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A Sleeker Way to Cross a Canal

Venice
Santiago Calatrava’s glass-bottomed Constitution Bridge in Venice, only the fourth over the Grand Canal, triggered storms of derision even before it opened. Accused of being overly expensive, inexcusably late, aesthetically inharmonious, and, most egregiously, not accessible to the handicapped, it is nevertheless a graceful addition to an architecturally demanding city.” —Justin Davidson

Photo: Olivo Barbieri

A Starchitect Building for Anyone

Harlem (2012)
"In his first affordable-housing project, Sugar Hill, David Adjaye takes inspiration from Harlem’s Jazz Age, while leaving room for modern amenities: a roof garden and a mixed-use educational and cultural space. No two windows in any apartment are the same." —Wendy Goodman

Photo: Courtesy of Adjaye Associates

A Neighborhood Reborn in Technicolor

Detroit
Design 99 founders Mitch Cope and his wife, Gina Reichert, work with other artists and architects to buy up dilapidated houses in Detroit and then transform them into off-the-grid affordable housing, art studios, and exhibition spaces.” —Goodman

Photo: Courtesy of Detroit 99

A Bunker for Leaking Secrets

Stockholm
“This is exactly what you want the data center of WikiLeaks to be. Could it look any more like a modern-day Batcave? If you believed you were fighting the evil forces of the world, you sure as hell wouldn’t want to do it from a cheaply partitioned office.” —Elias Redstone, editor-in-chief, London Architecture Diary

Photo: Åke E:son Lindman

A Trash Can With Brains

Philadelphia
“The BigBelly Solar is a regular trash can, but with a sensor that knows when it’s getting full and activates a compressor to push down all the trash. The cans take longer to fill up, and that reduces the number of pickups by the city’s trash trucks.” —Maria Nicanor, assistant curator, Guggenheim Museum

Photo: Courtesy of BigBelly Solar

A Loo With a View

London
Part port-o-let, part interactive art, Monica Bonvicini’s “Don’t Miss a Sec” is a public toilet encased in one-way mirrors. “You can step out of the city and yet you’re still able to watch everything that’s going on around you.” —Vanessa Kassabian, managing director, Snøhetta.

Photo: Alamy

A Convention Center With Soul

Milan
“Convention centers can be so soulless—a massive void where people get dizzy and lost. Massimiliano Fuksas did the opposite with the Fiera Milano. The undulating mesh-and-glass canopy makes it not only sculptural but fluid and weightless.” —David Rockwell, founder and CEO, Rockwell Group

Photo: Paolo Riolzi

A Place to Skate, Bike, and Write Graffiti—Legally.

Mérida, Spain
“Designed by Selgas Cano, the Factoría Joven (youth factory) is an amped-up community center that includes a performance space, areas for practicing street art and graffiti, even a space for rock climbing and tightrope walking—all done in budget-friendly (but exceedingly bright) translucent corrugated plastic that changes colors as the daylight ebbs. It is the essence of a truly urban park.” —Goodman

Photo: Iwan Baan

Scaffolding You Can Love

New York (2010 Urbanshed Competition Winner)
“Yes, you sometimes look for a shed to walk under in the rain, but other than that, they’re not beautiful. They actually detract from the architecture on the street. The Urban Umbrella is structurally sound, and it’s so elegant.” —Robert D. Limandri, Department of Buildings commissioner

Photo: Courtesy of Urban Umbrella Enterprises LLC

A Garbage Dump You Can Slalom Down

Copenhagen (2016)
“Copenhagen’s next garbage facility will be an incinerator on the inside, a ski run outside. The idea comes from Bjarke Ingels, who refers to its ‘hedonistic sustainability’: A smokestack impishly—and instructively—blows an enormous smoke ring for every ton of CO2 it releases.” —Davidson

Photo: Courtesy of Bjarke Ingels Group

A Two-Faced Skyscraper

Kuwait City (late 2011)
“The Al Hamra Tower is such a paradigm-buster: The glass shield covers only three-quarters of it, with the back quarter a spine of masonry that functions as a heat-absorbing environmental feature. It has this romantic, solitary silhouette that really stands out.” —Carol Willis, director, Skyscraper Museum

Photo: Courtesy of Som

An Aesthete’s Sports Dome

Shenzen, China
“Stadiums are really just huge covers, so the important part is to build a smart yet provocative curtain wall. I love the way the connected cubes dance around the Universiade’s arenas, like little Rubik’s Cubes holding hands in celebration of sport.” —Karim Rashid, principal, Karim Rashid Inc.

Photo: Christian Gahl

A Multidisciplinary Pier

Yokohama
“It is a digitally generated, highly plastic work, but the Yokohama ­International Terminal is also a striking hybrid. It combines into one continuous form a ferry terminal, a pier, a public park, and an event plaza. It’s the invention of a new type.” —Kenneth Frampton, Ware professor of architecture, Columbia

Photo: Satoru Mishima

A Self-Sufficient Street Light

Toronto
“The solar panels and the wind turbine on the PortaDyne-Lite each power a battery that allows the street lamp to operate at night, so it uses all the available resources. This is just another opportunity to fit green technology onto something we see every day.” —Gita Nandan, visiting professor, Pratt Institute

Photo: Courtesy of Hybridyne-RHS Inc.

A Plaza That Attracts Attention

Melbourne
“Federation Square looks at first like some impractical fantasist’s idea of a piazza, but it has won the only acclaim that matters: Crowds converge on it daily. The complex abounds with cultural institutions and cafés, and a giant screen carries soccer games, artworks, and news.” —Davidson

Photo: Marcel Malherbe/Redux Pictures

An Opera House You Can (Almost) Sail

Hamburg (2012)
“In general I am not one for architecture trying to emulate, reflect, or mirror old surrounding architecture. But there is something perversely provocative about the Elbe Philharmonic’s quasi-postapocalyptic presence, like Mad Max meets Brazil.” —Rashid

Photo: Courtesy of Herzog & de Meuron

A Very Literal Green Building

Paris
“The Flower Tower is basically a box full of ordinary apartments with terraces surrounded by flowerpots. It’s very simple, almost cartoonish, but it has an extraordinary effect—those concrete slabs and all that green coming out of it.” —Bruno Campos, principal, BCMF Arquitetos

Photo: Paul Raftery

A Traffic Battle Won

Stockholm
“Stockholm’s congestion-pricing system has several subtle beauties: Tolls go up at rush hours, they can’t be dodged by taking a different route, they don’t apply to electric vehicles, and it’s just as pricey to drive out of town as it is to enter. Cars aren’t banned, but driving one is a last resort.” —Davidson

Photo: Alamy

A Bendable Bike Rack

Tallinn, Estonia
“The Tulip Fun Fun bike racks are flexible enough that you can install bikes at different angles, which is something we haven’t seen before. They’re very playful, but at the same time highly functional.” —Kassabian

Photo: Oleg Hartsenko/Courtesy of Tulip Fun Fun

A Housing Project That Soars

Singapore
“Combine the words government housing and high-rise and most people think disaster. But the Pinnacle@Duxton has these significant sky bridges that are basically parks in the sky for the residents.” —Antony Wood, executive director, Council on Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat

Photo: ARC Studio Architecture + Urbanism and RSP Architects Planners & Engineers (PTE) Ltd

A Theater Under the Motorway

London
“Folly for a Flyover—a temporary installation, café, event space, and auditorium by the British architecture collective Assemble—gave new life and meaning to a previously forgotten space: the street underneath a motorway overpass.” —Redstone

Photo: Courtesy of Lewis Jones

A Stream Excavated in the City Center

Seoul
“Seoul’s mayor was brave enough to tear down an elevated highway built in the sixties that had buried the Cheonggyecheon Stream. The stream was remade by pumping water from the Han River, creating a park enjoyed by 80,000 people a day.” —Raul Juste Lores, editor, Folha de São Paulo

Photo: Courtesy of Michael Sotnikov

A Back-of-the-Napkin Fantasy Bridge

Abu Dhabi
“Zaha Hadid is a poet of speed. Even her walkways look like they’re leaping into the atmosphere. Her new Sheikh Zayed Bridge connects two points with an extravagantly calligraphic line; easy to sketch, murder to build.” —Davidson

Photo: Iwan Baan

A Classroom in a Tree

Tokyo
“The Fuji Kindergarten’s Ring Around a Tree classroom, designed by Yui and Takaharu Tezuka, is a kid’s dream come true: a graceful glass-and-wood ramp that spirals up and around a treasured 50-year-old zelkova tree. Inside are spaces where children both play and learn. At the top, they’re basically in the tree canopy. There is a feeling of always being outside in nature while also being completely protected.” —Goodman

Photo: Iwan Baan

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