With the new myriad changes in material technology and computer-aided design tools, contemporary style in architecture has been evolving since the early 1950s. Every architect and designer has started developing their language and expressing through complex forms and the use of new technology. They also intend to portray their ideology to create timeless yet iconic structures. The contemporary style cannot be defined using a set of terms. Thus, it opens up a realm of possibilities with a blank canvas for the architect.
A few structures designed by influential architects around the globe are mentioned below. The structures range from stadiums to skyscrapers, static to transformable. These buildings with their unique language breathe the essence of contemporary architecture and create environments that are timeless and beyond. Every structure has a unique functional desire and an inspired conceptualized design process to achieve an iconic form.
1. Guggenheim Museum, Bilbao
Architect – Frank Gehry
Location – Bilbao, Spain
Completion year – 1997
Material – titanium, glass, and limestone
The Guggenheim Museum of Bilbao is an exemplary structure designed using complex swirling forms and captivating materiality. The museum has a very intricate program with an aim to boost the city’s economy through tourism. The titanium swirls give rustic yet unique aesthetical characteristics that also compliment yet stand out in the industrial urban context. Located at the northern edge of the city center, the site makes a tangible connection to the city. The curvilinear form of the building extrudes around the Salve bridge creating a curved promenade, and a public plaza towards the south side. The building resembles a boat from the eye level, evoking the past industrial life of Bilbao, whereas it as a floral footprint. The seemingly random curves are designed to reflect the sun and weather, with shallow central dents on the titanium tiles for the surface to ripple with changing light.
2. Burj Khalifa
Architect – SOM – Skidmore, Owings, and Merrill
Location – UAE
Completion year – 2010
Material – concrete and steel
Inspired by the form of the Hymenocallis flower, Burj Khalifa has a triple lobed footprint that promises maximum views of the Arabian Gulf. Standing at the staggering height of 828 meters, the mixed-use tower is remarkably thin due to the innovative structural solutions. The design may not be the most ideal structure in terms of sustainability but the luminous faceted sculptural mass accentuated with fin-shaped stainless steel mullions creates a rhythmic form that adds dynamism to the skyline of Dubai.
3. Seattle Library
Architect – Rem Koolhaas, OMA + LMN
Location – Seattle, USA
Completion year – 2004
Material – glass and steel
Rem Koolhaas designed the Seattle public library by reinterpreting the monotonous floor divisions and inflexible spaces as organized spatial compartments, each dedicated to a specific function. The design conceptualization progressed with designing these compartments as a high rise, where each platform has a unique shape, scale, palette, circulation, and structure dedicated to its function. A built form emerged through a time-sensitive approach with the need for light and shade for the designated function, creating an iconic structure with different punctures in the elevation that react to the specific urban context.
4. Maxxi Museum
Architect – Zaha Hadid
Location – Rome, Italy
Completion year – 2009
Material – glass, steel, and concrete
As declared by Zaha Hadid, the museum is not an object container but rather a campus of art. The fluidic interrupted floor plan with the overlapping flows and pathways create a suitable space for moving temporary exhibitions. The curved concrete walls and the natural light entering from the open ceiling embody a fluidic spatial quality with multiple perspective points and fragmented geometry. The white walls become a canvas for the black suspended staircases.
5. Centre Pompidou
Architect – Shigeru Ban
Location – Metz, France
Completion year – 2010
Material – steel, wood, Teflon, and fiberglass
To display large artworks, the Centre Pompidou had three 15 meters wide galleries juxtaposed over each other in a 3-dimensional space, with a hexagonal central core that contained elevators and staircases for vertical circulation. Each gallery tube opened to a different view of the city to establish the urban contextual continuation as the Centre is located in the suburban area of the city. Apart from the tubes, there is a Creation Studio and a restaurant on the top within a circular volumetric space and auditorium and offices enclosed in a square-shaped volume. The fluidic hexagonal timber roof hovers over all the spaces together to achieve a cohesive form and unify the floating volumes.
6. Oculus, World Trade Center Transportation Hub
Architect – Santiago Calatrava
Location – New York, USA
Completion year – 2016
Material – steel
The 350 feet long and 96 feet high structure is a free-standing structure at the ground level of the transportation hub, marking the entrance foyer for the station. The arched elliptical form of the Oculus is constructed using white steel-ribs that further extend upwards like outspread wings. Calatrava exhibits natural light as a part of the hub, dignifying hope and synergy that enters within the station through the space between the ribs covered with glass. The sculptural form generated exemplifies the sub-grade level of the hub and walking pathways.
7. Kaohsiung Stadium/Taiwan Solar Powered Station
Architect – Toyo Ito
Location – Kaohsiung, Taiwan
Completion year – 2009
Material – steel, concrete, and solar panels
The core element of the Kaohsuing stadium is the thousands of solar panels covering the surface of the dragon-shaped stadium that runs completely on the photovoltaic energy generated by them. The circular-shaped stadium was inspired by Feng shui, where Toyo Ito attempted to maximize the effect of natural cooling through structural design stimulation and wind direction. Thus, the roof and sides of the stadium do not form a complete circle but rather create a tunnel for the wind to pass through. Resonating to a dragon, the solar panels resemble a metallic snakeskin.
8. Lotus Temple
Architect – Fariborz Sabha
Location – Delhi, India
Completion year – 1986
Material – concrete and marble
Inspired by the lotus flower, the Lotus temple is an epitome of forms generated through biomimicry in the contemporary style of architecture. The leaves are the most integral part of the structure. The nine entrance leaves demarcate the entrances on each of the nine sides. The outer leaves create the roof for the ancillary spaces whereas the inner leaves cover the main worship space. There are a dramatic glass and steel skylight formed due to space intentionally left between the inner leaves as they approach towards the middle. The interior spaces reveal the exposed precast ribbed roof made out of concrete whereas the pristine white exterior is clad in Grecian marble.
9. Maya Somaiya Library
Architect – Sameep Pandora
Location – Mumbai, India
Completion year – 2018
Material – Catalan tile
Maya Somaiya Library is an addition to a children’s library of a school located in the rural area of the city. Inspired by the Gustavino vaults, the structure designed for the library is in pure compression. The aim was to create a play-full space, which also acts as a magnet for the students and encourages them to study. The walk-over form, placed at the intersection of the student activities allows the student to access the library from all the directions, encouraging them to transverse from within or over it. The windows are self-structured bays to increase the stability, where the openings are designed keeping in mind the economical window section sizes.
10. The shed
Architect – Diller Scofidio + Renfro
Location – New York, USA
Completion year – 2019
Material – steel, reinforced concrete, Telfon, and glass
The Shed is a responsive transformable structure that can adapt to the need of the artist and creators to incorporate the building into their work. The 37-meter high movable shell is made of a diagrid frame, clad in translucent cushions of a strong and lightweight Teflon- based polymer. The eight-level based building houses 2 galleries, one theatre, one creative studio space, and a skylit event space. Inspired by the industrial past of High Line, the Shed’s kinetic system comprises a sled drive on top of the base building and bogie wheels guided along with a pair of 273-foot-long (83 m) rails on Level 2 (Plaza Level).