The Delirious City: A Survey

Thirty-three years after Rem Koolhaas exulted in the imaginative intensity of Manhattan’s skyline, cities around the world are upping his ante. Here, a dozen design experts from three continents, joined by New York architecture critic Justin Davidson and design editor Wendy Goodman, nominate their favorite recent (and imminent) urban inventions.

Reporting by Jillian Goodman, Andre Tartar, and Kat Ward.

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 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

The Delirious City: A Survey