The biggest architecture and design stories of 2021

The biggest architecture and design stories of 2021

To conclude our review of 2021, editor Tom Ravenscroft takes a look back at this year’s most-read stories, including Richard Rogers’ final building, a transparent mid-air pool, Dubai Expo pavilions and a Virgil Abloh-designed car.


Biggest architecture stories of 2021
Image is by Brick Visual, courtesy of Zaha Hadid Architects

January – Supertall skyscrapers linked by planted terraces to be built in Shenzhen by Zaha Hadid Architects

The year began with news that Zaha Hadid Architects was designing a pair of interconnected skyscrapers in China called the Shenzhen Bay Super Headquarters.

The buildings were part of a trend for the world’s best-known architects to design supertall skyscrapers. Alongside Zaha Hadid Architects, BIG, Foster + Partners and Dorte Mandrup are among the leading architects designing these tall buildings.

Read more about Shenzhen Bay Super Headquarters ›


Richard Rogers Drawing Gallery
Photo is by Stéphane Aboudaram/We Are Content(s)

February – Richard Rogers balances his final building over Provence vineyard

In February, Prizker Architecture Prize-winning architect Richard Rogers revealed photography of his final building designed before his retirement from Rogers Stirk Harbour + Partners.

Named The Richard Rogers Drawing Gallery, the building cantilevers 27 metres out from a hill at a vineyard in southern France. The year ended with news that Rogers, who was a pioneer of high-tech architecture, had passed away aged 88.

Read more about The Richard Rogers Drawing Gallery ›


Allen key lamp by Gelchop for Ikea Art Event 2021

March – IKEA unveils Allen key lamp in homage to “the most iconic IKEA item of all”

IKEA made headlines in March when it unveiled a lamp shaped like an oversized Allen key.

Created as a nod towards the company’s flat-pack furniture, it was designed by Gelchop so that “arguably the most iconic IKEA item of all” could have its time in the spotlight.

Read more about IKEA’s Allen key lamp ›


A living room with a screw pine tree
Photo is by Tommaso Riva

April – Ten domestic interiors featuring statement plants that help bring nature indoors

The most popular story on Dezeen in April was our roundup of domestic interiors that contain carefully chosen plants.

The piece was part of our Dezeen Lookbooks series providing visual inspiration for the home.

Read more about interiors with plants ›


Photo is by Adrian Gaut for WSJ Magazine

May – Photos reveal Thomas Heatherwick’s Little Island in New York ahead of opening

In May, the long-awaited Little Island designed by Thomas Heatherwick opened on the Hudson River in New York.

Originally called Pier 55, the elevated park supported on 132 mushroom-shaped concrete columns was completed following a lengthy delay to construction amid a campaign opposing the project by advocacy group The City Club of New York.

Read more about Little Island ›


Sky Pool
Photo is by Simon Kennedy

June – Fully transparent Sky Pool provides “a swim like no other” between two housing blocks in London

A video showing a transparent swimming pool that spans between two buildings at the Embassy Gardens development in Battersea, London, was the most popular story on Dezeen in June.

Designed by architecture studio HAL, the 25-metre-long Sky Pool is suspended 35 metres above the ground. According to HAL, the pool was designed to have “a sense of fun” and give people “a swim like no other”.

Read more about Sky Pool ›


Aerial view of forest

July – Planting trees “doesn’t make any sense” in the fight against climate change due to permanence concerns, say experts

During June and July, we ran our carbon revolution series, which aimed to explore how the element could be removed from the atmosphere and put to use on earth.

In interviews conducted as part of the series, key figures told Dezeen that afforestation is an unreliable way of permanently sequestering atmospheric carbon. The story was the most read in the month of July.

Read more about the carbon revolution series ›


A visual of a circular power plant by AL_A
Image courtesy of AL_A

August – Amanda Levete designs world’s first magnetised fusion power station for the UK

A prototype power plant with a nuclear fusion reactor, which is set to be built in England, drew global attention in August.

Designed by architect Amanda Levete’s firm AL_A, the Fusion Demonstration Plant will be built to prove the viability of nuclear fusion technology as a carbon-free energy source.

It is one of a growing number of power plants that combine architecture and innovative energy solutions.

Read more about the Fusion Demonstration Plant ›


Telosa city
Image courtesy of BIG

September – Bjarke Ingels designing “new city in America” for five million people

News that Danish architect Bjarke Ingels is master planning a city for five million people in the US desert was the most popular story in September.

Named Telosa, the city is the brainchild of entrepreneur Marc Lore and is set to be built “from scratch” on a yet-to-be-announced, 150,000-acre site in the western United States.

Read more about Telosa ›


Dubai Expo pavilions
Photo courtesy of Santiago Calatrava

October – Ten must-see pavilions at Dubai Expo 2020

In October, the coronavirus-delayed Dubai Expo officially opened in the United Arab Emirates.

Our roundup of the 10 most interesting pavilions, which were designed by architects including Foster + Partners, WOHA and Santiago Calatrava, was the month’s most-read story.

Read more about Dubai Expo pavilions ›


Munger Hall
Image courtesy of UCSB

November – Architect resigns over mostly windowless Munger Hall dormitory at University of California

Architect Dennis McFadden made headlines in November when he resigned from a University of California committee to protest the design of the Munger Hall university dormitory.

Set to be built on the university’s Santa Barbara campus, the block would reportedly house over 90 per cent of its 4,500 students in windowless rooms.

Read more about Munger Hall ›


Non-fossil fuel car
Image courtesy of Mercedes-Benz

December – Virgil Abloh and Mercedes-Benz create solar-powered car with transparent front hood

The end of 2021 was marked by the deaths of a trio of architecture and design greats with fashion designer Virgil Abloh, and architects Chris Wilkinson and Richard Rogers passing away.

A Mercedes-Benz with a transparent front hood containing solar cells, designed by Abloh and revealed shortly after his death, was the month’s most-read story.

Read more about Virgil Abloh’s Mercedes-Benz ›

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