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Go just about anywhere around the world and you are sure to find great examples of modern architecture.
The new Louvre, Frank Gehry's first Australian building, 140 pavilions at the Milan Expo – it's a big year across the globe for lovers of the big build.
This year, Abu Dhabi steals Dubai's thunder with the opening of the Louvre Abu Dhabi, finally, on UAE National Day, December 2. The emirate's new cultural quarter is on Saadiyat Island, and eventually plans to have five winners of architecture's holy grail, the Pritzker Prize, in the one 'hood. Designed by Jean Nouvel, who made first his mark in Paris with the Institut du Monde Arabe, its neighbours will include the Norman Foster-designed Zayed National Museum (2016), Frank Gehry's Guggenheim Abu Dhabi (2017), the Performing Arts Centre by Zaha Hadid and Tadao Ando's Maritime Museum. The Louvre is the first of the big guns to open. Covered by an interlaced white, 180-metre dome modelled on a traditional palm-leaf roof, Nouvel says its shifting "rain of light" reflects the Arabic mashrabiya, or ornate window shutters used in the Middle East. As a local aside, Nouvel's Sydney skyscraper, One Central Park in Chippendale, recently won the award for the world's best tall building. (louvreabudhabi.ae)
Normally an architecture fan's go-to for wildly tall buildings, Dubai is resting on its laurels following the opening of the world's highest observation deck, SKY, in Burj Khalifa in October, hovering 555 metres above ground. It's now busy working on a swag of new hotels including a lavish Palazzo Versace Dubai. If that's all too staid, check out the quirky Dubai Frame. Like it says on the tin, it's a picture frame, albeit 150 high and 93 metres wide, designed by Mexican architect Fernando Donis, who beat off more than 1000 others in an international competition. Set in Za'abeel Park, if the political argy-bargy over its construction abates, by mid-2015, you'll be able to take a lift to the top to walk along a glass-floor bridge, with modern Dubai on one side, and the older city on the other side (dubaitourism.ae)
Speaking of Nouvel, despite bloated budgets and blown-out timelines, the Philharmonie de Paris, designed by the man-of-the-moment, will eventually open on January 14 with a performance by the Orchestre de Paris. You'll have to trek out to les banlieue (the 'burbs) to Paris' north-eastern edge and Parc de la Villette, to view the metal-clad building, a deliberate ploy to spread the cultural love right across the city. With the sound engineering by Australia's Marshall Day Acoustics, the main hall seats an audience of 2400 in suspended balconies curled around the stage.(philharmoniedeparis.fr)
Architecture fans, you have the opportunity to kill 140-odd birds with the one stone when you visit the Milan Expo, which runs from May 1 to October 31, 2015. The theme is "Feeding the planet, energy for life", brought to life by a pavilion from each participating country. More than 20 million visitors are expected to visit: your architect-spotting list should include Vietnam's pavilion by Vo Trong Nghia, Foster + Partners' sinuous reinterpretation of its sustainable Masdar City in Abu Dhabi, and the pulsating beehive by Wolfgang Buttress for the UK. (expo2015.org)
If you thought you had to travel to see great architecture ... it may come as a surprise that modern architects are turning their eyes towards Australia.Belinda Jackson
In Biel, Switzerland, "emergency architect" and cardboard wizard Shigeru Ban has created a gentle, curved, lattice tunnel from timber to create the headquarters for the Swatch/Omega group. "Timber is the only renewable material for construction in the world," says Ban, "so this is also very important for the environment of the future." The architect, who is best known in the southern hemisphere for his Cardboard Cathedral in Christchurch, New Zealand, also wove timber into the new Aspen Art Museum, Colorado. (aspenartmuseum.org)
Unless you're rubbing shoulders regularly with the ultra-rich, you won't get to see inside 56 Leonard, a skyscraper nicknamed "the Jenga Tower" for its staggered, jutting layers. Comprised of 145 penthouses and glass lofts in New York's chi-chi TriBeCa, the prices are as stratospheric as its views – up to $30 million for a penthouse, and its half-million dollar price tag for a parking space makes Sydney look a bargain. The building is all but sold out – buyers were obviously lured by the statement-making sculpture at the entrance by Anish Kapoor as well as the kudos of living in a building designed by the Swiss masters, Herzog & de Meuron who list the world's most popular museum, London's Tate Modern, on their CVs. (56leonardtribeca.com)
Eminently more approachable – on completion, you will be able to loll on its lawn – W57 is Danish wunderkind Bjarke Ingels' first New York project. His firm, BIG, just took out the Culture award in the 2014 World Architecture Festival for its Danish Maritime Museum. In New York, BIG has created a 750-apartment residential complex contained in a 142-metre pyramid that's been squished and torn asunder, angled to catch the light and breeze on the Hudson River waterfront, to open this spring.
And to get totally immersed in NYC architecture, all you'll have to do is catch a train at the World Trade Centre transportation hub, when it is finally completed after a six-year delay and doubling of the budget. Designed by Santiago Calatrava, who wears the phrase "neo-futuristic architect" with apparent ease, the hub will connect 11 subway lines, as well as rail, ferries and underground walkways as deep as five storeys below ground, with the WTC memorial site. Roughly the same size as Grand Central Station, the Instagram angle will be its white, ethereal skeleton, with 45-metre long, retractable wings that will open on September 11 every year. "The building is built with steel, glass, and light. The station appears transparent, and also guards you with its wings," says the architect, who was inspired by the gesture of child releasing a dove into the air. (wtc.com)
While you're in New York, you might like to take a look at busy Renzo Piano's new Whitney Museum of American Art, opening in the Meatpacking District this spring. His Greek National Opera House also opens in Athens in 2015 (whitney.org). Otherwise, a talking point in Chicago is Beijing-based MAD Architects' halo-topped Lucas Museum of Narrative Art, which they say was inspired by Frank Lloyd Wright and Mies van der Rohe. (lucasmuseum.org)
Last year, the London architecture scene was all about Renzo Piano's The Shard, the 308-metre home of the Shangri-La and western Europe's highest building. In nearby Lambeth, London's riverside precincts are still a-changing with the long-awaited opening of shock artist Damien Hirst's private gallery in Newport Street, Lambeth. Architects Caruso St John, responsible for the elegant renovation of the Tate Britain on the opposite side of the river, are binding a row of neighbouring warehouses to create one long terrace to house Hirst's vast personal collection of works that include Francis Bacon, Jeff Koons and Banksy (damienhirst.com). Nearby, eyes are on the Tate Modern's new extension, once again by Herzog & de Meuron, due to open 2016.
Always one to watch, Living Architecture commissions architects to design houses in Britain that are then rented out to holidaymakers with a keen appreciation for contemporary architecture. There are two openings this year, A House for Essex by statement-makers FAT and Grayson Perry and Life House/ Ty Bywyd by John Pawson. Expect the unexpected in North Essex: a quirky little architectural folly covered in ceramic tiles, its gold roofs set with huge sculptures – a chapel in the wilderness? In contrast, Life House, in central Wales, tries to hide within the hills, one room even semi-submerged. Its three minimalist rooms are designed exclusively for music, reading or bathing, Made from handmade Danish bricks, its black exterior taps into this recurring architectural trend. (living-architecture.com)
If you thought you had to travel to see great architecture (Roman Coliseum, Greek Acropolis etc) it may come as a surprise that modern architects are turning their eyes towards Australia. One of the most talked-about buildings is right under our noses. In case you've been caught napping, the new UTS Dr Chau Chak Wing Building is by international architecture heavyweight Frank Gehry, best known for the Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao, Spain. Located on Ultimo Road, Haymarket, this is the first Gehry building for Australia and will be the home of the UTS Business School when it officially opens in February. The crumpled paper bag look was achieved with 320,000 custom-designed, hand-laid bricks, bringing artistry to the industry. (uts.edu.au)
Zooming straight past the Gehry building, taking its cues from New York's High Line, the Goods Line is a shared pathway that links Railway Square to Darling Harbour, via Ultimo, by Aspect Studios and CHROFI. The 250-metre Goods Line North, which runs parallel to Harris Street from the Ultimo rail underbridge to the Powerhouse Museum, also opens in February as the much-neglected south of the city starts to feel some love. The "cultural ribbon" aims to link up the city's jewels, including Hyde Park Barracks, the Australian Museum and the Art Gallery of NSW. (sydney2030.com.au)
If that wasn't enough, here's a gentle reminder to keep the annual Serpentine pavilion, in London's Royal Park, on your list: each year, an architect who has not yet built in the UK is invited to create a temporary pavilion. The list of previous architects is a Who's Who of the design world. And for those of you who don't mind getting your hands dirty, the IKEA museum opens on the site of its first store, in Älmhult, Sweden (ikea.com), as does Legoland Hotel Florida. (florida.legoland.com)
A final note of warning: take this list with a grain of salt. Economies slow, building sites flood, wars intervene and Barcelona's La Sagrada Familia still isn't finished (they're tipping 2026, just a few years behind Our Bangaroo, in 2022).
FIVE GREAT ARCHITECTURAL GUIDES
SYDNEY: Take to the streets on foot or by bike with architect Eoghan Lewis, sydneyarchitecture.org.
NEW YORK: Bettina Johae leads tours Throughout New York, including Greenwich Village and Chelsea & Meatpacking District, aplusnyc.net.
EUROPE: Guiding Architects is a loose connection of architects based predominantly in Europe, with links to Dubai, Doha and Shanghai, guiding-architects.net.
BARCELONA: Explore Gaudi and beyond with architect Miguel Angel, barcelonarchitecturewalks.com.
DUBAI: Discover skyscrapers galore, as well as the low-to-the-ground, traditional developments of this brash town, ga-dubai.com.