Like everything else, architecture evolved with time too. The styles, the materials, the character of the buildings around us have been shifting in different eras. From prehistoric dwellings to Roman and Greek architecture, from Byzantine and Gothic structures to the post-industrialization movements of Art Nouveau and Deconstructivism, architecture has been continuously morphing. 

Contemporary architecture is the architecture of the 21st century. It does not correspond to a specific style; instead, contemporary architects work in various styles, from postmodernism to highly conceptual and expressive designs. What puts these structures under the same category is the use of advanced technology and modern building materials to create taller, lighter, and more robust systems.

Many recent universities designed by contemporary architects worldwide display innovative designs and techniques through various styles and concepts. Here are a few examples of contemporary university architecture that stood out and shone in their uniqueness.

1. LIBRARY AND LEARNING CENTRE, UNIVERSITY OF ECONOMICS, VIENNA, AUSTRIA

Architect: Zaha Hadid Architects
Year of completion: 2013

The building is a polygonal block standing in the heart of the new university campus. It takes a cubical form with both inclined and vertical facades. Towards the interiors, the linear edges separate and become more fluid, generating a free-formed interior canyon serving as a central plaza and allowing connection throughout the building. The organic forms in the interiors also allow essential light and views. The external appearance of the building is an amalgamation of two elements of contrasting colors separated by a glass joint: shell and shadow. The building encapsulates the main library, the ballroom, the study service center, a café, and the center for studies abroad.

LIBRARY AND LEARNING CENTRE, UNIVERSITY OF ECONOMICS, VIENNA, AUSTRIA - Sheet1
©Iwan Baan
LIBRARY AND LEARNING CENTRE, UNIVERSITY OF ECONOMICS, VIENNA, AUSTRIA - Sheet2
©Roland Halbe

2. OTEMON GAKUIN UNIVERSITY ACADEMIC-ARK, IBARAKI, JAPAN

Architect: Mitsubishi JishoSekkei
Year of completion: 2019

Home to the student population of about 3,600, is the imposing triangular structure spread across 40,000 square meters, presenting a unique learning experience for the students. The architect wanted to design a one-building campus that would encourage communication in the age of texting and smartphones. The form of the building was inspired by the image of an iconic inverted triangular pyramid floating over the Earth. The academic ark also took inspiration from the traditional Japanese shrines that would attract pilgrims from across the country to meet, much like the purpose of this project. The Academic Ark’s distinctive triangular form with its steeply angled sides creates an inviting “gate” that students and teachers enter through. 

OTEMON GAKUIN UNIVERSITY ACADEMIC-ARK, IBARAKI, JAPAN
©Shinkenchiku-sha

3. MORI HOSSEINI STUDENT UNION AT EMBRY RIDDLE AERONAUTICAL UNIVERSITY, UNITED STATES

Architect: Ikon.5 Architects
Year of completion: 2018

This structure’s soaring form is inspired by the grace of birds in flight, which appropriately expresses its purpose of teaching students the science, practice, and business of aviation and aerospace. It serves as an iconic identity of the University and stands as the epitome of values like fearlessness, adventure, and discovery that every student is believed to have. This aeronautical athenaeum combines the social learning spaces, events, dining, and the university library. The university library resides on the top floor under a 200-foot arching skylight, opening the sky to the interiors of the library.

MORI HOSSEINI STUDENT UNION AT EMBRY RIDDLE AERONAUTICAL UNIVERSITY, UNITED STATES - Sheet1
©Brad Feinknopf
MORI HOSSEINI STUDENT UNION AT EMBRY RIDDLE AERONAUTICAL UNIVERSITY, UNITED STATES - Sheet2
©Brad Feinknopf

4. UNIVERSITY OF HOUSTON CLEAR LAKE, RECREATION AND WELLNESS CENTRE, HOUSTON, UNITED STATES

Architect: Smith Group
Year of completion: 2018

The Recreation and Wellness Center, apart from providing an essential amenity for the students, also became a brand landmark that the University held pride in. The center aims at providing wellness-focussed academic programming and houses the University’s Department of Exercise and Health Sciences, blending student life, instructional, and research environments.

Envisioned as the “Beacon of Wellness,” the building is a composition of glassy, well-lit spaces for the activities and research taking place inside. The colors of the school are boldly incorporated into the architecture, symbolizing the spirit of the school. 

UNIVERSITY OF HOUSTON CLEAR LAKE, RECREATION AND WELLNESS CENTRE, HOUSTON, UNITED STATES - Sheet1
©Bill Timmerman
UNIVERSITY OF HOUSTON CLEAR LAKE, RECREATION AND WELLNESS CENTRE, HOUSTON, UNITED STATES - Sheet2
©Bill Timmerman

5. CAMPUS LUIGI EINAUDI, TORINO, ITALY

Architect: Foster+Partners, Marko Visconti
Year of completion: 2013

The project, situated on a former industrial land, links the new campus to the river Dora. This intricate design accommodates the faculty of law and political science. The structure consists of two connected buildings, unified by a single roof canopy and arranged around a central courtyard. These buildings are aligned on the outside edges of a triangular plot of land and enclose a circular open area. Curved shapes can be observed on the façade, giving a pleasing continuity to the metallic surfaces. The roof canopy, which is the unifying member, creates an illusion of floating above the structure.

CAMPUS LUIGI EINAUDI, TORINO, ITALY
©Nigel Young/ Foster+Partners

6. LASALLE COLLEGE OF THE ARTS, SINGAPORE

Architect: RSP Architects
Year of completion: 2008

The Lasalle College of Arts is constituted of six organically shaped buildings, with alleyways running between them, like lava flowing through valleys and canyons. Together they form a black monolithic exterior but are disintegrated from the inside, with sky bridges and atriums serving to unite the separate buildings. The facilities have facets of glass on the interior and an external cladding composed of stone and aluminium. An advanced roof structure shrouds the entire site from above. The whole campus is treated as a sculpture and has become a significant part of the cityscape.

LASALLE COLLEGE OF THE ARTS, SINGAPORE - Sheet1
©yuandacn.com/ RSP architects
LASALLE COLLEGE OF THE ARTS, SINGAPORE - Sheet2
©timeshighereducation.com/ RSP architects

7. EMERSON COLLEGE, LOS ANGELES, UNITED STATES

Architect: Morphosis Architects
Year of completion: 2014

This architectural work combines linear and dynamic forms, meshing together housing facilities, learning spaces, administrative areas, and social interaction zones. The central curvaceous volume consisting of teaching facilities, staff administration, and a corresponding array of terraces and connecting bridges is flanked by the frame-like outer mass that accommodates ten stories of student housing. The east and west-facing sides of the building display glazed curtain walls with an active skin of intelligent shading system in which the horizontal fins adjust to suit the changes in light, temperature, and angle of the sun.

EMERSON COLLEGE, LOS ANGELES, UNITED STATES
©Iwan Baan

8. SCHOOL OF ART, DESIGN AND MEDIA, NANYANG TECHNOLOGICAL UNIVERSITY, SINGAPORE

Architect: CPG Consultants
Year of completion: 2006

The School of Art, Design, and Media is a unique and high-tech creative space. It is a green building catering to the environment by utilizing the passive design. The structure features three sweeping curves that slope, taper, and interlock. Varying from 2-5 stories, the most distinctive element of the design is the green roof that slopes at almost a 45-degree angle. A sunken courtyard takes shape between the two main arm-like curves of the building, which can be viewed from the interior double-glazed glass curtain wall facades. The addition of fountains, a “floating” performance platform, and a reflecting pool enhance the ambiance and cool down the central space.

SCHOOL OF ART, DESIGN AND MEDIA, NANYANG TECHNOLOGICAL UNIVERSITY, SINGAPORE - Sheet1
©Jordan Hammond
SCHOOL OF ART, DESIGN AND MEDIA, NANYANG TECHNOLOGICAL UNIVERSITY, SINGAPORE - Sheet2
©CPG Consultants

9. LSE SAW HOCK STUDENT CENTRE, LONDON

Architect: O’Donnell + Tuomey Architects
Year of completion: 2013

Like the Japanese origami, the design constructs one coherent volume from an intricate set of interdependent planes. Triangles and trapeziums are the predominant shapes used to create angles other than the monotonous 90-degree corners. London is the city of bricks, the same material used in the building façade. In fact, other structures in the vicinity of this structure are also clad in bricks of different nature, giving the street a vibrant hue. Brick is a familiar material in the city, but in this specific example, it is used uniquely. Each brick is offset from the next in an open-work pattern, forming a porous sheath that will create a play of daylight in particular spaces and improve ventilation. This characteristic also makes the structure look like a glowing lattice lantern at night.

LSE SAW HOCK STUDENT CENTRE, LONDON - Sheet1
©Alex Band
LSE SAW HOCK STUDENT CENTRE, LONDON - Sheet2
©Alex Band

10. RUN RUN SHAW CREATIVE MEDIA CENTRE, CITY UNIVERSITY OF HONG KONG

Architect: Leigh and Orange Ltd. Studio Libeskind
Year of completion: 2011

The Creative Media Centre for the City University of Hong Kong enables the University to become the first in Asia to offer the highest level of education and training in the creative media fields. The crystalline design forms a wide range of spaces rich in form, light, and material, creating an interactive environment for research and creativity. Each area in the building, open or self-contained, is unique. The walls slope through space with asymmetrical windows cut through them. A myriad of different facilities – theatres, stages, laboratories, classrooms, recording studios, screening rooms, performance spaces, etc. – are interspersed in the building. The abundance of natural light accentuates the overall ambiance of the areas.

RUN RUN SHAW CREATIVE MEDIA CENTRE, CITY UNIVERSITY OF HONG KONG - Sheet1
©Gollings Photography Pty Ltd
RUN RUN SHAW CREATIVE MEDIA CENTRE, CITY UNIVERSITY OF HONG KONG - Sheet2
©Gollings Photography Pty Ltd

11. DR. CHAU CHAK WING BUILDING, UNIVERSITY OF TECHNOLOGY, SYDNEY

Architect: Frank Gehry
Year of completion: 2014

The building has two contrasting external facades; one of undulating brick – referencing the sandstone and dignity of Sydney’s urban brick heritage and the other large sheets of glass to reflect the image of surrounding buildings. It provides teaching, learning, research, and office facilities along with sufficient public spaces across 11 floors. It is a bold structure that replaces flatness with curves and folds. The brick façade wriggles as it moves towards the sky with rectangular glass windows puncturing the curves.

DR. CHAU CHAK WING BUILDING, UNIVERSITY OF TECHNOLOGY, SYDNEY
©Andrew Worssam

12. INNOVATION TOWER, HONG KONG

Architect: Zaha Hadid Architects
Year of completion: 2014

The 15 story tower houses about 1,800 students and staff with facilities to impart design education and innovation, including design studios, labs and workshops, exhibition areas, multi-functional classrooms, lecture theatre, and a communal lounge. The tower adds diversity to the University life and expresses the dynamism of looking to the future. The structure features a very fluid composition, unlike the typical typology of towers. Interior and exterior courtyards create social spaces to interact, complementing the large exhibition forums, studios, theatre, and recreational facilities.

INNOVATION TOWER, HONG KONG - Sheet1
©Iwan Baan
INNOVATION TOWER, HONG KONG - Sheet2
©Virgile S. Bertrand

13. ROLEX LEARNING CENTRE IN LAUSANNE, SWITZERLAND

Architect: SANAA
Year of completion: 2010

Built on the campus of EPFL Ecole Polytechnique fédérale de Lausanne, the Rolex Learning Centre functions as a laboratory for learning, a residence of immense knowledge of 500,000 volumes, and a cultural hub for both the students and the public. All the distinct facilities are distributed in a single flowing space of 20,000 square meters along with an efficient network system of services, libraries, social spaces, cafés, spaces to study, and beautiful open areas. It is an innovative design with gentle slopes and terraces around an array of internal patios and a complicated roof and its support system, which required advanced methods construction.

ROLEX LEARNING CENTRE IN LAUSANNE, SWITZERLAND - Sheet1
©SANAA
ROLEX LEARNING CENTRE IN LAUSANNE, SWITZERLAND - Sheet2
©SANAA

14. SHARP CENTRE FOR DESIGN, TORONTO, CANADA

Architect: William Alsop
Year of completion: 2004

Standing over the main building of OCAD University, Toronto is a striking building with black and white pixelated skin resting on 12 multi-colored legs 26 meters above the ground. Raising the building above the ground led to the formation of new outdoor public space. The structure assimilates two stories of studio and teaching spaces with elevators and stairs, maintaining connectivity to the existing facility. The central area comprises a new four-story Entrance Halland, a three-story Great Hall on Level 2, where students and artists can display their work. This space is a gathering for events, with a gallery, auditorium, café, and conference center in close vicinity.

SHARP CENTRE FOR DESIGN, TORONTO, CANADA - Sheet1
©Richard Johnson
SHARP CENTRE FOR DESIGN, TORONTO, CANADA - Sheet2
©all.design

15. MODE GAKUEN COCOON TOWER, JAPAN

Architect: Tange Associates
Year of completion: 2008

Located in Tokyo’s Nishi-Shinjuku high-rise district, it consists of 3 different schools – Tokyo Mode Gakuen (fashion), HAL Tokyo (IT and digital contents), and ShutoIko (medical treatments and care). The shape of the building is designed to resemble a cocoon inspiring ints students to create, grow, and transform. The architects have designed a vertical high-rise campus, unlike the traditional ones that are horizontally laid out. Three rectangular classroom areas rotate 120 degrees around the inner core. The inner core consists of an elevator, staircase, and shaft. The atriums are located between the classrooms and face three directions, east, southwest, and northwest.

MODE GAKUEN COCOON TOWER, JAPAN
©Koji Horiuchi
Author

An architecture student, who loves to be able to translate the most mundane things into something magnificent, using her words. Trying to find her place where the tangible forms and intangible emotions meet.

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  1. Anita Singh Reply

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