January 1, 2018

Top 10 Design Stories of 2017

2017 was a busy year for the design industry. Here’s a look back at ten stories that inspired and challenged us. 

First Phase of Second Avenue Subway Completed

The new 72nd Street station, part of the first phase of the Second Avenue subway. Photography by Charles Aydlett, courtesy of AECOM-Arup JV.

Progress on the eagerly anticipated Second Avenue subway line in New York City moved forward, with new stations opening to the public on January 1. When completed, the line will run a total of 8.3 miles and transport over 200,000 daily commuters.

Women Made Gains in Architecture, But Diversity Remains an Issue

Denise Scott Brown outside of Las Vegas, NV. Photography by Robert Venturi, via ArchDaily.

The architecture industry has gotten a bad rap for its lack of diversity in the field, but some small gains were made this year. Legendary architect and educator Denise Scott Brown was awarded the Jane Drew Prize for women in architecture, and Carme Pigem of RCR Arquitectes was awarded the Pritzker Prize, along with her male partners. She is the third woman to ever receive the prestigious award. 

This Year’s Design Trends Were Bold, Brilliant, and Bizarre

Canvas Worldwide’s L.A. headquarters features iridescent glass throughout. Photo courtesy of A+I. 

The muted palettes and rigid geometric forms of minimalism saw a backlash from new and established designers looking for something to break up the monotony. Iridescent coloring, unconventional forms, and frenetic maximalist arrangements made a breakthrough this year. 

Oslo Airport’s Expansion Sets the Bar High for Sustainable Design

Interior shot of Oslo airport’s recently opened expansion. Photography courtesy of Nordic Office of Architecture.

Nordic Office of Architecture’s Oslo airport expansion is the greenest terminal in the world, receiving the BREEAM excellence in sustainability rating. The Scandinavian airport reaches Passive House standards of energy consumption through clever building orientation, environmentally friendly materials, and biophilic design.

Louvre Abu Dhabi Opens to the Public

The dome of the Louvre Abu Dhabi, known as the “Rain of Light”, echoes forms of traditional Arabian architecture and was inspired by date palm fronds. Photography by Roland Halbe.

Pritzker Prize winner Jean Nouvel’s Louvre Abu Dhabi opened in November to wonder and applause from the design community and the general public. The museum boasts impressive numbers, including 55 individual buildings and 23 galleries, all covered by a dome comprised of 7,850 lattice work stars and measuring 590 feet wide. 

Neave Brown Receives Royal Gold Medal

American architect Neave Brown exited the architecture field at age 73 to focus on fine art. Photography by Garath Gardner. 

Modernist architect Neave Brown designed some of London’s landmark social-housing complexes, including the Alexandra Road Estate and the Dunboyne Estate. He is the only living architect to have all of his work listed. 

Biophilic Design Continues to Bloom

EcoLogicStudio’s H.O.R.T.U.S (Hydro Organisms Responsive to Urban Stimuli) room at this year’s Astana Expo. The tubes are filled with photosynthetic micro-algae, an organism that is gaining popularity as an alternative to fossil fuels. Photography courtesy of NAARO. 

Biophilic design gained more ground this year, with several hotel and apartment lobbies featuring lush green walls, and exciting new designs, like BIG’s San Pellegrino flagship factory or SOM’s India Basin, making biophilic design more and more popular. This year also introduced the Living Future Institute’s first annual Stephen R. Kellert Biophilic Design Award, awarding the Khoo Teck Puat Hospital in Singapore with the inaugural first place prize. 

Architects Call for Change After Grenfell Tower Tragedy

A temporary school built by Portakabin surrounds the ruins of Grenfell Tower, which caught ablaze earlier this year. Photography courtesy of Getty, via Dezeen

As it became clear that subpar external cladding caused the tragic Grenfell Tower fire earlier this year, architects around the globe responded by demanding better practices and code for high-rise buildings going forward. RIBA demanded an end to combustible cladding, and incensed industry professionals suggested the U.K. government’s long history of cost-cutting policies directly lead to the disrepair and ultimate destruction of Grenfell.

Tech Giants Embrace Bold Architecture

Google’s London HQ will be as long as the city’s tallest tower is tall. Rendering courtesy of Google, via Dezeen

Tech giants Apple and Google publicly revealed their plans for bold, new headquarters in Cupertino and London, respectively. With big names like Norman Foster (Apple) and Heatherwick Studio and BIG (Google) spearheading these projects, each building pushes the boundaries of what is feasible for workplace design. 

President Trump’s Border Wall Stirs Controversy in Design Field

Five of the eight border wall prototypes favored by President Trump erected on the U.S.-Mexico border. Photography by Mike Black, via Reuters.

When President Trump made his plans for a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border known, architects were divided over the ethical ramifications of bidding for the project. Many designers felt that the wall reflected xenophobic values and stood against the architect’s professional code, while others saw no moral reason to not bid for the project. 

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