Earlier this year, we put out a call to the design and business communities: What are the best design-driven innovations of the past year? More than 1,100 companies and organizations responded, offering 1,700 nominees in nine categories. An all-star group of 27 judges—from MoMA curator Paola Antonelli to Nicholas Felton of Facebook—worked with us to identify 56 finalists. Presented on the following pages, these standouts represent the creative explosion under way in our economy. (All of the finalists were introduced or came to market in the year ending June 1, 2012.) The winners will be unveiled on October 16 in New York. As you’ll see as you read ahead, they are all worth cheering.
Here, the finalists for the "Spaces" category.
High Line Phase II
James Corner Field Operations, Diller Scofidio + Renfro, and Piet Oudolf
Phase I of New York’s High Line, built on old elevated train tracks, inspired many cities to imagine new parks in surprising places. Phase II outshines the first in elegance and amenities, from playgrounds to thoughtful social spaces
Solid Objectives-Idenburg Liu (SO-IL)
Since this gallery sits in a historical Seoul, South Korea, neighborhood, SO-IL sought to soften its footprint. The unlikely, unexpectedly beautiful result: a chain-mail facade with more than 500,000 hand-beaten links, making the building look like a metallic ghost. “This is an extraordinarily creative solution using simple means,” Adjaye says.
Prineville Data Center
Sheehan Partners for Facebook
This building is one massive airflow machine: By capturing outside air and cooling it with pressurized mist, no air-conditioning is required for the servers within. Hypergreen, it’s 24% cheaper to maintain than the typical energy-gobbling data center. Also, it looks good. "The idea that infrastructure can be beautiful is a powerful statement," says Barton.
After Ball-Nogues completed a massive art installation, it recycled the wooden mold into a 30-foot-tall temporary swimming pool in the California desert. Visitors accessed it using rock-climbing holds—Burning Man meets pool party. "Architects have to have passion,” says Hariri, "and this project has it."
Cite De L’Ocean Et Du Surf
Steven Holl Architects for the City of Biarritz
This museum in the French surfing capital feels like a piece of the landscape. The concave exterior is a hive of social spaces, including a porch, an ocean lookout, and a bowl for landlubbing skaters.
David is founder and Principal Architect of Adjaye Associates. The firm has received worldwide attention, with work ranging in scale from private houses, cafes and bars, exhibitions and temporary pavilions to major arts centers, civic buildings and master plans in Europe, North America, the Middle East, Asia and Africa. The practice is currently designing the Smithsonian Institution’s ambitious National Museum of African American Culture and History on a prominent site on the National Mall in Washington D.C.
Jake is principle of Local Projects, the world’s leading media design firm for museums and public spaces. Local Projects is the media designer for the 9/11 Memorial and Museum, StoryCorps, and the Frank Gehry Designed Eisenhower Memorial and the recipients of three National Design Awards. Between StoryCorps and the 9/11 Memorial and Museum, they have gathered over 100,000 individuals’ stories and memories, sharing them with the world, and touching millions of lives.
Gisue Hariri is co-founder of Hariri & Hariri Architecture, an internationally acclaimed architecture firm. For over two decades, she and her sister Mojgan have created designs of the highest level in projects ranging from master plans, to multi-family housing developments, commercial and institutional projects, and private residences of national and international significance.
A version of this article appears in the October 2012 issue of Fast Company.