Visual Culture

From Manila to Manhattan, These New Buildings Will Define Architecture in 2017

Anna Kats
Dec 28, 2016 1:00PM

This year ends on a painful note for architecture and urbanism, what with the wholesale devastation of Aleppo and its medley of historic buildings. In the face of such landscape-altering destruction, it’s difficult to say how new construction plans to influence and improve cities in the year to come. Nevertheless, several distinctive buildings are set to open in 2017, some notable for the high quality of their design or the lofty civic aspirations of their programs, others for the sheer scale of their urban presence. Below, we’ve compiled a list of buildings you’ll be hearing about in 2017.

Herzog & de Meuron, Elbphilharmonie, Hamburg

Elbphilharmonie (Nov 2016) © Michael Zapf

When the Elbphilharmonie opens on January 11th, the concert hall in Hamburg, Germany, will be almost a decade late and nearly as many times over budget. Yet €789 million later, the structure, designed by Herzog & de Meuron, is being met with overwhelming praise from architecture critics and with enthusiasm from local denizens who previously feared that it might never reach completion. Initially projected to cost €77m and scheduled to open in 2010—unmet claims that resulted in a parliamentary inquiry—the Elbphilharmonie is due to be one of the most memorable new structures of 2017, finally more for the sheer expressive quality of its design than the controversies that surround it.  

“It is a project on an unparalleled scale of ambition,” wrote Guardian architecture critic Oliver Wainwright after a visit to the Elbphilharmonie last month. The monumental, undulating volume of the concert hall and its 600 curved glass panes sit atop a brick building, formerly a warehouse, directly on the water, making for a dramatic presence while affording visitors a sweeping harbor view from its observation deck. The interior is immaculately detailed: The Grand Hall, one of three halls, contains handblown glass lamps and 10,000 distinct acoustic panels, while the bathrooms contain €300 toilet brushes.

And yet, for all the newness of its ascent into the Hamburg skyline, the Elbphilharmonie is rooted in the city’s architectural heritage: namely, in the Brick Expressionism that won renown for Hamburg architecture nearly a century ago. The Chilehaus, a 1924 office tower designed by local architect Fritz Hoger, celebrates the aesthetic properties of brick with an impossibly sharp, exaggerated corner. With its own red-brick base structure and unabashedly sculptural façade, the Elbphilharmonie brings the palette and the playful demeanor of Hamburg’s historic buildings into the 21st century.

CAZA, City Center Tower, Manila

Rendering of City Center Tower courtesy of CAZA.


The architect most forcefully changing the image of Philippine cities is actually based in Brooklyn. From a light-filled studio in Dumbo, Carlos Arnaiz—founder and principal of Carlos Arnaiz Architects (CAZA for short)—oversees a modernization project of transnational proportions. His firm also has offices in Bogotá, Colombia; Lima, Peru; and Manila in the Philippines—capital cities his firm stands to redefine in the coming decade.

Come 2017, CAZA will inaugurate its biggest coup in Manila yet: City Center Tower, a new 27-story office building that will house Google’s Philippine offices and serve as headquarters to several other tech companies. Arnaiz eschews the usual hallmark of corporate architecture—the taut glass-curtain wall—instead opting to create concentric, undulating balconies that disturb the expected placidity of the archetypal office tower. The color scheme is likewise a retreat from the normal hues of corporate architecture: Seen at an angle, the tower’s rectilinear volume has a pearlescent shimmer, and the extruding fin-like balconies have a pinkish glow.

CAZA is also working on a slate of other projects that transcend scale and typology across the Philippines; no other architecture firm is so active in the country. Arnaiz is building public transportation infrastructure in Cebu, where 19 bus stations of his design—everything from the landscaping to street furniture for individual stations—will open by March 2017 to connect a constellation of cities. He also has residential projects and a hospital under construction in the country, a critical mass that points to the likelihood that many of 2017’s most compelling buildings will be built outside the traditional American and European centers of architectural production.

Diller Scofidio + Renfro, Museum of Image and Sound, Rio de Janeiro

Rendering of Museum of Image and Sound, courtesy of Diller Scofidio + Renfro and Fundação Roberto Marinho.

This Diller Scofidio + Renfro building in Rio de Janeiro will already be familiar to many visitors: Earlier this year, it served as a backdrop to Olympic volleyball games that graced TV sets around the world. The structure sits directly across from Roberto Burle Marx’s Copacabana boardwalk, and the architects have acknowledged its graphics as a source of inspiration for the curvilinear, ribbon-like arrangement of their own façade. Visitors will eventually be able to ascend the façade, without paying the museum’s entrance fee, via an external ramp that leads to the roof, offering expansive views of the Brazilian shoreline to anyone—not only, the architects point out, inhabitants of the numerous high-end hotels crowding the waterfront. However, whereas the façade was finished in time for the Olympics, construction of the interior stalled due to myriad circumstances related to Brazil’s precarious political and economic climate. Though the building was scheduled to open in 2016, one can only hope 2017 will see its inauguration.

Jerome L. Greene Science Center, New York

Lenfest Center for the Arts (left) and Jerome L. Greene Science Center (right). Photograph by © Columbia University/Frank Oudeman.

Over the past decade, Columbia University has been the driving force behind several monumental projects in New York by some of the 21st century’s most influential architects, with the campus’s institutional buildings changing the architectural identities of Harlem and the Upper West Side. The campus update and expansion that began with Rafael Moneo’s Northwest Corner Engineering building (2010) continued with Steven Holl’s Campbell Sports Center complex (2013) and Diller Scofidio + Renfro’s exceptional Roy and Diana Vagelos Education Center for the Columbia University School of Medicine, completed this past August, just in time for the fall semester. In spring 2017, the university’s collection of high-profile building commissions stands to expand with the inauguration of the Jerome L. Greene Science Center designed by the Renzo Piano Building Workshop (RPBW)—the firm behind the new Whitney Museum building in the Meatpacking District, the Nasher Sculpture Center in Dallas, and the Kimbell Art Museum expansion in Fort Worth.

The 450,000-square-foot Greene Science Center is planned as the anchor of the Manhattanville campus between 125th and 133rd streets along the far-west side of the island. Whereas the perimeter of the university’s main campus, designed by McKim, Mead and White, is delineated by fence and wall, the new campus will have no gates or street-level barriers between Columbia buildings and the surrounding city. (The smaller Lenfest Center for the Arts, a second campus building also designed by RPBW for Manhattanville, will open simultaneously.)

Columbia plans to expand the Manhattanville campus over the next two decades, according to a master plan designed by Piano—a decision that rankled Harlem residents fearful of displacement as well as Columbia students wary of the school’s gentrifying influence. Piano, for his part, is unflaggingly optimistic about Columbia’s northward march: “You have science, you have art, and you have community,” he said in an October statement. “Then, to make this a truly contemporary campus, the University and community merge.”

David Adjaye, Ghana National Museum of Slavery and Freedom, Cape Coast

Rendering of Ghana National Museum of Slavery and Freedom, courtesy of Adjaye Associates.

It was a banner year for David Adjaye: September 2016 saw the opening of the Ghanaian-British architect’s design for the National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington, D.C. A career highlight of sorts, the project was among the largest and most culturally significant buildings his firm has produced since Adjaye Associates was established in 2000.  

Though the architect is keeping busy with other commissions in the States—he is designing the Studio Museum’s forthcoming expansion in Harlem—Adjaye will also have a triumphant 2017 with the opening of his design for the Ghana National Museum of Slavery and Freedom in Cape Coast. Adjaye’s waterfront scheme for the three-story building makes use of his signature formal motifs, including a copper-hued palette and rectilinear planes. It will also be the cornerstone of a larger mixed-use development geared toward educating locals and visitors about the country’s history and increasing international tourism in the colonial-era Ghanaian capital.

KieranTimberlake, U.S. Embassy, London

Rendering for the U.S. Embassy in London, courtesy of KieranTimberlake.

American diplomatic buildings abroad have long been some of the most prestigious commissions available to the country’s design profession, an axiom that was affirmed during the 2010 competition for the new U.S. Embassy in London. The shortlist of finalists included Pritzker Prize winners and high-profile architecture outfits; so prestigious was the project that Richard Meier’s office issued a press release saying he did not win. Instead, the plum commission ultimately went to KieranTimberlake, a Philadelphia-based firm with a 100-person office, a Modernism-inflected portfolio, and high regard in the profession but little name recognition beyond architectural insiders.

Yet the firm’s scheme was popular with critics when it was announced, and it will likely keep their name in the press when the new U.S. Embassy building opens in 2017. (The embassy is moving out of its former Eero Saarinen-designed building in Grosvenor Square, which will in turn be converted into a luxury hotel by David Chipperfield.) The new design seeks to materialize the ideals associated with democratic governance: transparency in particular, which the architects propose to achieve with a polymer-clad cube that rejects the fortress-like designs of so many other American embassies. KieranTimberlake have designed a proudly urban complex that includes landscaping features, like a pond. It interacts with and is semipermeable to the densely populated surrounding neighborhood while maintaining the necessary standards of high security.

Frank Gehry, Pierre Boulez Saal, Berlin

Rendering of Pierre Boulez Saal, © Gehry Partners.

Pierre Boulez Saal, September 2016 © Volker Kreidler. Courtesy of Gehry Partners.

Frank Gehry donated his design services to the Berlin concert hall named in honor of the architect’s close friend, composer Pierre Boulez. Its performance space, located inside the shell of a historic structure that previously served as set storage for the Berlin State Opera, has been completely built of wood. The focal point of Gehry’s work is the arena-style stage, which will regularly host a classical music ensemble convened especially for the new institution when it opens in March 2017. The building will also house the Barenboim-Said Akademie—as in, Daniel Barenboim, the Argentine-Israeli pianist, and Edward Said, the late Palestinian cultural theorist—devoted to training classical musicians from the Middle East.

Herzog & de Meuron, 56 Leonard, New York

Photograph courtesy of 56 Leonard.

New York City has no shortage of luxury condominium towers, but despite the various prominent architects, the city typically ends up with a decidedly restrained work of high-end housing (think, for instance, of Zaha Hadid’s scheme for 520 W. 28th Street, which lacks the expressive geometries of her work in China). Herzog & de Meuron is an exception. The Swiss firm follows its compelling 40 Bond Street building with a structurally ambitious 60-story high-rise in TriBeCa. Far more interesting than the Anish Kapoor sculpture near the building’s entrance are its cantilevered terraces, which result from a variety of irregular floorplans and give the entire complex the dramatic silhouette of a Jenga tower. The long (and long-delayed) construction process is finally near completion; the structure will be fully occupied in 2017.

Johnston Marklee, Menil Drawing Institute, Houston

The Menil Drawing Institute, west façade as seen from the Energy House. Courtesy of Johnston Marklee / The Menil Collection

The Menil Collection is already famous for its architecture: The Houston institution garnered international critical acclaim for its main building, designed by Renzo Piano in 1986 (the Italian architect’s first American project, in fact). And though the original Menil building continues to be an architectural pilgrimage of sorts, inspiring awe for its daylighting system in the galleries, the Menil will add a new Johnston Marklee-designed building that stands to renew and expand the collection’s architectural currency when it opens in October 2017.

For the Menil Drawing Institute—the first building dedicated specifically to the study, storage, conservation, and exhibition of modern and contemporary drawings—the L.A.-based architecture firm is planning a single-story structure arrayed around a cluster of courtyards. An ultra-thin steel roof will provide daylighting control, and, perhaps most curiously, half the building’s 30,150-square-foot space will sit below grade (this area will primarily contain storage facilities). It will be the first building added to the Menil campus under David Chipperfield’s 30-acre masterplan, and the collection’s fifth building dedicated to art.

OMA, Fondation Galeries Lafayette, Paris

Atrium, mobile floors positionned at groundfloor, ©OMA.

Diagram of the architectural concept, ©OMA. All rights reserved OMA©.

OMA has, almost singlehandedly, positioned preservation at the forefront of contemporary architecture. In Paris’s Le Marais neighborhood, the firm’s renovation of a former industrial building into a gallery for the Fondation Galeries Lafayette continues the work founder Rem Koolhaas began at Fondazione Prada in Milan and Garage in Moscow. In Paris, as before, the firm’s intervention includes substantial new architectural elements: an exhibition tower inserted into the older building’s courtyard, inside of which two sets of mobile floor plates will facilitate a wide variety of spatial configurations. When the building opens in the fall, the legally protected façade will remain, but the building’s erstwhile industrial production program will have been replaced with a joint exhibition center and basement-level facility for art production.

Anna Kats