Welcome to our inaugural list of the coolest buildings of the year. In order to be eligible the building has to have been completed, topped out or opened within the calendar year and has some aspect that makes the building cool. The competition was stiff with lots of great projects to choose from and narrowing it down to just five wasn’t easy. So without further ado, and in no particular order, here they are.
1. Cayan Tower – Dubai, UAE
It’s a skyscraper with a twist. This 1,008-foot residential tower located at the mouth of Dubai Harbor is the world’s tallest building with a twist of 90 degrees from base to apex. In order to achieve the 90 degree twist the floor plates were rotated 1.2 degrees around the building’s cylindrical core. Construction on the tower was suspended for a year and a half after the foundation site was flooded back in 2007. The 75-story building was designed by Skidmore, Owings and Merrill and constructed by Arabtec.
2. James B. Hunt, Jr. Library – Raleigh, NC
The James B. Hunt Library is located on N.C. State University’s Centennial Campus and opened at the beginning of the year. This LEED Silver-certified building is the epitome of “library of the future”. The library features a bookBot, which is a robot-driven, automated book delivery system that can hold 2 million volumes in a fraction of the space of conventional shelving and can be viewed through immense glass walls on the first floor’s Robot Alley. The library contains a ton of high tech gadgets including a Game Lab, 3D projectors, 3D printers and scanners, and rooms with Smart Glass walls that can go from clear to opaque with the flip of a switch. Some of the many green features of the building include solar panels that heat the building’s water, solar fins incorporated into the façade, recycled building materials and a rain garden. The library was designed by Snøhetta of Norway with local firm Pearce Brinkley Cease + Lee serving as executive architects and Skanska as the construction contractor. I would have spent a lot more time in the library as an undergrad at State had this building been around when I was in college.
3. The Shard – London, UK
This visually stunning 1,016-foot mixed-use skyscraper gets its name from its resemblance to a shard of glass. Construction was completed back in 2012 but the building didn’t open to the public until February 2013. The glass-clad pyramid features an observatory on the top three floors that offer a 360-degree view of London. The building design was inspired by the many tall church steeples that once dotted the London skyline. The Shard was designed by Renzo Piano Building Workshop with Mace serving as the main contractor. In 2012 a group of 40 people rappelled down the building for charity and in July of this year six female volunteers from Greenpeace scaled to building to protest Arctic oil drilling and were later arrested for trespassing. The Shard is the tallest building in the United Kingdom and the second-tallest in Europe.
4. Cardboard Cathedral – Christchurch, NZ
How could we leave out a church made of cardboard and shipping containers? The new church was built as a temporary replacement for the ChristChurch Cathedral that was heavily damaged in an earthquake back in 2011. The A-frame structure features 98 cardboard tube-encased beams that are 2 feet in diameter. The cardboard is coated with polyurethane and flame retardant and the building is expected to have a lifespan of 50 years while the ChristChurch Cathedral is rebuilt over the next decade. The cardboard tubes and beams each weigh 1,100 pounds and the building is purportedly earthquake-proof. The cathedral was designed by Shigeru Ban and construction was delayed at one point due to the cardboard tubes getting wet and had to be replaced.
5. One World Trade Center – New York City, NY
Standing at a symbolic and patriotic 1,776 feet, One World Trade Center is now the tallest building in the United States. The building was actually topped out last year but the last components of the spire were installed back in May 2013. The building was designed by David Childs of Skidmore, Owings and Merrill (which means they made the list twice) and is being built by Tishman Construction. I had the chance to see it this summer, albeit from a distance, when flying out of Newark on vacation. One World Trade Center has some big shoes to fill. Not only does it have to replace the iconic Twin Towers but it also will serve as a memorial for the tragedy of 9/11 and is scheduled to open next year.