Innovation & Design

Wonder of Wonders


Slide Show >>

Towards the end of 2005—a year in which a new skyscraper earned the title of tallest in the world and construction in China continued at a scale that makes the Pyramids look like ant-hills—we were inspired to come up with a list of new wonders of the world. What, we asked, raises a building from mere architecture to a marvel of innovation?

The ancient Roman architect Vitruvius famously wrote that a building should have "firmness, commodity, and delight." In other words, it should stand up, it should have a purpose, and it should look good. Meeting the first requirement can be as easy as running load-bearing analysis software and designing accordingly. But with architects (and clients) venturing ever higher, and experimenting with novel forms, the basic engineering becomes a challenge.

As for commodity and delight, most buildings seem to succeed only at one or the other. They are functional but not-so-pretty, or beautiful but inefficient.

TODAY'S STANDARDS. In gathering a list of the most innovative buildings of the year, we found that Vitruvius' triad continues to embody the key challenges faced by modern architects. They have new challenges as well, such as the threat of terrorism, escalating energy costs, and a world in which regional differences can be more and more difficult to identify.

The 10 buildings in our original slide show answered such questions as: How do you keep a building from falling down, especially during an earthquake, typhoon, or terrorist attack, and how do you make a building more useful, such as an office that encourages collaboration, or a factory that helps hone its own assembly line?

In building after building, the same themes emerged: A rethinking of space to improve a building's function, the use of sophisticated composite materials and digital networks, and perhaps most notably, a focus on environmental sustainability.

These themes continued as we searched the architectural wonders rising in China, Dubai, and Italy, as well as wonders of civic engineering and bridge design. With 10 packages complete, we've selected the 10 most amazing individual projects from the series. Click here to see the slide show.


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