13 Buildings Nominated For the Year's Best Design

By Kelsey Campbell-Dollaghan on at

A cemetery in Sweden. A floating school in Nigeria. A cast-iron facade in the UK. The wildly divergent list of nominees for the Design Museum's annual awards make you wonder: How the hell do you pick a single building to represent such a broad profession?

A little background: Every year, the Design Museum picks a group of nominees for its Best Design of the Year award—they hail from genres like product design and UX design, as well as architecture. In April, they'll announce a single winner—last year, it was a government website—but it'd be nice to see a building win this year.

You could be cynical about why so many awards exist—after all, this is mainly a way to drum up publicity for the museum. But on the other hand, it also gives us a chance to ogle a bunch of really interesting pieces of design that might not normally come across the radar. Check out the shortlist below.


 

Paul Smith Store Facade designed by 6a Architects

Cast iron ornamentation isn't something you often see on buildings from this century—but this amazing decorative facade revives a lost art, creating "a sharp contrast to the neighboring Georgian townhouses," reports the jury. "A sinuous pattern of interlocking circles puts an abstract spin on a classic Regency shape, while curved windows nod to the glass in nearby arcades."

12 Buildings Nominated For the Year's Best Design

12 Buildings Nominated For the Year's Best Design


 

Makoko Floating School, Nigeria by NLÉ and the Makoko Community Building Team

Floating structures have been built in prototype form all over the world, as flood levels rise in low-lying countries. In Makoko, a water community in Nigeria, inexpensive materials and local know-how created this model for a building that, in theory, could be repeated in coastal areas across the globe.

12 Buildings Nominated For the Year's Best Design

12 Buildings Nominated For the Year's Best Design

12 Buildings Nominated For the Year's Best Design


 

The New Crematorium at the Woodland Cemetery in Stockholm by Johan Celsing

"Built on an undulating terrain in a wild wood section of the Woodland Cemetery, the New Crematorium features exposed white concrete and white glazed bricks in a building which is at once robust and sensitive," say the jury of this understated, dignified crematorium outside of Stockholm.

12 Buildings Nominated For the Year's Best Design

12 Buildings Nominated For the Year's Best Design


 

Wa Shan Guesthouse in Hangzhou, China by Wang Shu

Wang Shu, the winner of last year's Pritzker Prize, built this guesthouse at the China Academy of Art. Amazing plays on materiality and craft—check out the woodwork under the eves—make it a fascinating but understated building.

12 Buildings Nominated For the Year's Best Design

12 Buildings Nominated For the Year's Best Design


 

St. Moritz Church in Augsburg, Germany, by John Pawson

An old Baroque church in Augsburg might seem like an unlikely addition to the shortlist—but architect John Pawson's overhaul of its interior is beautiful and sparse, "drawing the eye to the apse 'the threshold to transcendence' which is designed as a room of light."

12 Buildings Nominated For the Year's Best Design

12 Buildings Nominated For the Year's Best Design


 

Mont de Marsan Mediatheque designed by archi5

"Standing in an austere military quadrangle drill yard, the Media Library is an uplifting cultural symbol," say the curators of Arch5's contribution to the list. "Designed as a covered cultural square, its transparent planes generously open to the view of the public."

12 Buildings Nominated For the Year's Best Design

12 Buildings Nominated For the Year's Best Design


 

Heydar Aliyev Center in Baku, Azerbaijan designed by Zaha Hadid and Patrik Schumacher

Zaha Hadid's elaborate Heydar Aliyev Center—a controversial building in a Baku, a city with its fair share of white elephant architecture—made the list nonetheless. "Elaborate undulations, bifurcations, folds and inflections modify this plaza surface into an architectural landscape that performs a multitude of functions," say jury members.

12 Buildings Nominated For the Year's Best Design

12 Buildings Nominated For the Year's Best Design

12 Buildings Nominated For the Year's Best Design


 

Frac Nord-Pas De Calais in Dunkerque, designed by Anne Lacaton & Jean Philippe Vassal

An old dry dock was the site of this amazing gut renovation: Lacaton & Vassal turned the aging warehouses into a contemporary art center filled with galleries and event spaces. The transparent roofline—which hosts one such space—looks incredible:

12 Buildings Nominated For the Year's Best Design

12 Buildings Nominated For the Year's Best Design

12 Buildings Nominated For the Year's Best Design

12 Buildings Nominated For the Year's Best Design

12 Buildings Nominated For the Year's Best Design


 

Frac Centre in Orleans, France, designed by Jakob + MacFarlane

Somehow, another Frac venue also clinched a nomination—this one in Orleans. Its faceted facade looks like it was pulled straight out of Maya (which some will see as a negative), and each panel is embedded with tiny LEDs that shift to broadcast data:

12 Buildings Nominated For the Year's Best Design

12 Buildings Nominated For the Year's Best Design


 

Museo Jumex in Mexico City by David Chipperfield

Sited directly adjacent to one of the most flamboyant buildings in recent memory—Fernando Romero's Museo Soumaya, built for Carlos Slim—David Chipperfield's Museo Jumex is an austere counterpoint. The industrial sawtooth roofline is a nice touch, too.

12 Buildings Nominated For the Year's Best Design

12 Buildings Nominated For the Year's Best Design

12 Buildings Nominated For the Year's Best Design


 

Newhall Be in Harlow, Essex by Alison Brooks Architects

One of the only housing complexes on the list, an 84-unit prefab complex by Alison Brooks was nominated for its "highly efficient masterplan to maximise living space and flexibility for individual homes," explains the jury. "The scheme challenges the presupposition by housebuilders that we want very traditional looking houses."

12 Buildings Nominated For the Year's Best Design

12 Buildings Nominated For the Year's Best Design


 

Praca das Artes Performing Arts Centre by Brasil Arquitetura

Weaving through a complex space in a run-down area of São Paulo, this complex connects older performance buildings to a brand-new structure—a tall order, given the historical significance of the remaining buildings.

12 Buildings Nominated For the Year's Best Design

12 Buildings Nominated For the Year's Best Design


 

Child Chemo House, Kobe, Japan by Tezuka Architects

Images of Chemo House: Marco Capitano: Flickr

This Japanese project is clean and simple, all designed around making a difficult time in any family's life more bearable; a place where children undergoing chemotherapy treatment can live with their families: "Child Chemo House aims to facilitate an ordinary lifestyle in a beautiful, calm space".