As architects down tools for the holidays, it’s a time for reflection. So how was 2009? Most will say tough. Firms suffered redundancies, commissions dried up, projects were spiked – and let’s not even speak of Dubai.
But towards the end of the year there was a handful of major projects that managed to complete. This month, planes started flying to and from Rafael Viñoly’s elegant new terminal at Carrasco International Airport in Uruguay’s capital Montevideo; Zaha Hadid’s long anticipated Maxxi art gallery in Rome, a grand structure featuring a fluid form that was 10 years in the making, tentatively opened its doors in October before an official launch next spring; and in Brisbane the world’s largest tensegrity bridge, designed by Cox Rayner in collaboration with Arup, opened (the lightweight structure utilises tension and compression to give it form).
So are things beginning to pick up for 2010? Well, it’s early days yet. A sense of optimism does seem to be prevailing in the Far East and Asia – Korea, China, India and Taiwan continue to push ahead with ambitious schemes. “We’ve seen a real shift of work from Europe to Asia, things are picking up more easily there,” says Jacob van Rijs, director and co-founder at Rotterdam-based MVRDV. The practice, which focuses on architecture, urban planning and research, is working on a handful of projects next year including a “large scale housing” scheme in India where “there is a real optimistic atmosphere”, and a project exploring new city models for China.
Closer to home, construction will continue on MVRDV’s mixed-use public market in Rotterdam, an impressive soaring arch, scheduled to be complete by 2014. “There was a practical request to make a covered food market but we took the opportunity to make it more into a city building – this is the first step to creating a more urban, metropolitan atmosphere in Rotterdam, it will be a space everybody will know,” says Van Rijs.
James von Klemperer, design principal at New York-based Kohn Pedersen Fox Associates (KPF), also highlights the significant wave of activity in South Korea and China. “The Far East is still driving ahead,” he says. Next year construction will start on KPF’s Lotte Super Tower, a new skyscraper for Seoul featuring a tapered form inspired by ancient Korean ceramics, porcelain and calligraphy. Standing at 550m, it will be one of Asia’s tallest buildings when finished in 2014, and is the first of a series of skyscrapers planned to slice through Seoul’s skyline. “It’s the season for Seoul, there is a sudden spurting and really dramatic burst of growth. A tall building is an expression of optimism,” says Von Klemperer.
Other key projects to keep an eye on include Herzog & de Meuron’s sculptural car park designed for Miami’s mixed-use 1111 Lincoln Road development; Liverpool’s elegant new museum designed by Danish firm 3XN, and BIG’s yurt-inspired National Library in Kazakhstan’s capital, Astana. Moving ahead, it’s imperative that cities continue to invest in bold, stand-out architecture.
It also looks set to be a big year for the diary. Whether or not you’re a fan of expos, the Shanghai Expo in May seems destined to be an extravaganza – 70 million are expected to visit. Then there is the 53rd Venice Architecture biennale in August which will for the first time be curated by a woman, Kazuyo Sejima, a partner at Japanese firm SANAA (she also happens to be the first practising architect to oversee the event since Massimiliano Fuksas a decade ago). Always stimulating, expect lots of press, parties, and fresh thinking.