The World Architecture Festival frequently selects the best buildings and urban structures of the year. We took a closer look at the seven most exciting projects and visions for 2017.

The manifesto of the World Architecture Festival summarizes the key challenges facing global cities in the next decade. Climate, energy, water supply, recycling and cultural identity are the main focus.

For a glimpse of how cities around the world are preparing to meet these issues, look no further than the projects submitted to the Berlin-based festival by international architects and designers. Their uniting vision: Future urban structures should be inclusive and sustainable. It’s a vision that places people firmly in the spotlight and center – with a generous side order of nature.

Architecture for all

Whether billowing bamboo or thick, luscious lawn: China’s expanding metropolises certainly need green spaces. The Chengdu City Music Hall, designed by the Aedas architecture studio, comprises a complex of corresponding stepped pyramids.

Their roofs “grow” together into a walkable park while pedestrian bridges span the green canyons between the buildings. Their rounded edges are deliberate – Andrew Bromberg of Aedas references traditional landscapes that unite architecture and nature, hills and rivers in perfect harmony.

Residents of Wuhou, a district of Chengdu in the Chinese province of Sichuan, can not only look forward to the impeccable sound of the new concert hall, but also a brand new park to practice Qigong in or enjoy a casual run.

The Chengdu City Music Hall
The Chengdu City Music Hall by Aedas.
Image: Andrew Bromberg/ Aedas

Brimming with life

Meanwhile, NærHeden – a newly planned district in Copenhagen’s suburbs – is set for transformation. A masterplan by Danish architects Arkitema envisages transforming the 68.5-hectare zone into an eco-friendly development with plenty of space for children and senior citizens.

The architects’ draft includes numerous canals, brick footpaths, and meandering cycle lanes that traverse the area – interspersed with plenty of green. Gable roof homes form small villages or nestle in landscaped grounds. In this scene of nouveau-bucolic bliss, notebook users, pram pushers, and extended families can mix and mingle in idyllic surroundings.

Floating fields

The Netherlands have long been an expert at reclaiming land from the sea with huge dikes and greenhouses. Thomas Chung, associate professor of architecture at the Chinese University of Hong Kong, prefers a system of floating platforms: The Cambridge graduate’s vision encompasses “floating fields“ – tiny green factories that produce herbs and lettuces, clean the water, and return a chunk of nature to the city.

And while Chung’s project is designed to tackle climate change and rising sea levels, it also constitutes a symbolic reconciliation of land and water.

Floating platforms in Hong Kong
Thomas Chung’s project is a step against climate change.
Photo: Thomas Chung / Floating Fields Team
Floating Fields: project for the World Architecture Festival
His floating modules offer space for growing produce.
Photo: Thomas Chung / Floating Fields Team
Floating Fields by Thomas Chung
The idea promises to return nature to the city.
Photo: Thomas Chung / Floating Fields Team

Green memorial

A wooden footpath takes us to Wangari Muta Maathai House, past birch trees and carefully landscaped shrubs. The monument is deliberately designed to serve as a lively site of remembrance, honoring revered Kenyan veterinarian and first African recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize, Wangari Maathai.

She first came to recognition in 1977 with her “Green Belt Movement“ reforestation project. The proposed house picks up on Maathai’s ideas: Its wooden walkway traces a semicircle through the green, while the building itself doubles as a large, planted ring that naturally blends into its surroundings.

The people behind the realization are South African architects Boogertman – seasoned experts of sustainable architecture.

Green project for the World Architecture Festival
The Wangari Muta Maathai House by Boogertman.
Photo: Boogertman and Partners architects
Wangari Muta Maathai House
Photo: Boogertman and Partners architects
Wangari Muta Maathai House by Boogertman
Photo: Boogertman and Partners architects
Project by Boogertman
Photo: Boogertman and Partners architects

The shape of sound

Let’s take a look at Malmö, where one of the projects has already been realized: a high-rise ensemble that looks like someone has stuck a barcode to its façade. A closer look – and the dark, vertical strips morph into differently sized windows. The red, yellow, and grey buildings of Malmö Live house two concert halls and serve as the new face of the eponymous initiative for new music in the southern Swedish city.

When planning the project, the experts at Schmidt Hammer Lassen architects wanted to ensure that it contributes to public life in the city.

Urban complex in Malmö
Malmö Live – a building complex by Schmidt Hammer Lassen architects.
Photo: Schmidt Hammer Lassen architects
Project by Schmidt Hammer Lassen architects
Photo: Schmidt Hammer Lassen architects
Malmö live Building
Photo: Schmidt Hammer Lassen architects
Concert hall in Malmö
Foto: schmidt/hammer/lassen architects
World Architecture Festival: Malmö Live
Photo: Schmidt Hammer Lassen architects
Malmö Live building complex
Photo: Schmidt Hammer Lassen architects

Think pink in the fast lane

At first glance, the 600-meter “LightPathAKL“ by Monk Mackenzie architects looks distinctly futuristic. The pink bike corridor found in Auckland, New Zealand, bridges the busy inner-city highway and creates the perfect shortcut and connection for cyclists and pedestrians traveling between two neighborhoods.

At night, 300 LED spotlights in the same magenta hue illuminate the lane. Equally radiant are the city’s urban planners who counted the 100,000th cyclist back in March 2016.

LightPathAKL by Monk Mackenzie Architects in Auckland
“LightPathAKL“ by Monk Mackenzie architects.
Photo: Monk Mackenzie architects + LandLA
pink light path in Auckland
The pink path safely guides cyclists and pedestrians through the city of Auckland, NZ.
Photo: Monk Mackenzie architects + LandLA
World Architecture Festival Projekt: LightPathAKL
LEDs illuminate the way at night.
Photo: Monk Mackenzie architects + LandLA

Bright beach

People love palm trees – especially in northern climes. And since you can’t really have too many of them, Stephen Pimbley and his team at Spark decided to install an entire row of artificial palm trees to illuminate Singapore beach designed to look like huge, pedestrian-accessible lanterns.

The actual lampshades are fashioned from recycled oceanic waste. Fun fact: With this project, Spark also pays homage to the tradition of Victorian beach huts in South Africa and the U.K.

World Architecture Festival is an event for architects and interior designers, taking place in Berlin from November 15 – 17. It is the only global festival that combines awards, conferences and networking providing architectural knowledge and inspiration in an innovative way.