Projects of the Year

SPANISH PAVILION, Zaragoza, Spain Sarah Williams Goldhagen, Architecture critic, The New Republic "Buildings can be the best in some important ways and simply good, mediocre, or bad in others. Francisco Mangado's Spanish Pavilion for Expo 2008 in Zaragoza, Spain, succeeds in many dimensions. A dense thicket of fluted ceramic columns set in a shallow reflecting pool, Mangado's pavilion distinctively marries ecological and progressive design solutions with historically resonant forms. Recalling precedents such as Josep Lluís Sert's Spanish Pavilion for the World's Fair of 1937, Mangado offers a poetic reinterpretation of the proverbial primitive hut."

OSLO OPERA HOUSE, Oslo, Norway Zoë Ryan, Neville Bryan Curator of Design, Art Institute of Chicago "The Oslo National Opera House, which opened in April 2008, appears to erupt from the Oslofjord like a giant iceberg. The vision of local architects Snøhetta, the five-story building is a complex facility that houses the Norwegian Opera and National Ballet. Openness and accessibility are achieved through the design, which sweeps up from the water and results in a strikingly angular structure ramped over with a public space—the main gathering space in this formerly industrial part of the city. Whether attending a performance or not, the public can access the ramped plaza and look down into the building through a series of glass towers that punctuate the surface, further encouraging interactivity between inside and outside." Andres Lepik, Curator of Architecture and Design, Museum of Modern Art, New York "The new opera house in Oslo is a terrific building. Its concept and urban setting make it a touchstone for the buildings that are yet to be built in this area, in the former harbor. It was a brilliant idea to open its various workshops to the passersby. The interior creates a very intimate and warm feeling, and the various zones of the building afford intense views of the surrounding area. It is a building that can be experienced as much with the eyes as with the heart."

TAHITI HOUSING COMPLEX, Santa Monica, Calif. Frances Anderton, Host of “DnA: Design and Architecture” on KCRW, Los Angeles "I chose the newly completed Tahiti Housing Complex by Daly Genik in Santa Monica because of what it represents: an effort to bring good design to low-income families in one of America's most expensive cities. Tahiti is just the latest multifamily, affordable housing complex created by the nonprofit developer Community Corporation of Santa Monica. Director Joan Ling hires talented L.A. architects—also on her slate: Pugh Scarpa Architects and Kanner Architects—and encourages them to push the envelope on design and sustainability, on a budget."

BEIJING NATIONAL STADIUM, Beijing, China Lee Bey, Executive director, Chicago Central Area Committee, and former architecture critic, the Chicago Sun-Times "My favorite building of the year is the Beijing National Stadium, affectionately known as the "Bird's Nest," a host site of the 2008 Summer Olympics. With its seemingly random crisscrossing structural members, the exterior of the stadium, created by architects Jacques Herzog and Pierre de Meuron with China Architecture Design and Research Group and artistic consultant Ai Weiwei, is chaotic, yet orderly; a marriage of structure and façade. The 80,000-seat stadium is as dramatic as the events it hosted." Joan Ockman, Former director, Temple Hoyne Buell Center for the Study of American Architecture, Columbia University "A disclaimer: I haven't seen the Bird's Nest yet in three-dimensional reality. But for creating a dazzling contemporary symbol and media image that brilliantly captured the popular imagination during last summer's Olympic games, bravo to the architects and their Chinese collaborators. They turned straw into steel, the stuff architectural dreams are made of."

CHARLES W. HOSTLER STUDENT CENTER, Beirut, Lebanon Thomas Fisher, Dean, College of Design, University of Minnesota "Islam and the West share what political scientist Robert Lee calls a "struggle against the fatalism of the traditional world and against the passivity of a world swept toward modernity." The Hostler recreation center at the American University of Beirut, by VJAA, explores this struggle, combining vernacular means of shading and ventilating space with sustainable materials and methods. By reinterpreting tradition and reimagining modernism, VJAA shows how the West and Islam might overcome their differences."

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