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World Architecture Festival 2014: The Coolest, Wildest New Buildings

10/19/2014 11:33 EDT | Updated 10/19/2014 12:59 EDT

The World Architecture Festival took place in Singapore earlier this month, handing out nearly three dozen awards for the most innovative, unique buildings and structures being built or planned around the world today.

This year’s winners, whittled down from a short list of 400 projects, included an underground museum in Denmark built out of a former dry dock, and an energy-conscious Vietnamese university building that has modular gardens throughout.

It also included a new museum building planned for Victoria, B.C., which won one of the top awards -- but will never the see the light of day.

Here are some of the coolest, most unique buildings to have won awards at the World Architecture Festival, 2014. For a full list of winners, see the WAF website.

  • Best overall future project
    number TEN architectural group
    A Canadian entry won one of the top prizes at this year's World Architecture Festival. This proposed new building for the Art Gallery of Greater Victoria "re-imagines the gallery as a village of small pavilions engulfed by the inspired landscape cascading through the site," according to the designers, number TEN architectural group. But the project will never see the light of day, because the team behind it actually lost the $14-million bid to build the gallery's new building.
  • Best future commercial mixed-use project
    Farshad Mehdizadeh Architects
    The Isfahan Dreamland Commercial Center, located in Isfahan, Iran, is built on a foundation of 6-metre-by-6-metre modules, brought together to form a shopping and business complex. It was "initially assumed to be an incorrect approach to design," the designers say, because of its look, resembling more a condo or museum complex. But the "incorrect" design turned out to be a winner at the architecture festival, where it took first place in the mixed-use project category.
  • Best future house
    Ian Moore Architects
    The Olive Grove House, located about two hours north of Sydney, Australia, is self-sustaining, featuring "a water storage tank, solar hot water tank, wastewater treatment system and a hot water heat recovery system," according to the designers. The house, located on a hillside, is accessible from a path from below. It's a prefab, "allowing easy transport and erection on the remote site."
  • Best future leisure-led project
    EAA-Emre Arolat Architects
    Antakaya, Turkey, is the site of recent archaeological discoveries, and the new Antakaya Museum Hotel is meant to bring tourists and learning together. The designers say the archaeological findings and the location's natural surroundings were the inspiration for the design. The building was arranged so that guests would have views of the actual excavation site.
  • Best religious project
    AGi architects
    The Ascensión del Señor church in Sevilla, Spain, opened last year. Though the modernist, industrial look is striking, the designers say it's actually the empty spaces that hold it together. There are three courtyards that link the various parts of the church.
  • Best higher education building
    ADEPT
    The new media library at Dalarna University in Falun, Sweden, has a "double facade" — a wooden exterior surrounded by a metal exosekeleton. We're not sure what the point is but it sure is a trip to look at.
  • Best culture building
    Bjarke Ingels Group
    This is the new Danish Maritime Museum, and yes, it's underground. You may have noticed the space opening to surface level is shaped like a boat. That's because it was once a dry dock for repairing ships. The designers of the new museum weren't allowed to build anything overground, because it would obstruct views of Kronborg Castle, and this use of an underground space was the clever solution.
  • Best sports building
    Singapore Sports Hub Design Team
    The Singapore Sports Hub opened in June, 2014, billed as "Asia’s first integrated sports, leisure, entertainment and lifestyle destination." The stadium is the centrepiece of a 35-hectare waterfront site that includes two smaller arenas and an aquatic centre. The smaller buildings create a "human scale frontage" for the stadium, meaning it doesn't feel like a huge imposing building, thanks to its surroundings.
  • Best transport infrastructure project
    McDowell+Benedetti
    The Scale Lane bridge in Hull, England, is a swing bridge — a sort of drawbridge that swings to the side. It opened in 2013 and "offers people the unique and memorable experience of riding on the bridge while it opens," the designers say.
  • Best future education project
    Vo Trong Nghia Architects
    Vietnam seems to have more than its share of wild architecture lately. This building planned for FPT Technical University in Ha Noi is part of the university's goal to become environmentally sustainable. Besides the gardens, the building uses "passive design," which means it's designed to minimize energy costs by maximizing the use of natural light, water and wind.
  • Best future cultural project
    Gustavo Penna Arquiteto & Associados
    Brazilian architect Gustavo Penna's proposed monument to press freedom for the capital city, Brasilia, is meant to represent the city's culture and act as a symbol for all journalists. There is an underground portion that houses facilities for meetings and exhibitions.
  • Best leisure/hotel building
    Vo Trong Nghia Architects
    Located in a remote, hard-to-reach part of northern Vietnam, the Son La Restaurant is composed of eight separate stone buidings, linked together to a bamboo dining hall. Views of the moat surrounding the building are available from all parts of the restaurant.
  • Best future residential project
    Sanjay Puri Architects
    This two-acre apartment complex in India is designed adapt to the sloping lanscape. Each apartment has terraces, gardens and hillside views, and "each apartment feels like an individual house nestled in the hilly land," the designers say.
  • Best future office project
    Sanjay Puri Architects
    Planned for Ahmedabad, India, this office tower is clearly inspired by industrial design. It certainly looks like anything other than a building. One major innovation is the offices have terraces which can be used for urban gardens. The recessed placement of the windows is designed to lower air-conditiong bills in this city where temperatures typically hit 35C.

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