Design at its core is all about the future. We never stop talking about trends, knowing very well they are ever-changing. Although we may have different ideas about the next big thing in architecture and interior design, some key areas are here to stay.
Sustainability, nature-blended, and having a positive impact on the local community, are some of the key areas that architects and designers should take note of, and the projects that grace the following pages are some of the great exemplars of how the aforementioned trends can carve out a better future for us and the planet.
From a wavy mix-used development in Paris that seeks to incorporate nature into the city; a concert hall that draws inspiration from its surrounding valley in Chengde; a tunnel-like archive and residence in Japan; to an event space reminiscent of a mountain in Songshan meant to demonstrate the lives of the citizens; this exceptional selection of architectural marvels gives us invaluable hints of what futuristic design is.
UNIC, MAD Architects’ first project in Europe, consists of a curvy exterior and is aimed at incorporating nature into the city. Situated in Clichy-Batignolles, Paris’ 17th arrondissement, UNIC is rich in layers, and narrows from bottom to top, while some of the levels boast balconies where residents can enjoy the outdoor space.
UNIC encompasses a concrete facade and a simple dual-core tube structure. On the upper floors, residents can enjoy the city views of Paris, while apartments facing the east can overlook Montmartre. At the same time, residents living on the eighth floor or above can see the Eiffel Tower. By creating spacious balconies, and floor-to-ceiling windows, the design team has successfully blurred the boundary between the indoors and outdoors, creating a bright, yet vibrant ambience in the interiors.
“In big cities, the tall buildings are increasingly out of touch with nature. We want to continue Paris’ tradition of integrating nature and gardens into the urban environment. That’s why we have set up rich natural spaces on each floor of UNIC,” said Ma Yansong, founder of MAD Architects.
During the early stages of the design phase, MAD Architects involved the community to discuss the residential building. The MAD design team worked with local architects and residents to explore urban planning, sustainable development, resource sharing, and energy management, through workshops, ensuring that UNIC was a creative project that integrated with the community.
Spanning 54 hectares, Clichy-Batignolles consists of 27 plots of land, and the 10-hectare Martin Luther King Park. A total of 3,400 apartments are included in the area, with half of them being social housing; 30% private residences; and 20% luxury developments.
2. The Chapel of Sound
Located in a mountainous valley near Beijing, The Chapel of Sound, a concert hall, draws inspiration from the surrounding areas, capturing the unfamiliar and deeply touching experience of music performed in the cradle of nature.
The creative force behind this project is Beijing-based architecture office OPEN. The Chapel of Sound encompasses a semi-outdoor amphitheatre, an outdoor stage, viewing platforms, and a green room. Incorporating the concert hall into the valley is at the core of the design approach.
According to OPEN’s founding partners Li Hu and Huang Wenjing, the design aims to minimise the footprint of the concert hall in the valley, creating a structure that is in dialogue with the impressive natural landscape, while also feeling undeniably man-made.
“We are very aware of the responsibility of contributing a thoughtful structure that fits naturally into this unique landscape,” the design firm says.
Hu and Wenjing wanted to create a space that could see the shape of sound. Having designed theatres and concert halls, they knew the challenge in this project was to create an excellent acoustic environment without introducing additional sound-absorbing materials.
Working with acoustic engineers, OPEN looked at many ways that people experience sound in a concert hall. Openings act as sound absorption areas and provide a connection with the exterior environment.
In addition to its state-of-the-art features, The Chapel of Sound has been created with sustainability in mind. It is built entirely from concrete that is enriched with an aggregate of local mineral-rich rocks.
While designed to capture the unfamiliar and deeply touching experience of music performed in the cradle of nature, The Chapel of Sound also allows visitors to calm down and listen to the sound of nature – an experience the designers believe to be profoundly inspiring and healing.
With no heating or air-conditioning, the Chapel of Sound consumes minimum energy. The openings also allow the natural elements to come inside, a void in the centre of the rooftop allows daylight to penetrate the structure and naturally illuminate the performance spaces.
When it rains, the water cascades through the void; however, inspired by the Pantheon, OPEN has created a drainage system that quickly drains the water away.
“We want the definition of the space to be not so absolute, thus allowing for possibilities. Solitary or communal, music or sound of nature, gazing into the starry sky or connecting with one’s inner self – it’s open to the interpretation of the users,” the design firm says.
3. Culvert Guesthouse
While nature is an integral part of The Chapel of Sound, the Culvert Guesthouse, located at Miyota-machi, Nagano Prefecture, is an epitome of civil engineering concepts and product design details.
Japanese design firm Nendo has created this storage facility for archiving furniture, products, and artworks with a guest house attached. The Culvert Guesthouse, a tunnel-like architecture, takes shape through a combination of precast and prestressed construction methods.
The Culvert Guesthouse is composed of four stacked tunnels covered with a roof in the centre. In addition to a long, yet narrow storage room with a depth of about 40 metres, there are two smaller storage rooms, but more will be added to the site in the future as the collection grows. Speaking of the layout of the guest house, the kitchen, bathroom, toilet, and other water facilities are situated on the first floor, while a compact bedroom and study are located on the second floor.
Other design features include no metal-frame windows and high-transparency glass measuring up to 10 metres in length fixed into the grooves in the same manner as shoji screens. The designer also draws the gravel and plantings used in the exterior into the interior. To make it easier to walk on, the designer applied resin to the base first and then gravel was laid on it so the surface wouldn’t become glossy.
When it came to the precast construction, the common parts of this project were moulded in a factory and assembled on-site. These parts weighed about 12 tonnes each, while a total of 63 of these parts were used.
An example of its applications in infrastructure projects is the box culvert – box-shaped concrete structures – used to store waterways, pathways, power lines, and communication lines buried underground. Since the method itself does not provide a leak-free composition nor does it allow for stacking – both necessary for this architecture – prestressing was also used to connect the parts.
The 45-degree reinforcement at the entry corner, which can also be found in general box culverts, serves as a brace, and enhances earthquake resistance. By connecting these parts, a slender, yet tunnel-shaped space with an internal dimension of approximately 2 x 2.3 metres, has been created.
4. A Living Theatre Mount
In addition to engineering marvels, some designers reimagine the wonder of nature and incorporate it into a project. Here at Xuzhou, Wutopia Lab has created A Living Theatre Mount, a demonstration area of the Vanke Cloud Valley project for Xuzhou Vanke.
The designer of the project hoped to design a building that could show different living conditions of ordinary people. According to Wutopia Lab, this architecture is “constituted by ordinary people showing their scenes of lives, which becomes a theatre where any ordinary person can perform”.
Inspired by mountain ranges, the design team has piled up an artificial white mountain as the image of the Vanke Cloud Valley demonstration area by creating box-shaped structures. The mountain of the prototype area consists of two parts: the building itself and the pavilion, including the fire stairs attached to the building. The building creates a solid volume through solid metal panels and glass, while the pavilion creates an imaginary form with perforated aluminium panels.
When it comes to the building, the design team has merged the core and communal space and defined it as a big noisy area that flows through three floors. On the other hand, other areas, namely the audio-visual hall, sandbox area, and the model room, have been created as quiet small boxed-shape plug-ins attached to the big space.
To avoid the three-storey height limit that would turn the mountain-shaped building into a flat roof, the design team added box-shaped structures to form a stepped “mountain range”. Originally, each box was a platform where guests could walk up the steps to the top and look around and explore the beauty of the landscape.
However, because of restrictions, the limit of the floor area, and strict cost control, the boxes shaping the summit can only be turned into a pavilion, which is a perfect way to conceal the equipment on the roof.