Skip to main content

Five new centres of contemporary architecture

Gardens by the Bay. Source Google Earth.

Many cities in the world that stand out for their ancient architecture, for their medieval fortresses or for the richness of their baroque and neoclassical buildings. However, there are more and more cities that are standing out for their bold and contemporary developments, which have become increasingly recognized internationally. The following cities are part of this group of new “hubs” of contemporary architecture:


Rotterdam Waterfront. Photo: Roman Boed via Flickr

Endless canals and picturesque houses. That is perhaps the most common image of Dutch cities. Rotterdam, however, has decided to dissociate itself from this traditional image and has embarked on a daring urban transformation that has captivated architects and designers from all over the world.

Named now by many as “the most futuristic city in Europe”, Rotterdam has become a “laboratory” for the exploration of bold and even controversial architectural projects. From bus stops to bridges and high-rise buildings, this city has left behind the destruction of the war, positioning itself within the most innovative cities in the world.

Markthal Rotterdam (Market Hall), MVRDV. Photo: Isen Majennt via Flickr


Reflections, Studio Libeskind. Photo: Ferry Octavian via Flickr

Mega luminous trees, pools shaped like space ships and contorted buildings with vertical gardens. What looks like the setting of a science fiction film is actually part of the urban image of Singapore.

This city-state, considered within the group of "Asian Tigers" due to its almost miraculous economic growth, has been positioned on the international scene not only for its wealth, but also for its amazing urban development, which has made Singapore one of the new global capitals of architecture. From the imposing Gardens by the Bay and Marina Bay Sands, to the impressive Reflections, Singapore is a city where futuristic architecture knows no limits.

Gardens by the Bay, Grant Associates. Photo: Swee Oon via Flickr

Mexico City

Paseo de la Reforma. Photo: Nan Palmero via Flickr

With more than 20 million inhabitants, the capital of Mexico is the largest urban agglomeration of the Western Hemisphere. This megacity houses great architectural treasures that were built over several centuries. As a sample of it, the Historic Centre with prehispanic monuments and colonial buildings is part of the World Heritage list

However, Mexico City not only houses a glorious past, but also new buildings and public spaces that give a contemporary atmosphere to the city. In areas such as Reforma, Polanco and Santa Fe, new structures are rising beyond conventional forms, like the award-winning Torre Reforma, the impressive Soumaya Museum or Garden Santa Fe, an underground shopping mall.

Soumaya Museum, Fernando Romero. Photo: Gabriel Osorio via Flickr

Abu Dhabi

Al Bahr Towers, AEDAS Architects. Photo: Inhabitat via Flickr

The tremendous growth experienced by the oil economies of the Middle East has produced a radical change in its main cities in recent years. The competition for breaking architectural records seems to have been concentrated in this region of the world, where skyscrapers boldly challenge gravity, taking structural engineering to ever more extreme limits.

Abu Dhabi, capital of the United Arab Emirates, is perhaps less known than its neighbour Dubai. However, unlike its compatriot, this capital has preferred to depart from the race to dominate the skies and instead become a world-class cultural and technological centre, with buildings that stand out for their innovative design and not so much for their height. The opening of the Louvre Museum and other projects such as the Al Bahr Towers are a faithful testimony of this.

Louvre Abu Dhabi, Ateliers Jean Nouvel. Photo: Jimmy-Zhang via Flickr


Photo: Sergey Galyonkin via Flickr

The capital of Poland is well known for the impressive reconstruction of its old town after the devastation of the World War II. However, this city also knows how to reinvent itself. With the economic growth of Poland, Warsaw is now a new core for investors and business, emerging new constructions that become visible in the urban landscape

After the end of the socialist era and hand in hand with economic reforms, Warsaw began a renovation of the infrastructure, seeking to give a more modern and renewed image to the city. Nowadays, projects like the Vistula Riverfront are the example that the transformation of Warsaw is still booming.  

What other city would you add to this list?

Warsaw Skyline. Photo: Poland MFA via Flickr


Popular posts from this blog

Cities from the scratch then and now: Premodern capitals

Many cities around the world have been planned and built from scratch. Although this is not something invented by modern urbanism, since the mid-nineteenth century the rise of industrialization and the emergence of new states and countries have led to the creation of new settlements with different purposes, ranging from their function as national capital or state, to simply serve as a dormitory for workers and families.
Cities designed from scratch have also served as real-scale experimentation laboratories for some of the most widespread theories of urbanism in the last two centuries. From the garden cities and even the modern movement, these settlements have allowed us to learn from the successes and mistakes about many aspects of urban design and planning.

A good way to reflect on this experience is to make a comparison between the original master plans and the current state of those cities. There are, of course, many political, economic and social factors that have influenced whe…

How are cable cars improving mobility and reducing segregation in Latin America?

Cable cars are systems used to transport people and goods to places where using other means is much more complicated and expensive. Traditionally cable cars have been installed in tourist attractions such as theme parks and winter resorts, however, more and more cities around the world are taking advantage of their potential, using cable cars as part of their mass transit network.
In countries such as Colombia and Bolivia, where several of its main cities are located in areas of complex topography, cable cars have become a practical solution for mobility. From Medellin to La Paz, these systems have transformed the urban trips of millions of people, improving accessibility to the districts furthest from the central areas, which were difficult to access through traditional transportation systems.

La Paz, the seat of Government of Bolivia and one of the highest cities in the world, is an example of how cable cars can become the main structure of the entire urban transport network. The m…