We profile some of our favourite buildings that won architecture awards this year.
As 2014 draws to a close, we look at 12 of the best (and most award-winning) buildings of the year.
The Chapel, Vietnam, by a21studio
Awards: World Architecture Festival World Building of the Year
Choosing the best building designed in a year - from anywhere in the world - is in many ways an impossible task (the best building for what, you might ask?). And while many architecture prizes went to the audacious, headline grabbing behemoths designed by starchitects such as Zaha Hadid, the judges at this year's World Architecture Festival chose to bestow its greatest honour - World Building of the Year - on a rather more humble project, The Chapel in Vietnam.
Designed by a21studio, The Chapel is a community centre on the outskirts of Ho Chi Minh City. It is made largely of recycled materials including corrugated steel and metal panels, and has coloured translucent windows which reflect sunlight during the day and glow after dark when they are backlit by the building's internal lights.
The project is in a new urban ward on the outskirt of Ho Chi Minh City, an area that has a dearth of community buildings. The Chapel is used for community activities such as conferences, weddings and exhibitions.
The project was selected by a panel of judges including some of the world's leading architects and designers; led by renowned British architect Richard Rogers, it included Rocco Yim (Hong Kong), Julie Eizenberg (USA), Enric Ruiz Geli (Spain) and Peter Rich (South Africa).
Heydar Aliyev Center, Baku, Azerbaijan, by Zaha Hadid
Award: Designs of the Year
Photo: Hufton + Crow
Described by Blueprint's Herbert Wright as 'a fantastic white alien object in the cityscape of Baku, capital of Azerbaijan.
Photo: Hufton + Crow
Wright continued: 'The Heydar Aliyev Center is ... like a vast white sheet that sweeps up from the ground into a strange composition of fissures, folds and rises, and then rolls in on itself along a great straight edge. Within this free-form surface is a complex of asymmetric white spaces where height and depth blur in the absence of straight lines. Glazed facades cut vertically, those at the front looking out over a cascade of terraces and water features. On this side, the building's white envelope plunges parabolically to touch the ground, a dramatic gesture that, with a towering peak at the rear, gives the building a shorthand signature.
Photo: Hufton + Crow
He concluded: 'The Heydar Aliyev Center is one of those surprising projects that unexpectedly puts a city on the architectural map, like Utzon's Sydney Opera House or Gehry's Guggenheim Bilbao. With its lessons from past masters of thin sculptural surfaces, it also headlines a new wave within the expanding cornucopia of visionary projects from one of the most original architectural thinkers of our times. Not least, the sublime centre is a giant step forward in Hadid's journey into total fluidity.'
The Museum of the History of Polish Jews, Warsaw, by Lahdelma & Mahlamäki Architects
Awards: Finlandia Prize for Architecture
Introduced this year to honour 'an exemplary building from the past three years by a Finnish architect or built in Finland,' the Finlandia Prize for Architecture was awarded to Lahdelma & Mahlamäki Architects' Museum of the History of Polish Jews in Warsaw, Poland.
According to Sixten Korkman, Professor of Practice in Economics at the Aalto University and the lead judge in the award, 'The fruitful main idea of the building is the tension between the restrained exterior and the dramatic form of the entrance hall.'
He continued: 'The mood of the building is solemn and dignified, but at the same time warm and optimistic. We are dealing with more than just a museum: this building is a powerful and significant work of art that will change the look of Warsaw as a whole.'
According to the Finlandia Prize for Architecture, Korkman and his fellow judges 'evaluated the designs based on three selection criteria: What is the relationship between the formal idiom of the building and its use? How well does the design combine aesthetics and function? How does the building "sit" in its environment?'
Situated in a Second World War ghetto area in Warsaw, the building is a multifunctional facility that promotes research, education, and the culture of the Jewish tradition.
Its permanent exhibition is housed in a 5,000 sq m space located beneath the entrance hall, explaining the story of Polish Jews from the middle ages to the present day.
Woolwich Central, London, by Sheppard Robson
Awards: The Carbuncle Cup
While most architects dream of designing an award-winning building, not all awards are equal - and UK architecture's most famous booby prize, The Carbuncle Cup, is definitely one award you'd rather not win.
Awarded each year by Building Design magazine to 'the ugliest building in the United Kingdom completed in the last 12 months', the prize has a fairly noble intention - to name and shame those architects and developers who create substandard and unsightly buildings.
Even if it doesn't always get it right - could Grimshaw Architects' renovation of the Cutty Sark really have been the worst building designed in 2012? - the prize has brought public attention to some genuine stinkers, such as the egregious 465 Caledonian Road, stingy and modern student halls that cowered uncomfortably behind a listed Victorian facade.
This year's prize went to Woolwich Central, a mixed use scheme in south east London that comprises 189 apartments in six interconnected blocks rising to 17 storeys over a 7,800s q m Tesco supermarket.
According to Building Design, the development was a worthy winner as it is: 'A classic case of gross overdevelopment, the scheme is lumpen and oppressive and towers over its predominantly low-rise neighbours. It even manages to make its immediate neighbour, Greenwich council's none-too-insubstantial town hall, and former Carbuncle Cup nominee, look like a pimple on the face of a morbidly obese bully.'
One Central Park, Sydney, by Jean Nouvel and Patrick Blanc
Awards: Best Tall Building in the World for 2014
When we talk about 'green buildings' we usually mean those that are designed to be kind of the environment. But increasingly buildings are becoming literally green too. One Central Park in Sydney, for example, features a hanging garden which transforms the look of the building from a pristine tower of glass and steel into something a lot more natural and organic looking.
The building has been named best tall building in the world for 2014 by the Council on Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat.
Its other key features include a cantilevered heliostat, an internal water recycling plant and low-carbon tri-generation power plant. One Central Park has been awarded a five-star green star by the Green Building Council Australia. A hovering cantilever crowns the pinnacle of One Central Park, which contains the tower's most luxurious penthouses.
Here an assembly of motorised mirrors capture sunlight and direct the rays down onto Central Park's gardens. After dark the structure is illuminated by light artist Yann Kersalé's LED art installation that carves a shimmering firework of movement in the sky.
The Shed, London, by Haworth Tompkins
The Shed is a bright-red, temporary, 250-seat theatre for the National Theatre on London's South Bank. It provides a third auditorium while the Cottesloe Theatre is closed during a major regeneration project (also by Haworth Tompkins) for Denys Lasdun's Grade II* listed building.
The brief stipulated that it needed to be designed and constructed quickly, on a modest budget, to be sustainable in construction and operation, and to ultimately give the NT the opportunity to experiment with new types of theatre design. The Shed's temporary nature, building on Haworth Tompkins' earlier projects for the Almeida in King's Cross and the Gainsborough Studios, makes it less a building than an event or installation - a vibrant intervention on London's South Bank designed to stop passers-by in their tracks.
The Shed's simple form houses an auditorium made of raw steel and plywood. A temporary foyer was created beneath the NT's external terraces, where minimal construction was needed and connections could easily be made to the Lyttelton foyer. While the rough-sawn timber cladding refers to the NT's concrete, its red colour was taken from Dutch barns.
Natural ventilation was a driving principle of the design, resulting in the corner towers, whose height creates a stack effect to pull air from inlets behind the seats. The foyer design accessed existing foyer toilets, avoiding any plumbing or water use. Construction materials were selected for recycling -- the steelwork, for example, was left untreated to make it easier to reuse. Theatre lighting and seating was relocated from elsewhere in the NT, and bar furniture made from offcuts. Further iterations of The Shed concept, in development for different sites, are exploring options such as an energy storage and a control system that would allow The Shed to minimise energy use.
Mike & Ophelia Lazaridis Quantum-Nano Centre, Waterloo, Canada, by KPMB Architects
Award: The Chicago Athenaeum
The Quantum-Nano Centre (QNC) at the University of Waterloo is the first research facility of its kind to bring together the disciplines of quantum com¬puting and nanotechnology in one building. According to KPMB Architects: 'It was conceived to generate synergies between the respective fields of quantum computing and nanotechnology for ground¬breaking research leading to innovative solutions and commercialisation.'
Photo: James Brit
The five-storey, 26,500-square-metre facility houses the Institute for Quantum Computing (IQC), the Waterloo Institute for Nanotechnology and the University of Waterloo's undergraduate program in nanotechnology engineering for up to 400 academics. It also includes a 929 sq m cleanroom with fabrication facilities for quantum and nanodevices, an advanced metrology suite, extensive teaching and research laboratories, a multi-purpose space/auditorium, seminar rooms and offices.
Viipuri Library, Vyborg, Russia, restored by The Finnish Committee for the Restoration of Viipuri Library (original architecture by Alvar Aalto)
Awards: the World Monuments Fund/Knoll Modernism Prize
Established in 2008, the World Monuments Fund/Knoll Modernism Prize is awarded biennially for an innovative architectural or design solution that has preserved or enhanced a modern landmark or group of landmarks.
This year's award went to the Viipuri Library in Vyborg, Russia (Vyborg is close to the Finnish border and was in fact in Finland until 1944 when it was taken by the Soviet Union in the Second World War.
The library was designed by Aalto and constructed between 1927 and 1935 in what was then the Finnish city of Viipuri.
According to the World Monuments Fund, 'the library reflects the emergence of Aalto's distinctive combination of organic form and materials with the principles of clear functionalist expression that was to become the hallmark of his architecture.'
Barry Bergdoll, chairman of the Modernism Prize jury and curator of architecture and design at New York's Museum of Modern Art, described the building as 'an icon of 20th century architecture'.
Everyman Theatre, Liverpool, by Haworth Tompkins
Awards: RIBA Stirling Prize; Blueprint Award for Best Public use Project
Photo: Philip Vile
Winning both the RIBA Stirling Prize (probably the biggest architecture award in the UK for a single building) and the Best Public-use Building category in the inaugural Blueprint Awards, the redesigned Everyman theatre is now the pride of Liverpool.
Designed by Haworth Tompkins, the new theatre replaced the 19th-century home of a famous Liverpool institution. It includes a 400-seat adaptable auditorium, a smaller performance and development space, and rehearsal room along with exhibition spaces, arestaurant, bar and ancillary spaces.
Photo: Philip Vile
Defining the main west-facing facade of the building is a large-scale public work of art consisting of 105 moveable metal sunshades, each one carrying a life-sized, water-cut portrait of a contemporary Liverpool resident. Working with Liverpool photographer Dan Kenyon, the project engaged the city's community in a series of public events, so that the completed building can be read as a collective family snapshot of the population in all its diversity. Typographer and artist Jake Tilson created a special font for a new version of the iconic red 'Everyman' sign, while visual artist Antoni Malinowski made a large, painted ceiling piece for the foyer, to complement the internal palette of brickwork, black steel and concrete.
Photo: Philip Vile
BOSCO VERTICALE, Milan, Italy, by Stefano Boeri Architetti and Barreca & La Varra
Award: the International Highrise Award 2014
Described by the judges of this year's International Highrise Award as 'a project that blazes the trail for greened highrises and can be considered a prototype for the cities of tomorrow', the Bosco Verticale is a pair of residential towers in the Porta Nuova district of Milan, Italy.
Photo: Paolo Rosselli
The twin residential buildings are planted with trees and other plants, which the designers say is equivalent to 10.000 sq m of forest.
UQ Advanced Engineering Building (Qld), by RKA and Hassell
Award: The Sir Zelman Cowen Award for Public Architecture (Australian National Architecture Awards).
According to its architects the $130 million AEB building 'establishes a new benchmark for sustainability and explores new possibilities for teaching and learning spaces'.
The design features hundreds of terracotta panels, along with timber, steel and glass, all of which are used for different facades to control levels of daylight inside the building's classrooms, lecture and research laboratories.
The structure of the building is as open as possible, to allow a high level of visibility of processes and equipment to visitors and staff alike.
Florida Polytechnic University by Santiago Calatrava (architecture) and Thornton Tomasetti (structural engineer)
Award: ACEC Engineering Excellence Awards Competition, Diamond Award
In our admiration of fine-looking buildings, we often forget the vital role that engineering plays in transforming the imaginative creations of architects into real working (not to mention safe) buildings.
That's why we're closing this list with an award that's for engineering rather than straightforward architecture. Awarded by the American Council of Engineering Companies (ACEC) the Engineering Excellence Awards competition highlights 'extraordinary projects on the basis of their engineering complexity, innovation and overall value to society'.
2015s Diamond Award winner is the new FLORIDA POLYTECHNIC UNIVERSITY building designed by Santiago Calatrava. The other major players in the building's design and construction were Contractor Skanska USA Building, Steel Fabricator MG McGrath and Architect of Record Alfonso Architects.