Against the grain: the best architecture still to be competed

Our latest WORKTECH Wednesday Briefing looks at award-winning projects from the World Architecture Festival, the rise of the giga-floor in Chinese offices, and at the calendar of events for 2022

What’s the best architectural project in the world that’s yet to be completed? According to the international jury at the World Architecture Festival 2021, the scheme with the best window on the future is Silo City in Buffalo, New York.

Designed by Studio V Architecture, this features an imaginative reuse of the largest collection of grain elevators in the world to create a mixed-use arts and cultural complex. Silo City was commended by the jury for its ‘wonderfully seductive imagery’ which brings post-industrial life to a former site for grain silos.

But while American architecture is looking over the horizon, Europe can claim the best building already standing. The World Architecture Festival 2021 gave its top award – the World Building of the year – to a Danish waste-to-energy plant designed by architects BIG (Bjarke Ingels Group).

‘The CopenHill building makes people say “Yes in my back yard” rather than “no”…’

CopenHill, also known as Amager Bakke, is a Copenhagen landmark topped with a ski slope, hiking trail and climbing wall. It is part of the city’s goal of becoming the world’s first carbon-neutral city by 2025. According to Paul Finch, the festival’s programme director, the building ‘addresses the role of architecture in the new world of recycling and zero carbon. It treats infrastructure projects in a way which makes people say “Yes in my back yard” rather than “no”…and it reminds us that buildings can be fun.’

Micro metropolis

While on the subject of ground-breaking architecture, further evidence has emerged that Chinese office floorplates are set to get bigger and more bizarre than ever. According to Ulrich Blum of Zaha Hadid Architects, opening speaker at WORKTECH’s Smart Buildings 2021 conference held at SouthWorks in London, ‘mega’ floorplates holding up to 5,000 people are set to be surpassed by ‘giga’ floorplates holding up to double that number of employees.

Ulrich Blum outlined the journey from standard floors to large, super-sized, mega and giga ones in Chinese offices, each upgrade in scale justified on the grounds of increasing innovation and connectivity – much like a large city has more innovation capacity than a smaller one. Blum’s thesis was how the city can be a role model for a future workplace conceived as a ‘mini metropolis’ and incorporating the urban values of adaptability, resilience, vitality and blending with nature.

Could it be that as we enter the final weeks of 2021 with a host of new Covid-variant restrictions, including work-from-home guidance, once again emptying our offices, news from China of a coming era of enormous office floorplates packed with people is strangely comforting?

Coming to a city near you

After three successful North American events in December 2021 in New York, San Francisco and Los Angeles, the WORKTECH conference series looks ahead to 2022. From Sao Paulo to Sydney, Seattle to Stockholm, we’re coming to a city near you. Browse our 2022 calendar of events here

In our WORKTECH Wednesday Briefings, we reach out to our 10,000-plus Academy members, WORKTECH attendees, speakers, partners and sponsors while WORKTECH’s professional conference series continues through our in-person, virtual and hybrid platforms. This edition is posted 15  December 2021.
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