Stars of glamorous architecture, or, the Starchitects are now witnessing a ‘sea change in direction
Being able to talk authoritatively about architecture is the equivalent of bringing a prestigious Malbec to a colleague’s dinner party, and although you may know your Khan from your Zumthor, name-dropping a starchitect is not quite the direction the industry is moving towards. 2022 will mark the calendar as the year of diversity, at least in terms of the Pritzker prize (the biggest architecture award which offers a career-changing type of recognition), with Francis Kéré as the first Black architect to ever claim first prize for his creations in several African countries.
This is no small feat in a primarily white and male-dominated industry.
In terms of design trends, things are also changing. The pandemic set a precedent for domestic architecture to be more versatile, allowing for remote-working adaptations and leaning towards providing more personal outdoor spaces. The current environmental climate alongside COP26 has also pushed for a more sustainable agenda in design, and the industry is slowly starting to take on the necessary measures.
Here is a quick run-down on the things you should be aware of in the architecture industry in case it comes up as casual dinner conversation.
With the pandemic drastically limiting resources (both financial and material), architecture is catching up on all the pre-pandemic projects that were set in motion long-before 2020. Amongst them, unsurprisingly, there are a lot of skyscrapers, sustainability-focused agendas and arches. Lots of arches.
The Nanjing Vertical Forest proposal by Stefano Boeri Architetti for example, is bound to be finalized this year. This spectacular project is modelled on the Milan Vertical Forest, a new architectural prototype which focuses on the relationship between human beings and other living species. For the Nanjing proposal, 800 trees and 2,500 shrubs will cover 4,500 square metres of vertical forest which in turn are expected to reduce CO2 emissions by 18 tonnes. The project will consist of two towers, one dedicated to offices, a museum and an architecture school and the other will undertake a primarily residential programme.
Another sky-high proposal championing the architectural headlines this year is The Valley by MVRDV. Much like the vertical forest, the proposal focuses on bridging the gap between landscape and building by incorporating dense planting into Amsterdam’s business district.
In terms of public programmes, one of the most anticipated projects is the San Pellegrino factory in northern Italy, designed by BIG. Its design revolves around the archway, which is used as a repeated element in the design to craft a series of spaces which frame its natural surroundings. Archways are also a key component of the Hermès Workshops by Lina Ghotmeh, which emulate the movement of a galloping horse. It seems the not-so-distant future is embracing curved openings and leans towards more organic forms.
Despite starchitects losing their acclaimed podium in the architecture hall of fame, the industry still remains dominated by its longstanding larger firms. Names such as MVRDV, BIG, SANAA or OMA are still key players in dictating design trends, but many bespoke firms and architects are taking on some notoriety in recent years, partly thanks to social media.
One example of this is Mexican architect Tatiana Bilbao, who rose to fame through her multidisciplinary perspective on architecture, and her architectural collages are often referenced in recent student work. As Bilbao seems to imply, computer-driven renders prevent her from creating more exciting buildings. We really do not know if that is the key to her success, but Tatiana is surely on the rise as one of the architects to keep an eye out for. Not to mention, she happens to be one of the very few female names making history in the industry.
David Adjaye has also risen as a sort of architectural superstar. In recent years, Adjaye has not only won a series of competitions, but has beaten long-established architectural firms to design a major new art museum in Latvia. As part of their impressive portfolio, Adjaye Associates have designed the Abrahamic Family House, a revolutionary concept of three religious spaces that promote inter-religious dialogue and exchange.
Also ranking as one of the top firms architecture graduates aspire to work in is Assemble, best known for their colourful tiles in their Yardhouse project. Assemble’s popularity, if anything, says something about the growth in smaller, bespoque and playful architectures rising particularly within the London scene.
Interior Design Trends
Interiors in the near future will be taking plenty of cues from nature and sustainability, so designers are expected to rely heavily on earthly tones, vintage and repurposed accents, as well as a mix-match of interior design styles. But interestingly enough, we have recently also seen a lot of outlandish interiors for big-name brands, which are bringing color, eccentricity and maximalism back into the public sphere.
Amongst some of the most acclaimed designs this year stands the Jacquemus pop-up London installations which went viral on social media. With an almost Black-Mirror-like twinge to the designs, the pop-up venue serves as a display area for the brand’s spring-summer 2022 collection and has taken full advantage of its eye-catching use of colour. Taking on a similar approach, Balenciaga has wrapped its Mount Street store in London in outlandish pink faux fur. It would not be much of a surprise to expect other dramatic pop-up installations opening up soon, that’s for sure.
Architecture, like many other disciplines, was left scarred by the impacts of a global pandemic – a fact which is evident in the slow but noticeable changes in the industry. The future of the profession looks bright – there is an attempt towards greater inclusivity, sustainability and re-introducing the playful and fun factors that design seems to be yearning after almost three years of pandemic. If one is to take architecture as a reflection of society, it is perhaps a hint toward an uplifting future.