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Top 10 Projects of 2013

  • By Tudor

Whether it was a disappearing skyscraper, an underground school or a Wal-Mart-turned-library, commercial projects in 2013 showed a flair for creativity, sustainability and thoughtful design. To close off the year, we put together a list of our ten favourite restaurants, skyscrapers, offices, hotels and more.



1.    Eateries

Restaurants and cafes this year were all about branding and identity. Our top choice in 2013 was Mejico, a Syndey-based Mexican restaurant and bar. The interior features an industrial inspired design pulled together with bold graphics, thick textures, and layered patterning.  Honourable mention this year goes to Sushizilla, another Australian entry. This Japanese restaurant echoes the aesthetics of neon-lit Tokyo, setting vibrant colours against a polished concrete backdrop. Not to be outdone in the colour department, Cafein bistro combines primaries and rich pastels that are as eye-catching as they are effective.


2.    Workspaces

“Open-plan” was the term of the day when it came to office design in 2013. Tech companies Dropbox, Airbnb and Pinterest had collaboration and creativity (and cheekiness) top of mind when it came to their designs. Also, all three companies opted occupying existing buildings rather than building new. Converting old space was a concept that was not lost on other companies. Sempla, an Italian company, repurposed an old factory, combining modern aesthetic with heritage charm. However, our favourite workspace in 2013 was this underground former parking garage that was converted to house an architecture firm.


3.    Academics

Schools are perhaps one of our most important public institutions. For architects and designers, they can also be projects that demand thoughtful design. One design trend stood out this year: Colour. Schools in Thailand, Latvia, Germany and France feature colour palates that convey animation and activity. Mobile schools were also a recurring topic this year. A floating school in Nigeria and a school that can be self-assembled help to address education needs in the developing world. This year, the project that captured our attention was a Glasgow school designed to help children who are ‘dual-sensory impaired’—both deaf and blind.


4.    Culture

The Louisiana State Museum and Sports Hall of Fame takes our top spot this year. Its curvy interior echoes science fiction and surrealist influences. Other cultural buildings we liked in 2013 was the swooping page-like form of the National Library of Sejong City in South Korea, and the sediment-inspired Perot Museum of Nature and Science in Dallas. We couldn’t leave out this library either, which now occupies a former Wal-Mart building.


5.    Athletics

With major sporting events taking place in the next few years—the summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro and the World Cup in Brazil, as well as the 2022 World Cup in Qatar—it is no surprise that sports facilities have had so much exposure in 2013. Most infamous was the release of Zaha Hadid’s plans for Qatar’s soccer stadium. Among all the complexity, we’ve chosen a much simpler project this year. An archery hall and boxing club feature exposed timber framing that is as structural as it is beautiful.


6.    Towers

Towers and skyscraper are at the forefront of exciting architecture. So there was no doubt that the top spot had to go to the world’s only invisible skyscraper. Seoul’s daring new addition to its skyline will be a technological marvel (although it might prove a nightmare for air traffic controllers). Other trends in skyscraper design this year included green walls and unusual, natural forms like these concepts from Toronto and Berlin. But this category would not be complete without mentioning the new addition coming to Vancouver’s skyline—the twisting 52-storey residential tower designed by BIG.


7.    Stations

In transportation, airports often steal the limelight when it comes to architecture and design. Queen Alia International in Amman, Jordan features a bulbous concrete canopy while this local Georgian airport was built in just three months. Our top transportation hub in 2013 was, surprisingly, not an airport. Herzog & de Meuron’s proposal for the revitalization of Flinders Street Station in Melbourne captured our attention this year. Its simple design and dedication to public space, as well as its sheer beauty makes it our top pick in 2013.


8.    Hotels

A trend we saw this year among hotels was a return to nature. Two similar designs located in Newfoundland and Iceland take advantage of rugged vistas to provide their guests with an immersive experience. Our top pick of 2013 is no different. This Chilean hotel hugs the topography of its site and is built primarily of wood. The design’s commitment to sustainable materials and a respectful typology were standout characteristics. Honourable mention this year goes to this Thailand hotel that features green roofs and infinity pools. Don’t have time for hotels? The FoldInn is your mobile solution to a restful nights sleep!


9.    Free Parking

Believe it or not, parking garages were big in 2013. Although we’d like to see fewer cars on the road our top pick this year was this cheeky garage in the Netherlands. The building is wrapped up in a perforated façade featuring gnome caricatures.


10. Urban

Public space has always been an area of fascination for us and this year, our favourite urban project was Buchanan Courtyard at the University of British Columbia. In addition to providing a space for students, this project also helps to filter and recycle rainwater and has applied for LEED Gold Certification.  This year was a busy one for urban architecture and public space. Three projects in New York and Auckland embraced temporary architecture—being branded as ‘urban parasites’ in the process. Another project that had us raising our eyebrows was this space-saving home design that crams a residential units in narrow spaces between buildings.


Overall, 2013 was an exciting year for commercial and non-residential design. As we look to 2014, we can’t help but feel optimistic that thoughtful design will continue to help shape and improve our built environment.

Thanks for reading! Stay tuned for next week’s Top 10 Homes of 2013!

For those looking to add a bit more colour to their day, here’s another look at Vancouver’s quirky rainbow crosswalks.