These Are The 33 Most Innovative And Stunning Buildings Created This Year

10/14/2014 08:26 am ET | Updated Oct 17, 2014

The World Architecture Festival wrapped up its 2014 contest earlier this month, bestowing awards upon 33 buildings that are making innovative design a priority across the globe. From a community library in China that doubles as a playground to a Danish Maritime Museum to a hyper modern church in Spain, the seventh annual WAF winners are as diverse as there are stunning.

What started as a 400-project short list spanning 50 countries earlier this year, was whittled down to less than a few dozen designs across 27 different categories. In the wake of the massive competition, which took place in Singapore, we are profiling each and every building that received commendation. Behold: A comprehensive look at the year's best architecture -- and a glimpse into the future of design, whether it includes water-balanced and energy efficient imaginings, or buildings known as "bespoke bookends" and "spirals of knowledge."

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Let us know your thoughts on the projects in the comments. Spoiler: if you're from the United States and you're hoping to see what architectural wonders lay in store for your country, you will be disappointed. While nations like Vietnam, Australia and the United Kingdom make numerous appearances on this list, you won't find a single American-based design... or, for that matter, hardly any designs in Africa or South America (except Brazil). Here's to next year, folks.

Future Projects:

  • Best Office (India)
  • Agashiyan by Sanjay Puri Architects. This will be the highest building in a predominately low-rise neighborhood that has been designed with 95 degree Fahrenheit weather conditions in mind. Note the carefully placed terraces facing mostly north, with a few facing east and west.
  • Best Education Building (Vietnam)
  • FPT Technology Building by Vo Trong Nghia Architects. The building places a high importance on Vietnam's sustainable future, and is part of a larger plan to convert the entire university into an environmentally conscious institution. Since it's situated in an area prone to frequent energy shortages, the building was imagined to function on minimal generated backup power, using natural light and a "green skin" provided by ample plant life.
  • Best House (Australia)
  • The Olive Grove by Ian Moore Architects. The unique form and tapered steel structure make it so that this home leaves the smallest footprint on its foundation slope. It is physically a perfect 12.3 meters by 12.3 meters, divided into an asymmetrical pinwheel layout.
  • Best Culture Building (Brazil)
  • Freedom of The Press Monument by Gustavo Penna Arquiteto & Associates. "The Freedom of the Press Monument is a gesture in glass," A As Architecture writes. "Crystal clear, solid, but as delicate as freedom itself." It is 42,000 square meters in total, located in Praça Central, Brazil.
  • Best Leisure Development (Turkey)
  • Antakya Museum Hotel by EAA-Emre Arolat Architects. This building functions as both a hotel and an archeological museum dedicated to the site's historic Christian importance. The placement of everything form the columns to the units are deliberately situated according to the artifacts and land characteristics that predated the hotel.
  • Best Commercial Mixed-Use (Iran)
  • Isfahan Dreamland Commercial Center by Farshad Mehdizadeh Architects. The facade design attempts to reconcile the structure of the city of Isfahan, Iran with a pre-existing commercial building. Hence, Dreamland. "The integration of interior and exterior spaces optimizes human movement and circulation which ultimately rejuvenates the entire commercial area," WAF explains.
  • Best Infrastructure (Sweden)
  • Linkoping Central Station by Sweco Central Architects. There's a water mirror, a contemporary viaduct and a perforated steel shell. It's modern bridge meets classic railroad.
  • Best Masterplanning (United Kingdom)
  • Northwest Cambridge Masterplan - AECOM. The next generation of the Northwest Cambridge University community is "looking to the future." You can take a peek at the mini-metropolis above.
  • Best Health Building (China)
  • The Extension of The People's Hospital of Futian - Leigh & Orange. This hospital aims to give those inside a clear, calm view of the world outside, "enhancing the inpatient experience with peace and tranquility."
  • Best Residential Building (India)
  • The Village by Sanjay Puri Architects. The Village is a cascade of apartments that mimics the feel of individual houses nestled diagonally or frontally on a sloping terrain. The building will involve minimal cutting of the land.
  • Best Competition Entry (Canada)
  • Art Gallery of Greater Victoria by 5468796 Architecture and Number TEN Architectural Group. Our favorite part of this building? "The skin acts as a natural shading device that protects the artwork while allowing for a diffused light penetration, creating a quality of space inspired by the shade and shadow of the woodland site."
  • Best Experimental (Italy)
  • Skyfarm by Rogers Stirk Harbour + Partners and Arup Associates. If the name didn't tip you off, this is a design proposal for a vertical farm that will be built using the tensegrity principle, incorporating aspects like bamboo for maximum geometric flexibility and open structure plans for maximum light and growth potential.


Completed Buildings:

  • Best Culture Building (Denmark)
  • Danish Maritime Museum by BIG. This museum is a subterranean structure built around a dry dock adjacent to the Kronborg Castle (Elsinore) of "Hamlet" fame.
  • Best House (Vietnam)
  • House for Trees by Vo Trong Nghia Architects. In Ho Chi Minh City, only 0.25% of the entire city is covered with greenery. So as an homage to the area's origins as a tropical forest, this design aims to bring green spaces back into the city. The houses function as both residences and "pots" for root-top trees. "Blurring the border between inside and outside, the house offers a tropical lifestyle that coexists with nature."
  • Best Shopping (Turkey)
  • Yalikavak Marina Complex by EAA-Emre Arolat Architects. This haven is intended for middle-upper class consumers in Yalikavak, on the southwestern coast of Turkey. But it sure is beautiful.
  • Best Housing (Norway)
  • The Carve by A-Lab. This design is part of Oslo's Barcode Plan (a project that guarantees regulated green areas) and the soon-to-be completed "Opera Quarter" that the city hopes will be the new Central Business District. As the name hints, the facade features a unique, "carved out" exterior that allows for optimal light.
  • Best Display (New Zealand)
  • Te Kaitaka 'The Cloak' by Fearon Hay Architects. The architecture firm has built upon this structure a "contoured living green roof," including a brass mesh cloak over a lattice of engineered timber. It's part of the Auckland airport building
  • Best Sport Building (Singapore)
  • Singapore Sports Hub by Singapore Sports Hub Design Team. The Sports Hub, dubbed the first integrated sports, leisure, entertainment and lifestyle destination in Asia, is part of Singapore's 2020 vision for "a sustainable, healthy and expanding population."
  • Best Civic and Community Building
  • The Chapel by a21studio. This rainbow creation is a new community space located in an emerging urban ward on the outskirts of Ho Chi Minh City. "As a result of estate crisis, the surrounding area lacks communal centers; therefore, the Chapel is designed to be the place for people to participate in activities such as conferences, weddings and exhibitions," WAF explained in a press statement.
  • Best Health Building (Australia)
  • Chris O'Brien's Lifehouse by Rice Daubney. Lifehouse represents the end result of the late Professor Chris O'Brien’s original concept for an integrated cancer facility on the Royal Prince Alfred (RPA) Hospital campus.
  • Best Villa (New Zealand)
  • Dune House by Fearon Hay. This house is located on the east coast of New Zealand’s North Island, nearly an hour’s drive north of Auckland. The design sought to adapt to the surroundings -- a natural dune zone and a long white sand beach. It is a private family's second home.
  • Best Production Energy and Recycling (Australia)
  • Lune de Sang Sheds by CHROFI. "Lune de Sang is a unique inter-generational venture that will see a significant former dairying property in northern NSW transformed into a sustainably harvested forest." The hardwoods of this region will take generations to mature -- 50 to 300 years to be exact.
  • Best New and Old (China)
  • Rethinking the Split House by Neri&Hu. What was once a dilapidated lane house (a fixture of 1930s Shanghai) is now a reinvigorated split level apartment series.
  • Best Transport (United Kingdom)
  • Best Hotel And Leisure (Vietnam)
  • Son La Restaurant by Vo Trong Nghia. Vietnam is clearly leading the way in terms of affordable, environmentally friendly new designs. This particular restaurant project maximized use of local resources -- including workers and materials like bamboo and stonework. It is also meant to withstand the typical monsoon climate and hot, humid seasons.
  • Best School (United Kingdom)
  • Chobham Academy by Allford Hall Monaghan Morris. This is, simply, a very nice school for 1,300 students in London ages three to 18. Lucky them.
  • Best Higher Education and Research (Sweden)
  • Dalarna Media Library by ADEPT. This university building in Sweden attempts to reinterpret the library as a "spiral of knowledge" that accepts a newer, more dynamic book culture involving activities, experiences and inspiration. Sounds utterly utopian.
  • Best Religious Building (Spain)
  • La Ascension del Senor Church by AGi Architects. This design takes inspiration from Pop Francis himself. "The project aims at strengthening the Parish Center as a meeting and fraternization place, in order to develop spiritual and welfare tasks, enabling the participation of different role players in the neighborhood around a community regeneration objective."
  • Best Office (Australia)
  • Liberty Place by Francis-Jones Morehen Thorp. Yes, it's another office building, and yes, it's in Australia. But it has some great building aspects. "In addition to energy efficiency, [the building] has been designed to be water balanced. This means that in a year of typical Sydney rainfall, all the amenity and operational water needs of the building will be met through rain captured on the roof."


Special Awards:

  • Colour Prize (Austria)
  • Departments of Law and Central Administration, Vienna University of Economics and Business, designed by Cook Robotham Architectural Bureau. As a university building, the 200-meter long pair of structures are meant to infuse the "often grey skies of Vienna's Prater district" with sparks of color. Well done.
  • Landscape Project of the Year (Australia)
  • National Arboretum Canberra, Australia, designed by Taylor Cullity Lethlean and Tonkin Zulaikha Greer. It looks more like a playhouse from a future, avant-garde amusement park, but this is a snapshot of the very real National Arboretum in Canberra, Australia.
  • Small Project of the Year (China)
  • The Pinch, China, designed by Olivier Ottevaere and John Lin, The University of Hong Kong. The Pinch is a library and community center in Shuanghe Village, Yunnan Province, in China that is part of a government-led reconstruction effort following the 2012 earthquake. The roof of the structure doubles as a (safe) playground of sorts for the children who frequent the library.
  • Future Project of the Year (Canada)
  • Art Gallery of Greater Victoria, Canada, designed by 5468796 Architecture + number TEN architectural. Here's another shot of the beautiful complex, which was also awarded "Best Competition Entry" for Future Projects.
  • Wood Excellence Prize (United Kingdom)
  • Alex Monroe Studio, Snowfields, designed by DSDHA. "The new building operates as a bespoke 'bookend’ to the original terrace, creating a strong prow which completes the street.'" The term "bespoke bookend" could be our new favorite design concept.
  • World Building of the Year
  • The Chapel, Vietnam, designed by a21studio. And another shot of the The Chapel, which was awarded Best Civic and Community Building in the Completed Buildings category.


All photos courtesy of the World Architecture Festival.

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