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What’s New:
9 Places to Watch in 2021

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The year 2020 has defied every expectation — and yet, thankfully, our work continues.

As our design teams have adapted (fashioning workspaces out of bedrooms, screen shares replacing pin-up boards, etc.) the distances between Los Angeles, Chicago, and London have never seemed shorter. Even while being physically apart from our colleagues and clients, we’ve invented new, meaningful ways to collaborate. Our work has kept us inspired and focused on the future.

With construction advancing on airport terminals, creative offices, and arts venues, we eagerly await a return to routines once taken for granted. Meanwhile, we’re grateful to contribute to projects that will be transformative for cities and communities around the world. Here’s to 2021 — and a look ahead at a few of the new buildings we’re excited to celebrate.

1245 Broadway

New York City

To differentiate this important type of medical facility, we should draw upon exactly what already sets it apart: the way it’s embedded in its surrounding community. “By creating a stronger connection to place, the community hospital can provide a sense of familiarity and authenticity that most large medical centers lack,” says design partner Chris Cooper. “This connection to local environment and spirit of place can humanize a place that can often be perceived as intimidating and alienating, particularly for people in a vulnerable state.”

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These design choices contribute to making 1245 Broadway a sought-after place to work, of course, but they also earn the building high marks for sustainability. And many features which are not commonly found in typical office buildings, such as outdoor spaces and touchless technology throughout, gain a new relevance for the workplace in our post-pandemic reality. It’s not hard to imagine that 1245 Broadway offers a glimpse of where commercial office design is headed next.


Sea-Tac Airport, International Arrivals Facility

Seattle

We can also draw inspiration from projects outside the healthcare industry. Our design for a public school in Staten Island, New York — the city’s first net-zero-energy school building — has established a new sustainability benchmark for community facilities. The design demonstrates a commitment to environmental stewardship and preserving resources. Among other

While many of us put travel plans on hold this year, we’ve been dreaming about destinations far and wide. If predictions for an eventual post-pandemic travel boom play out, Seattle, for one, will be ready. Work is scheduled to wrap up in April of next year on a reimagined and greatly expanded International Arrivals Facility (IAF) at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport (Sea-Tac) — a project that further positions the growing Puget Sound region as a destination for business and tourism.

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The overall expansion increases Sea-Tac’s capacity for wide-body aircraft, while speeding up passport checks and luggage processing. It also provides direct access to ground transportation, reducing connection times from 90 to 57 minutes. Travelers, take note: 2021 might turn out to be a good year to renew your passport.


United Nations Office at Geneva, Strategic Heritage Plan

Geneva

We can also draw inspiration from projects outside the healthcare industry. Our design for a public school in Staten Island, New York — the city’s first net-zero-energy school building — has established a new sustainability benchmark for community facilities. The design demonstrates a commitment to environmental stewardship and preserving resources. Among other

For years, the United Nations has taken the lead in coordinating a global response to climate change. With the UN’s own European headquarters in Geneva due for a major renovation, it was clear that the project should set an example for the 21st-century sustainable workplace. The challenges were also evident: How do you incorporate cutting-edge architecture into the context of an important heritage site?

The Strategic Heritage Plan involves the renovation of the Palais des Nations complex, initially built between 1929 and 1938, to dramatically improve its environmental performance, as well as the construction of an efficient new building that will initially be used as a swing space while the retrofit takes place.

The hospital can serve as a true community facility, not just a place where people go when they’re not well.

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Embedded in the landscape, the new building keeps a low profile on the site with a terraced design. It offers access to outdoor spaces and remarkable vantage points from inside, such as a new dining hall that faces the parklands and Lake Geneva. In this workplace that prioritizes well-being, people are immersed in nature. The new building is due to open in 2021, allowing the complete renovation of the Palais des Nations to proceed. Geneva’s refurbished landmark will embody the commitment to climate action that the United Nations continues to advance.

Shenzhen Rural Commercial Bank Headquarters

Shenzhen

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A striking new architectural landmark is nearly complete in Shenzhen’s Bao’an district. The 150-meter-tall Shenzhen Rural Commercial Bank Headquarters appears as a glass volume enveloped in a net of structural steel, pulled away from the facade. It’s the latest evolution in SOM’s decades-long development of diagrid structures — an approach that’s both efficient and sustainable because it reduces the amount of steel required for construction.

Mulva Cultural Center

Mulva Cultural Center

A small Midwestern city — population 25,000 — will soon be home to an arts venue one might expect to find in a much larger metropolis. The Mulva Cultural Center is poised to become a regionally significant destination at the heart of De Pere, a historic riverfront city located about five miles from Green Bay. Philanthropists James J. and Miriam B. Mulva were inspired to bring world-class exhibitions and cultural programs to their hometown. An elegant, inviting, and contemporary building will become the setting where their vision comes to life.

Poised above the riverfront, the center will be clad in a curtain of transparent glass; it’s envisioned as a “lantern on the riverside,” welcoming visitors from near and far. Inside, a vast atrium creates a sense of openness and connection between cultural programs. A 200-seat auditorium, flexible galleries, classrooms, and a café round out a range of venues for engagement. The material palette of native stone, timber, glass, and neutral metals is inspired by the riverfront location and by the Wisconsin prairies. Construction is due to begin next year.

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