway and the exterior facade, bringing the outdoors in with cheering results and offering residents privacy. “Shadowplays produced by the adjustable slats of the blinds, in front of windows bordered by huge flower pots, play on the mystery of presences and activities,” expands Nouvel, “while inventing a landscape of vegetal friezes in the colours of the season and of the different flowers.” The development invites activity, fulfilling its intention.
“The complementarity between the shops facing each other, the activities of the offices, and the restaurants up under the roof, create a familiar and naturally animated street, setting pleasing walks as a target and offering an inviting new itinerary between Ma Dang and Dan Shui streets,” says the architect.
LÖYLY SAUNA, HELSINKI, FINLAND
ARCHITECT: AVANTO ARCHITECTS
Löyly, a coastal public sauna, approximately 3km on foot from Helsinki’s city centre, is part of a growing movement to keep the social Finnish custom alive, as Finns increasingly favour private saunas in the home. Löyly, its namesake, is the uniquely Finnish word for the steam that emerges when water is thrown onto the hot sauna stones. Designed by Avanto Architects, the project was commissioned by the city of Helsinki as part of an initiative to develop the former industrial area of Hernesaari into a coastal residential area.
The building’s design accommodates for this future growth, including plans to connect the narrow coastal park to a larger, Helsinki-bound parkland. With this in mind, Löyly’s elongated design has it perched comfortably on the coastline. The building’s shape, too, forms an outdoor auditorium for the local marine sport club’s future activities, and its low profile will afford future residential buildings views of the sea beyond. The exterior, a wooden shell of heat-treated pine (Löyly is the first Forest Stewardship Council-certified building in Finland), will blend into the landscape over time, becoming grey like the shoreline rocks. The finely slatted panelling not only creates a Venetian-blind effect from the inside, offering sauna-goers private views to the outdoors, but also shades the interior, reducing future cooling costs for the building, which is powered by water- and wind-sourced energy.
Inside, Studio Joanna Laajisto used durable, long-lasting materials including black concrete, blackened steel, wool, and Scandinavian birch wood to construct the three saunas, restaurant and connecting resting areas. The wood itself is the result of a sustainable Finnish innovation that repurposes leftover materials from the plywood industry. Outside, as is local custom, visitors can swim in the sea and in winter there is a dedicated space for an ice hole (known in Finnish as an avanto) to plunge into. Löyly’s future-proofed design is not limited to the structure alone, but extends to the culture of Finnish public bathing itself, providing a space for mixed saunas with bathing suits. “Traditionally men and women bathe separately and naked. We wanted to develop sauna culture so that there would be a possibility to bathe together with your friends, regardless of gender,” shares Avanto. “This makes the sauna experience available also for foreign visitors who might not be used to bathing naked.”
JAMES-SIMON-GALERIE, BERLIN, GERMANY
ARCHITECT: DAVID CHIPPERFIELD ARCHITECTS
The James-Simon-Galerie reinterprets the architectural motifs of Berlin’s Museum Island to create a harmonious contemporary entrance for the Unesco World Heritage Site. The site’s original programme was built between 1823 and 1930 as a precinct for the arts and sciences and has seen the incorporation of designs by eminent architects over the years. In 1999, an ongoing initiative began to repair damage incurred during World War II and bring modern functionality to the destination.
Named after one of the city’s most important museum benefactors, the James-Simon-Galerie was designed by David Chipperfield Architects and opened in 2019. It functions as both a gallery and entrance site: four of the island’s five museums can be reached via its below-ground Archaeological Promenade, situated along the Kupfergraben canal embankment.
The new gallery marks yet another period in the evolution of museum design. Its architectural language “adopts existing elements of Museum Island, making reference to Schinkel, Stüler, and the other architects involved in the island’s creation,” explain the architects. One of multiple, seamless interventions is its colonnaded walkway that adjoins Friedrich August Stüler’s Neues Museum design in an elegant meeting of old and new. Together, they form an open courtyard while, on the embankment side, the new colonnades lead into a principal piano nobile level. The exterior’s homage extends to matching the materials used. “The materiality of the building in reconstituted stone, with natural stone aggregate, blends in with the rich material palette of Museum Island, with its limestone sandstone, and rendered façades, while smooth in-situ concrete dominates the interior spaces,” explain the architects. Over time, the façade will patinate like its sibling buildings on the island, showing markers of its own history.
1111 LINCOLN ROAD, MIAMI, FLORIDA, USA
ARCHITECT: HERZOG & DE MEURON
Herzog & de Meuron’s 1111 Lincoln Road, known as ‘Eleven-Eleven’, is a mixed-use building that brings together residences, retail spaces, and a creative parking solution in one of Miami Beach’s busiest pedestrian areas. The design reimagines the blueprint of a parking lot, using the interstitial spaces of the stacked, ramp-lined structure to their advantage and opening up various areas for public and private use, complete with panoramic views.
Eleven-Eleven services the Lincoln Road Mall area, a bustling centre offering small-scale restaurants and bars, entertainment, commercial retail, and a social overflow to nearby Miami Beach. Occupying a rare pedestrian zone in the otherwise car-dense city, it acts as a pathway between the two, providing the public with space to leave their cars and encouraging them to enjoy the surrounding area on foot.
The development is made up of four elements: an existing 1970s bank building, to which the new mixed-use structure is attached; a two-storey building housing the relocated bank; four upper-floor residences that back onto the multi-story parking lot; and, finally, the landscape alley and surface parking lot. On site, there are 300 parking spaces, while various shops and restaurants are split between the ground level and upper section of the building, including a rooftop eatery. With the offering of panoramic views, the architects envisioned the rooftop and upper floors for further use as an event space for film and music videos, fashion shows and concerts.
The building, according to Jacques Herzog, reinterprets the essence of tropical Modernism, imbuing the structure with flair beyond the usual service building and adding to Miami Beach’s iconic architecture. Large concrete slabs are set on top of irregular columns that delineate different ceiling heights for the mixed-use building and create a characterful and variegated façade.
As an open concrete structure, Eleven-Eleven is in constant dialogue with its surroundings and invites the community in. By day, the beach-facing building is light and airy. By night, it is illuminated by warm, glowing lights, contrasting the sterile strip lighting traditionally found in dim parking lots. At any time of day, the public can enjoy panoramic views of Miami from each level of the car park, the sculptural interior staircase, or the rooftop restaurant. This, say the architects, lends a “ceremonial feeling” to the building, which at Eleven-Eleven, the public has open access to.
The ArchDaily Guide To Good Architecture is out now from gestalten and available to buy here.
Editors: gestalten and ArchDaily