The best architecture of 2016: structures new and reclaimed

December 30, 2016 Sanjana Saluja

Architecture is at its best when it succeeds at giving physical shape to the stories and ideas important to a culture. That standard of quality also applies to several other new buildings completed in 2016. Wall Street Journal explores the architecture that stole the show in 2016.

It can take decades for a significant building to rise up from concept to rooftop and years more for the public to fully appreciate it as architecture worthy of civic pride. The National Museum of African American History and Culture condensed the pride part into a matter of weeks. More than 582,000 people have visited the new $385 million museum on the National Mall since it opened on Sept. 24, with many staying for as long as six hours. Designed by Phil Freelon and David Adjaye with the SmithGroup, the museum is about much more than design, of course.

In New York, Columbia University’s Roy and Diana Vagelos Education Center encapsulates with dynamic elegance some of the latest thinking on how to foster teaching and the exchange of ideas. On a sliver site in Washington Heights overlooking the Hudson River, the 14-story tower features a cascading stair flowing into promontory-like balconies, meet-up eddies, café landings and other alluring pull-out spaces for the kind of unscheduled encounters currently associated with best practices in advanced education. The architects Diller Scofidio + Renfro have applied their acute ability to translate complex needs into compelling clarity—rendered here in an energized palette of douglas-fir paneling and burnt-orange terrazzo. Originally budgeted at $70 million, the building and its interiors impart an enduring sense of quality and sophistication that should excite students (and impress alums) for generations to come.

Read more about the year’s best architecture here.

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