If you need proof that we really are living in the future, just take a look around you (or up, depending on the city). Much more than just brick and mortar, buildings and skyscrapers stand rather sturdily at the centre of incredible, futuristic innovation.
In case you’re not up to date with your awesome architecture and space age structures, here are 13 of most innovative building designs from around the world.
Al Bahar Towers – Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates
Modern building innovation is all about green energy (ironic considering the carbon footprint made from constructing the buggers). The lattice-style façades of these identical towers – based on traditional Islamic design – are made from triangular fibreglass panels that open and close in response to the sun’s movements. This reduces solar gain by 50 per cent – not to mention the need for energy-sapping air conditioning. It’s well chill.
Lloyd’s Building – Lime Street, London
When it opened it 1986, this was a vision of the future. Now it’s decidedly “retro future” – the kind of place RoboCop might go to have his meetings. But it remains a forward-thinking architectural design, mostly for having all the boring gubbins like lifts, electrics, and water pipes on the outside. It’s built around three towers and has a barrel-vaulted glass roof for natural light.
O-14 – Business Bay, Dubai
At more than 800 metres, the Burj Khalifa might be Dubai’s tallest building, but once you’ve had teeny Tom Cruise running round the top, you’re old hat quite frankly. The O-14 is a far more interesting. To look at, it’s more like a piece of modernist art – and there’re a 1 metre space between the buiding and honeycomb-like façade to let cool air in. It’s mostly held up by its exterior, so there are few pillars cluttering up the inside space.
8 Spruce Street – New York, USA
There are plenty of buildings to choose from in New York – still the spiritual home of the skyscraper – but this is by far our favourite. It’s actually a style called deconstructivism, and the ripple-effect design strangely reflects the digital age (the whole thing looks like a glitch in the Matrix). It’s made of over 10,000 different shaped steel panels, which gives the illusion that its changing shape as you walk around it. Like an Escher painting come to life.
Capital City Tower – Moscow, Russia
How fitting that the nation responsible for Tetris should boast a skyscraper that actually looks like a Tetris game – albeit one where the blocks look ready to teeter off one another and come crashing down. It’s just a visual effect created by the slight angling of its facades. The bigger of its two towers – “Moscow Tower” – was Europe’s tallest building until The Shard turned up (itself outdone by Moscow’s now in-development Mercury City Tower).
Danish Maritime Museum – Helsingør, Denmark
The only building to make the list that’s actually underground, this redeveloped museum went subterranean to stop any construction from blocking the views of Kronborg. It’s set into a dry dock, with the building constructed as a continual loop around the dock walls and boasting three double-level bridges. The industrial aesthetic feels like a post-apocalyptic vision – like a dark image of the future – but architecturally speaking it’s actually a beaut.
Leadenhall Building – Leadenhall Street, London
Sorry, Shard – we know you’re impressive with your big pointy top, but you’ve been usurped by a giant cheese grater. The Leadenhall Building has the fastest lifts in Europe – glass and on the building exterior, enough give you a serious touch of vertigo – and used advanced building techniques. Most of its components were manufactured elsewhere then constructed on-site – like a 225 metre piece of Ikea furniture. Also pretty much bang next door to the other London building on our list, Lloyd’s.
Mode Gakuen Spiral Tower – Nagoya, Japan
This educational building is 170 metres tall, and looks more like a giant screw than it does a school. It’s built around a central column, with three tapered wings twisting around the outside – a deceptively simple bit of engineering that looks more way complex than it actually is. Even so, it’s an innovative piece of architectural design – and part of a trend for skyscrapers that look like they’re about to wobble over.
Legion House – Sydney, Australia
The oldest building on the list by a long way, it was originally constructed in 1902. It’s had a seriously modern renovation job though – now it’s actually paving the way for the future. As well as having two extra stories added, it’s been kitted out with some carbon neutral tech (it’s called “biomass gasification”, if you want the jargon). This converts paper waste into a gas that in turn generates electricity. It also uses rain captured on the roof to supply the building’s water.
CCTV Headquarters – Chaoyang Qu, China
Part building, part suspension bridge, part giant pair of trousers (depending on your angle), this is one of the most distinctive-looking buildings anywhere in the world. The base for the China Central Television, its two towers lean towards each other. But CCTV HQ aesthetically fascinating beyond the obvious two-legged shape – the diagonal, crisscross lines that decorate the façade become denser and more pronounced at points of greater structural stress. A visual clue to the engineering genius behind it.
Aqua Tower – Chicago, Illinois
Unsurprisingly, this residential building is named for the wave-like design of its balconies – inspired by the protruding, jagged edges of the limestone rocks that surround the Great Lakes. These have practical purpose too, creating solar shading for the building. At 250m it’s a sizable effort too – a worthy addition to the city that lays claim to the world’s first ever skyscraper (the Home Insurance Building, if you’re asking).
Yalikavak Marina Complex – Yalikavak, Turkey
This wouldn’t look out of place on Star Wars’ Tatooine (Jabba the Hutt’s weekend place, perhaps?) but it’s actually a super swanky shopping complex on the southwestern coast of Turkey. On the surface, it’s an innovative twist on the surrounding ancient cities, and fits in perfectly with the landscape and local character – yet with definite sci-fi vibe. A stunning piece of design and as close to a genuine work of modern art as the shopping mall gets.
Marina Bay Sands – Marina Bay, Singapore
The luxury resort of the future. It houses the world’s largest casino, a swanky hotel, two theatres, a museum, and even a skating rink. Most impressive though is the 10,000 square metre park that connects the top of the three towers, which includes jogging paths, restaurants, and an infinity pool. Which is great if you like to do your relaxing 200 metres in the air. Its basic design – six concave structures leaning in pairs and supporting the park above – is a marvel of futuristic-style architecture.
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