Social Architecture is a human-centric approach towards architecture that agglomerates the concept of “for the people – by the people”. Built environment today emphasizes on the need to create a physical infrastructure that defers to the people and generates socio-economic stability inclusive of the aesthetically appealing beauty of contemporary architecture.

With the growth of technological advancements being at par with the architectural uprising of smart buildings, contemporary social architecture synthesizes the singular spatial needs and the construction techniques of this day and age.

Here are 15 buildings that adhere to contemporary social architecture

1. Mercat Encants

Location- Barcelona, Spain
Project Year- 2013
Architect – b720 Fermín Vázquez Arquitectos

Barcelona’s Els Encants is a hundred-year-old marketplace, usually laid up informally. To maintain the original design’s transparency, the designers rejected a commercial center’s multiple floored layouts. Alternatively, a continuous commercial area is built that intertwines slightly inclined planes and creates an endless loop which connects stalls and small shops. The experience of the tourist is comparable to a walk along a pedestrian path. The different levels of the streets around the perimeter are reconciled by bending the square deck; therefore, once inside the market, the levels of the different entrances are blurred. The large casing suspended nearly 25 meters high as a canopy is a prominent landmark, protecting shopkeepers and customers from the sunlight. Variable-width bands compose the cover. The underside shows different behaviors and becomes a city reflection tool in the market.

2. The Blue Planet

Location- Kastrup, Denmark
Project Year- 2013
Architect- 3XN

The Blue Planet is inspired by the sea’s whirlwinds, fish shoals, and swirling starlings that turn the sky black. The Danish National Aquarium, inspired by the sea, is shaped like a gigantic whirlpool that is clearly visible to travelers arriving by air at the nearby Copenhagen Airport. The façade is covered in small diamond-shaped aluminum plates, adapting to the organic shape of the building and mirroring the colors and light of the sky, like water, giving the building an ever-changing expression. On the ground, the distinctive shape of the building ‘ pulls ‘ visitors into its interior from the outside, where its shape supports intuitive navigation, logical division of exhibitions, and effective spectator distribution.

3. Kontum Indochine Café

Location- Kontum City, Middle Vietnam
Project Year- 2013
Architect- Vo Trong Nghia Architects

The Café is located on a corner plot and consists of two main elements: a main building with a wide horizontal roof constructed of bamboo construction and an annex kitchen built of concrete frames and stones. The main building is surrounded by a shallow artificial lake with a rectangular plan. All heights are open to the air. By providing shadow under the bamboo roof and maximizing the flow of cool air across the lake’s water surface, the indoor open-air space operates successfully, even in a tropical climate, without using air conditioning. The roof is covered with plastic panels and thatch lined with fibre. A pure bamboo structure composed of 15 inverse-cone-shaped units supports the roof of the main building. Inspired by a traditional Vietnamese basket for fishing, the shape of these columns gradually narrows from the top to the base.

4. Charles Library at Temple University

Location- Philadelphia, United States
Project Year- 2019
Architect- Snøhetta

The solid foundation of the building is clad in split-faced granite vertical sections, relating to the surrounding campus background materials. Grand arched wooden entrances cut into the volume of stone and announce an entry point. The arched entrances and expansive plazas of the building extends a welcoming invitation to all visitors, and while its unusual geometry expresses a distinct identity, its massing is carefully tailored to its neighbors’ scale and materials. Glazed with glass on all four sides, overlooking the lush green roof, the fourth floor offers an unexpected retreat that feels embedded in nature.

5. Cinema de Riom

Location- Riom, France
Project Year- 2018
Architect- TRACKS

A first volume from the current enclosure borrows its height from the wall. “Volvic Stone” consists of the existing wall, offers a material that can be reused as large aggregates for the concrete of the first low volume outer sails. Treated in a dark hue, the façade will finally be partially bushed; the stone fragments of the old wall evoking traditional masonry will reappear in its mass at variable heights. Therefore, the façade marks the footsteps of a new place past and reinterprets the use of regional identity content in a contemporary manner through their esthetic dialogue.

6. The Pinch Library and Community Center 

Location- Shuanghe Village, Yunnan Province, China
Project Year- 2014
Architect- John Lin, Olivier Ottevaere

The location of the library is against a 4-meter-high retaining wall. The design spans the difference in this level and acts as a bridge between the new memorial square and the reconstructed village. A variety of trusses are set between the street’s upper level and the plaza’s lower level. The shape of each truss varies in order to produce both a gradual tilt (to bring people down) and a sharp pitch upward (to raise the roof). The trusses were covered in an aluminum waterproofing layer and timber deck. On the inside, the trusses extend down to support a floating bookshelf. The school’s simple traditional benches are used as chairs. The polycarbonate doors can be opened to create an open space that stretches to the plaza. The project reaffirms the ability to build contemporary timber structures in remote areas of China rather than submitting to the abandonment of wood construction (as with the houses after the earthquake).

7. Waihinga Martinborough Community Centre

Location- Martinborough, New Zealand
Project Year- 2018
Architect- Warren and Mahoney

The design solution enhances the much-loved and surviving Town Hall by upgrading the building seismically in a sensitive and unobtrusive manner; and preserving existing heritage attributes by improving the entry sequence through the new extension. The new extension relates to heritage building by scale speech, juxtaposing lightweight timber and steel, transparent and open framework against the town hall’s sturdy form. As an addition to the current Town Hall, a glazed seismic isolation replaces the veranda, distinguishing the old and the new.

8. Changjiang Art Museum

Location- Taiyuan, China
Project Year- 2019
Architect- Vector Architects

The museum is located on the southern edge of a newly built residential community next to the urban gird. Consequently, how to make the museum function as a connection between the community and the city becomes one of the most important issues we are concerned with. At the lower level of the building, we carve out the space for an outdoor staircase at the southwest corner, landing at the level of the street and leading up to an open terrace through the museum. It robbed and shattered the spatial sense that once etched the memory of the everyday lives of people. As a cultural and collective space that will serve the public in the future, the Changjiang Art Museum is attempting to create a contemporary response commemorating the traces and environment of the human construction that has ever existed on this piece of earth.

9. M17 Contemporary Art Centre Rethinking

Location- Kyiv, Ukraine
Project Year- 2019
Architect- Dmytro Aranchii Architects

The newly created M17 envelope is based on a museum history combination of modern computer design methods. The galvanized steel perforated facade panels are highlighted at night and illuminated from the inside to give the image of underscored perfection. Only the square scale varies in the pattern of the façade, allowing the identity and other graphic geometry to be pixilated. The branding is intended to improve the M17’s visual identification focused simultaneously on a simplified graphic design and its combination with Ukrainian avant-garde characteristics.

10. Contemporary Art Museum

Location- Raleigh, United States
Project Year- 2010
Architect- Brooks + Scarpa, Clearscapes

The addition of the new 900 square foot entry structure was equally important for preserving the existing structure. The dramatic lobby is a space surrounded by glass set under a magnificent folded-panel roof that stretches over the sculpture garden of the entrance to create a kind of welcoming front porch. Constructed on the east side of the existing building, the lobby is a new reinterpretation of the old loading dock, moving people, products and art deep into the main exhibition space’s central core. To juxtapose and complement the symmetry of the old historic house, this asymmetrical cross-axis was developed. The two buildings collapse and merge into one building. It’s old and new. The room provokes some form of indelible wonder while still offering traditional values to the visiting people.

11. Australian Islamic Centre

Location- Newport, Australia
Project Year- 2019
Architect- Glenn Murcutt + Elevli Plus

Building on the long history of mosques as part of Australia’s multicultural and multi-denominational fabric, the Australian Islamic Center plays a major role in its community. It symbolizes their congregation’s maturity, vibrancy and permanence while offering a physical and visual manifestation of a new Islamic architecture dialect. This mosque offers a new look within walls usually closed to outsiders through the transparency and openness of its formal architecture, and thus serves as a form of communication in itself.

12. Contemporary Art Space in the Former Convent of Madre de Dios                        

Location- Sevilla, Spain
Project Year- 2014
Architect- Sol89

The project is the result of a reflection on the creative process in contemporary art, its uncertain state and the ongoing breakdown of boundaries between the exhibition and production space. The treatment is described as a space that is adjustable and reversible. The walls and ceiling are covered by wooden slats, the distinction between them that allow the original brick walls to be seen, showing the texture of the bricks and the wounds caused by centuries of first phase exploration. A temporary show connected to the current volume which allows the development of future exhibits and could be disassembled like one of them, showing in a patrimonial sense what is truly valuable in this old building is matter, space and light rather than styles or decorations.

13. KOODAARAM Kochi-Muziris Pavilion

Location- New Delhi, India
Project Year- 2018
Architect- Anagram Architects

Architecture opens and closes buildings in space through its landscape, materials and tools, thereby mediating social and environmental separation and coalescence. A pavilion’s architectural notion is that of an “island”: relaxation, regeneration, reflection, conversation, and transience. Cabral Yard bears no architectural vestiges of its history, unlike the other sites of the Fort Kochi Biennale. During its dormancy between biennales, it follows a process of natural rejuvenation. At the same time, it is a gated area of ample verdancy and an important center for convening people, the beating social heart of a busy biennial. It’s an art venue, a process, an event or an incident, with people.

14. Sense Café Beijing

Location- Beijing, China
Project Year- 2019
Architect- RSAA

The goal of urban mobility is through a remodeled room and a series of soft spaces in the courtyard. There, ancient cities ‘ boundary links are disrupted, leading people to move across the city and join images filled with ancient experiences and contemporary expectations. This Nescafé pop-up store’s basic concept was designed to blur the line between architecture and construction, so a free-form golden dome blends into the historical setting. Metal curtains, converted into a free form, create space that responds to the flexible interaction between doors, windows and plants. The linking piece continues into the main spaces, where it is connected to various areas. Such rooms are then designed to match the newly introduced Nescafé products individually.

15. Australian Centre for Contemporary Art (ACCA)

Location- Melbourne, Australia
Project Year- 2002
Architect- Wood/Marsh PTY LTD Architecture

The, Chunky Move and Playbox forms the user groups for this building and is therefore built to appeal to this function: it is a sculpture in which art can be shown. This promotes constructive design practice and is a strong research laboratory. To facilitate installations, ephemeral or digitally generated work, openings in the external fabric are kept to a minimum. The structure contains references to the site’s past occupation, namely factories and foundries, in the prevalent shed language of a steel frame and taut metal body. The cladding is a single substance that reinforces the object’s shape.


Paushali Raha is an architect with the writer bug. Her love for history and literature has helped her understand the true amalgamation of storytelling and architecture. Amidst the chaos of varied vocations, she hopes to promote social architecture through practice and words.

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