Architecture tourism: The world’s inspiring new architecture

Louvre Abu Dhabi.
Courtesy TDIC, Architect Ateliers Jean Nouvel

Castles, towers, skyscrapers: all rich pickings for the travelling
architecture lover. Why not add a hill of garbage, a modern mosque or
the site of the world’s oldest drawings to your travels in 2017?

There’s some crazy, dreamy, ambitious and unexpected architecture
projects opening next year, from Denmark to Doha. Take a look at my round-up of a handful of the best, published in the Sydney Morning Herald/ The Age newspapers.

The 16 must-see new architecture projects for 2016

An artist’s impression of WTC transportation hub, US

In what’s becoming an annual story for the Sydney Morning Herald, here’s my round-up of next year’s great architectural openings. Thanks, as ever, to Sydney architect and founder of Sydney Architecture Walks, Eoghan Lewis. 

Who doesn’t love an architectural icon? While rising prices and
global uncertainty have slowed many building projects around the world –
the ambitious Grand Egyptian Museum is once again on ice – eyes are
open for key cultural offerings in Hamburg, New York and London.

Sure,
the skyscraper industry isn’t going out of business any time soon –
just take a look at the new Trump Towers going up in Vancouver, while
skinny is inny as New York discusses the rash of slim skyscrapers
overshadowing Central Park and the first super-tall skyscraper has been
approved for Warsaw. However, take your head out of the clouds to see
what’s trending in the world of architecture.

“Analogue seems to
be coming back … less slick, less same-same,” says Sydney architect and
architecture walking guide Eoghan Lewis. “Authenticity is trending, and
there is a new focus on refinement and simplicity.” (see www.sydneyarchitecture.org)

Click here to see what we’ve named the top 16 architectural openings in 2016. 

(This feature by Belinda Jackson was first published in the Sydney Morning Herald/The Age newpapers.) 

Top cities for new architecture in 2015

Philharmonie de Paris

Go just about anywhere around the world and you are
sure to find great examples of modern architecture.


The new
Louvre, Frank Gehry’s first Australian building, 140 pavilions at the Milan
Expo – it’s a big year across the globe for lovers of the big build. 

MIDDLE EAST
This year,
Abu Dhabi steals Dubai’s thunder with the opening of the Louvre Abu Dhabi,
finally, on UAE National Day, December 2. The emirate’s new cultural quarter is
on Saadiyat Island, and eventually plans to have five winners of architecture’s
holy grail, the Pritzker Prize, in the one ‘hood. 

Designed by Jean
Nouvel, who made first his mark in Paris with the Institut du Monde Arabe,
 its neighbours will include the Norman Foster-designed Zayed National
Museum (2016), Frank Gehry’s Guggenheim Abu Dhabi (2017), the Performing Arts
Centre by Zaha Hadid and Tadao Ando’s Maritime Museum. The Louvre is the first
of the big guns to open. Covered by an interlaced white, 180-metre dome
modelled on a traditional palm-leaf roof, Nouvel says its shifting “rain
of light” reflects the Arabic mashrabiya, or ornate window shutters used
in the Middle East. As a local aside, Nouvel’s Sydney skyscraper, One Central
Park in Chippendale, recently won the award for the  world’s best tall
building. (louvreabudhabi.ae)


Normally an
architecture fan’s go-to for wildly tall buildings, Dubai is resting on its
laurels following the opening of the world’s highest observation deck, SKY, in
Burj Khalifa in October, hovering 555 metres above ground. It’s now busy
working on a swag of new hotels including a lavish Palazzo Versace Dubai. If
that’s all too staid, check out the quirky Dubai Frame. Like it says on the
tin, it’s a picture frame, albeit 150 high and 93 metres wide, designed by
Mexican architect Fernando Donis, who beat off more than 1000 others in an
international competition. Set in Za’abeel Park, if the political argy-bargy
over its construction abates, by mid-2015, you’ll be able to take a lift to the
top to walk along a glass-floor bridge, with modern Dubai on one side, and the
older city on the other side (dubaitourism.ae)

EUROPE
The Jenga building, NYC

Speaking of
Nouvel, despite bloated budgets and blown-out timelines, the Philharmonie de
Paris, designed by the man-of-the-moment, will eventually open on January 14
with a performance by the Orchestre de Paris. You’ll have to trek out to les
banlieue (the ‘burbs) to Paris’ north-eastern edge and Parc de la Villette, to
view the metal-clad building, a deliberate ploy to spread the cultural love
right across the city. With the sound engineering by Australia’s Marshall Day
Acoustics, the main hall seats an audience of 2400 in suspended balconies
curled around the stage.(philharmoniedeparis.fr)


Architecture
fans, you have the opportunity to kill 140-odd birds with the one stone when
you visit the Milan Expo, which runs from May 1 to October 31, 2015. The theme
is “Feeding the planet, energy for life”, brought to life by a
pavilion from each participating country. More than 20 million visitors are
expected to visit:  your architect-spotting list should include Vietnam’s
pavilion by Vo Trong Nghia, Foster + Partners’ sinuous reinterpretation of its
sustainable Masdar City in Abu Dhabi, and  the pulsating beehive by
Wolfgang Buttress for the UK. (expo2015.org)

If you
thought you had to travel to see great architecture …
it may come as a
surprise that modern architects are turning their eyes
towards Australia – Belinda Jackson
In Biel,
Switzerland, “emergency architect” and cardboard wizard Shigeru Ban
has created a gentle, curved, lattice tunnel from timber to create the headquarters
for the Swatch/Omega group. “Timber is the only renewable material for
construction in the world,” says Ban, “so this is also very important
for the environment of the future.” The architect, who is best known in
the southern hemisphere for his Cardboard Cathedral in Christchurch, New
Zealand, also wove timber into the new Aspen Art Museum, Colorado. (aspenartmuseum.org

USA
Unless
you’re rubbing shoulders regularly with the ultra-rich, you won’t get to see
inside 56 Leonard, a skyscraper nicknamed “the Jenga Tower” for its
staggered, jutting layers. Comprised of 145 penthouses and glass lofts in New
York’s chi-chi TriBeCa, the prices are as stratospheric as its views – up to
$30 million for a penthouse, and its half-million dollar price tag for a parking
space makes Sydney look a bargain. The building is all but sold out – buyers
were obviously lured by the statement-making sculpture at the entrance by Anish
Kapoor as well as the kudos of living in a building designed by the Swiss
masters, Herzog & de Meuron who list the world’s most popular museum,
London’s Tate Modern, on their CVs. (56leonardtribeca.com)

Eminently
more approachable – on completion, you will be able to loll on its lawn – W57
is Danish wunderkind Bjarke Ingels’ first New York project. His firm, BIG, just
took out the Culture award in the 2014 World Architecture Festival for its
Danish Maritime Museum. In New York, BIG has created a 750-apartment
residential complex contained in a 142-metre pyramid that’s been squished and
torn asunder, angled to catch the light and breeze on the Hudson River
waterfront, to open this spring.

Calatrava’s World Trade Centre transportation hub, NYC

And to get
totally immersed in NYC architecture, all you’ll have to do is catch a train at
the World Trade Centre transportation hub, when it is finally completed after a
six-year delay and doubling of the budget. Designed by Santiago Calatrava, who
wears the phrase “neo-futuristic architect” with apparent ease, the
hub will connect 11 subway lines, as well as rail, ferries and underground
walkways as deep as five storeys below ground, with the WTC memorial site.
Roughly the same size as Grand Central Station, the Instagram angle will be its
white, ethereal skeleton, with 45-metre long, retractable wings that will open
on September 11 every year. “The building is built with steel, glass, and
light. The station appears transparent, and also guards you with its
wings,” says the architect, who was inspired by the gesture of child
releasing a dove into the air. (wtc.com)


While you’re
in New York, you might like to take a look at busy Renzo Piano’s new Whitney
Museum of American Art, opening in the Meatpacker District this spring. His
Greek National Opera House also opens in Athens in 2015 (whitney.org).
Otherwise, a talking point in Chicago is Beijing-based MAD Architects’
halo-topped Lucas Museum of Narrative Art, which they say was inspired by Frank
Lloyd Wright and Mies van der Rohe. (lucasmuseum.org)

UNITED KINGDOM
Last year,
the London architecture scene was all about Renzo Piano’s The Shard, the
308-metre home of the Shangri-La and western Europe’s highest building. In
nearby Lambeth, London’s riverside precincts are still a-changing with the
long-awaited opening of shock artist Damien Hirst’s private gallery in Newport
Street, Lambeth. Architects Caruso St John, responsible for the elegant
renovation of the Tate Britain on the opposite side of the river, are binding a
row of neighbouring warehouses to create one long terrace to house Hirst’s vast
personal collection of works that include Francis Bacon, Jeff Koons and Banksy
(damienhirst.com).
Nearby, eyes are on the Tate Modern’s new extension, once again by Herzog &
de Meuron, due to open 2016. 

Always one
to watch, Living Architecture commissions architects to design houses in
Britain that are then rented out to holidaymakers with a keen appreciation for
contemporary architecture. There are two openings this year,  A House for
Essex by statement-makers FAT and Grayson Perry and Life House/ Ty Bywyd by
John Pawson.  Expect the unexpected in North Essex:  a quirky little
architectural folly covered in ceramic tiles, its gold roofs set with huge
sculptures – a chapel in the wilderness? In contrast, Life House, in central
Wales, tries to hide within the hills, one room even semi-submerged. Its three
minimalist rooms are designed exclusively for music, reading or bathing, Made from
handmade Danish bricks, its black exterior taps into this recurring
architectural trend. (living-architecture.com)

Sydney’s Goods Line

AUSTRALIA

If you
thought you had to travel to see great architecture (Roman Coliseum, Greek
Acropolis etc) it may come as a surprise that modern architects are turning
their eyes towards Australia. One of the most talked-about buildings is right
under our noses. In case you’ve been caught napping, the new UTS Dr Chau Chak
Wing Building is by international architecture heavyweight Frank Gehry, best known
for the Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao, Spain. Located on Ultimo Road, Haymarket,
this is the first Gehry building for Australia and will be the home of the UTS
Business School when it officially opens in February. The crumpled paper bag
look was achieved with 320,000 custom-designed, hand-laid bricks, bringing
artistry to the industry. (uts.edu.au)

Zooming
straight past the Gehry building, taking its cues from New York’s High Line,
the Goods Line is a shared pathway that links Railway Square to Darling
Harbour, via Ultimo, by Aspect Studios and CHROFI. The 250-metre Goods Line
North, which runs parallel to Harris Street from the Ultimo rail underbridge to
the Powerhouse Museum, also opens in February as the much-neglected south of
the city starts to feel some love. The “cultural ribbon” aims to link
up the city’s jewels, including Hyde Park Barracks, the Australian Museum and
the Art Gallery of NSW. (sydney2030.com.au)
If that
wasn’t enough, here’s a gentle reminder to keep the annual Serpentine pavilion,
in London’s Royal Park, on your list: each year, an architect who has not yet
built in the UK is invited to create a temporary pavilion. The list of previous
architects is a Who’s Who of the design world. And for those of you who don’t
mind getting your hands dirty, the IKEA museum opens on the site of its first
store, in Älmhult, Sweden (ikea.com), as does Legoland Hotel Florida. (florida.legoland.com

A final note
of warning: take this list with a grain of salt. Economies slow, building sites
flood, wars intervene and Barcelona’s La Sagrada Familia still isn’t finished
(they’re tipping 2026, just a few years behind Our Bangaroo, in 2022).

FIVE GREAT ARCHITECTURAL GUIDES
SYDNEY: Take to the streets on foot or by bike with architect Eoghan Lewis, sydneyarchitecture.org.
NEW YORK: Bettina Johae leads tours Throughout New York, including Greenwich
Village and Chelsea & Meatpacking District, aplusnyc.net.
EUROPE: Guiding Architects is a loose connection of architects based
predominantly in Europe, with links to Dubai, Doha and Shanghai, guiding-architects.net
BARCELONA: Explore Gaudi and beyond with architect Miguel Angel, barcelonarchitecturewalks.com.
DUBAI: Discover skyscrapers galore, as well as the low-to-the-ground,
traditional developments of this brash town, ga-dubai.com.

This article by Belinda Jackson was published in the Sydney Morning Herald & The Age newspapers.

Traveller deals: Seychelles bargain

All things Mexican are so hot right now, so why not join the locals and celebrate their dead? Otherwise, live (extremely) well in the Seychelles, escape winter in Dubai or our own Daydream Island, or embrace winter in Melbourne. Hope you find something your heart desires in this weeks’ international and domestic travel deals.

GO NOW
SEYCHELLES
Help Banyan Tree celebrate 20 years with its celebratory
three-night packages that serve up welcome cocktails, a 120-minute spa
treatment for two and 20 per cent off food and drinks until December 15.
Hillside pool villas at Banyan Tree Seychelles from $1490 a night. See banyantree.com
QUEENSLAND
Find your niche in the Whitsundays with a three-night winter
escape to Daydream Island Resort and Spa, with breakfast and a $20 spa
voucher for travel. Book by July 31 for travel until September 19. From
$339 a person, three nights. 138 833, sunloverholidays.com.au.

GO SOON
VICTORIA
Catch emerging artists at Melbourne’s The Windsor and save up
to $300 in a Victorian suite. The “Marvel at The Windsor” package
includes wine and cheese and a private tour of the exhibition, August 30
to September 14. From $399, deluxe room, save $100. Victorian suite
from $559. (03) 9633 6002, thw.com.au.
SWITZERLAND
Stay four nights and pay for three when you stay at The
Lodge, Sir Richard Branson’s mountain retreat in Verbier, until
September 29. Includes all meals and drinks. From $1075 a room, a night.
See thelodge.virgin.com/offers.

GO LATER
NSW
Celebrate winter in the outdoor hot tub of The Villa at The
Drawing Rooms of Berry. Stay two nights by September 18 and get a bottle
of sparkling wine, Belgian chocolates handmade in Berry, breakfast and
late checkout. From $700 for two nights. Quote “Get Going”. (02) 4464 3360, drawingrooms.com.au.
DUBAI
Save up to 28 per cent on a stay at the five-star Rixos The
Palm Dubai, on Palm Jumeirah island, until September 30. Breakfast and
Wi-Fi are included and you can deposit just $5 and pay the balance 28
days before departure. From $315 a room, a night. 1800 359 769, lowcostholidays.com.au.

Tourwatch

Day of the dead
From the macabre to the marvellous, join Mexico on the Day
of the Dead, when it celebrates the lives of those who have passed on.
The five-day tour includes a Day of the Dead ceremony, a Halloween
costume party, a visit to death-obsessed artist Frida Kahlo’s museum
and a trip to La Isla de las Munecas, an island full of disfigured
dolls said to be possessed by a drowned girl’s spirit. Departs October
30, 2014. Costs $760 a person. 1300 797 010, intrepidtravel.com.

DEAL
TOP DIGS FOR KIDS
Chic hotel booking group Mr & Mrs Smith has had a baby:
welcome little Smith & Family, a collection of hotels catering to
junior travellers, each road-tested by parents. Expect kids’ clubs and
menus, cots and toys plus the adult basics of great spas, kitchens and
to-die-for interiors. With 115 hotels currently on the list, book a
seven-night stay by July 15 for travel until December and get a week’s
free babysitting. Check out Tuscan villa Castello Di Casole, complete
with cinema, bikes, a croquet lawn and kids’ pizza-making classes. From
$390 a night. 1300 896 627, smithandfamily.com.

This travel deals column by Belinda Jackson is published in Sydney’s Sun-Herald newspaper every Sunday.

Boasters with the mostest: ultimate travel experiences

The world’s highest bar, Ozone, in the Ritz Carlton Hong Kong

 Biggest, highest, most blindingly expensive. Belinda Jackson
rounds up the ultimate travel experiences, from super-luxe to just plain
boastful. 

LAND
Longest walking track

The Pacific Crest Trail runs 4264 kilometres from the US-Mexico
border to Canada through California, Oregon and Washington. Budget five
months to walk it entirely, or you can jump a pony, as the trail is also
open to equestrians. Yep, there are bears in there (pcta.org).

Longest train journey
The legendary Trans-Siberian generally wins this category,
with the 9289km journey from Moscow to Vladivostok via Lake Baikal
taking seven days. But as train guru the Man in Seat 61 points out (seat61.com),
the honour for the longest continual journey should go to the No. 53
Kharkiv (Ukraine)-Vladivostok route, about 9714km, another seven-day
epic.

The world’s highest train journey, on the Qinghai-Tibet railway

Highest train journey
More than 550km of the 1956km Qinghai-Tibet railway is laid
on permafrost. Every train has a doctor and enough oxygen for every
passenger, and the highest point is Tanggula Pass, at 5072m. It also
passes through the world’s highest and longest rail tunnels.

Highest bar

Drink in the views of Victoria Harbour at Ozone bar in the
Ritz-Carlton Hong Kong, Kowloon side. Set on level 118, it’s 468.8
metres above sea level (ritzcarlton.com).

Biggest building
Dubai’s Burj Khalifa is the world’s tallest building at 828
metres, with 124 levels. It also has the world’s fastest elevators and
highest restaurant (At.mosphere on level 122, 442m) (burjkhalifa.ae).

It holds the crown until 2018, when the 1000-metre Kingdom Tower in
Jeddah, in neighbouring Saudi Arabia, is complete. Another design by
Burj architect Adrian Smith, expect fewer nightclubs (kingdomtowerskyscraper.com).

Noma restaurant, Copenhagen

Best restaurant
Copenhagen’s Noma restaurant (noma.dk)
is back on top, bumping Spain’s El Celler de Can Roca off the perch as
the 2014 winner of the authoritative San Pellegrino 50 Best Restaurants (theworlds50best.com). Judges name the winter potato cooked in fermented barley as chef-owner Rene Redzepi’s standout dish.


Best ethical travel destination
The Bahamas has been named Ethical Traveler’s greenest
destination, taking into account its environmental protection, social
welfare and human rights.
Others in the top 10 include Chile, Latvia and Mauritius (ethicaltraveler.org).


Most expensive tours
With a spare million dollars, you can spot 18 endangered
species in 12 countries, with one-tenth going toward conservation
projects (naturalworldsafaris.com). Otherwise, $1.5 million will let couples visit all 962 UNESCO
World Heritage sites. Put aside two years. Its other tours include the
10 best photo spots, for $130,000 (includes cameras), and the 10 most
luxurious suites in 21 days for $359,000 (veryfirstto.com).


AIR
Biggest airport
The busiest airport by passenger numbers is
Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport, US, handling 92
million travellers a year, but yet again, Dubai gets in on the act: on
completion in 2027, its $32-billion Al-Maktoum International airport
will be able to accommodate 160 million passengers a year (dwc.ae).

Best airport
Singapore’s Changi airport consistently rates one of the
world’s best, taking out first place in Skytrax 2014 World Airport
Awards, followed by Incheon (Seoul) and Munich airports.
Sydney Airport was ranked Australia’s best, at No. 21 (worldairportawards.com).

Best airline
Air New Zealand was named AirlineRatings.com’s 2014 airline
of the year, with Qantas the best economy airline, while Skytrax 2013
World Airline Awards rates Emirates as the world’s best, followed by
Qatar Airways and Singapore Airlines, with Qantas coming in at No. 10. (worldairlineawards.com).

Safest airline
Qantas holds the record as the world’s safest airline, with a
fatality-free record since 1951, says airlineratings.com, rivalled by
Air New Zealand, according to jacdec.de.

Most luxurious airline lounge
For those of us fortunate enough to get a look in, Lufthansa
first class lounges were named the world’s best first-class lounges
while Qatar Airways took the business class gong at Skytrax’ 2013 World
Airline Awards (worldairlineawards.com).

Longest flight
Like to watch movies? Qantas’ ultra long-haul flight from Sydney-Dallas is the longest flight by distance, at 13,804km (qantas.com.au).
Should Turkish Airlines enact its plans for an Istanbul-Sydney route,
it would take the crown for its 17-hour, 14,956km flight (turkishairlines.com).

Ultimate airline travel experience: A three-hour flight on
Virgin Galactic’s SpaceShipTwo will cost $260,000, taking you 100km
above the earth, travelling at three times the speed of sound. Includes three days’ space training (virgingalactic.com). For a more modest $128,300, you can fly around the world in 24 days on Four Seasons’ new Boeing 757 private jets (fourseasons.com/jet).

SEA

Allure of the Seas, a Royal Caribbean International ship

Biggest cruise ship
The godmother of Allure of the Seas, a Royal Caribbean International ship, is super-sized Shrek ogress Princess Fiona. At 362 metres long and more than 225,000 tonnes, it can take
6295 passengers. The liner has 24 elevators, the first Starbucks at sea
and Broadway hit Chicago on show.
Its position will be usurped by another RCI ship, as yet unnamed, in 2016 (royalcaribbean.com).

Largest superyacht
With two helipads and a missile defence system, you can hire
Eclipse, owned by Russian oligarch and Chelsea football club owner Roman
Abramovich, for $2 million a week, excluding running costs.
At 162.5 metres, it’s the world’s second-biggest private
yacht after UAE President Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan’s new
180-metre yacht, Azzam, complete with armour-plated master suite.
The Azzam is not for hire.

Best beach
Brazil’s Sancho Bay on the remote island of Fernando de Noronha wins best beach, according to TripAdvisor.com.

Longest beach
Brazil wins again, with the 241km Praia do Cassino Beach. Gippsland’s Ninety-Mile Beach comes in fourth place. Whitest sand beach in the world: One for the home team,
according to the Guinness Book of Records, the whitest beach is Hyams
Beach in Jervis Bay, 2½ hours from Sydney.

Hyams Beach, Jervis Bay, NSW Australia

Best island
If money is your measure, you can rent the Caribbean’s
Calivigny Island in Grenada, for a cool $1.55 million a week. Sleeping
50 guests, it comes with a 173-metre yacht for your use (calivigny-island.com).More accessibly, the TripAdvisor community has voted Ambergris Caye, in Belize, its top island for the second year running (tripadvisor.com).

World’s highest pool
The Ritz-Carlton Hong Kong’s pool, is the world’s highest at 490 metres (ritzcarlton.com), towering over Marina Bay Sands’ dizzying infinity pool, 55 storeys, or 198 metres, above Singapore (marinabaysands.com).

World’s biggest pool
Running alongside the ocean, the lagoon pool at the San
Alfonso del Mar resort, in Valparaiso, Chile, is 1013 metres long,
earning its Guinness Book of Records entry. The 8 hectare, 250
million-litre saltwater pool is a pleasant 26 degrees and has a
100-metre waterslide (sanalfonso.cl).
Its sister lagoon, in the Egyptian resort city Sharm el-Sheikh,
reportedly covers 12 hectares and a Dubai project, under way, will cover
40 hectares.

The world’s largest pool, San Alfonsa del Mar, Chile

BEDS
Largest hotel
By room count, the three-star Izmailovo Hotel in Moscow,
Russia, with 7500 rooms, is largest. Most of the world’s mega-hotels,
with 4000-plus rooms, are in Las Vegas.

Most expensive hotel room
At $73,177 a night, the Royal Penthouse Suite at the Hotel
President Wilson is on the banks of Lake Geneva, with views of Mont
Blanc. There are 12 rooms, 12 bathrooms, a Steinway grand piano and yes,
it’s bulletproof. More modest rooms start at $483 (hotelpresidentwilson.com).

Tallest hotel
Six of the top 10 tallest hotels are in Dubai, including the tallest, the JW Marriott Marquis Dubai, which tops 355 metres (marriott.com). At 488 metres, the Ritz-Carlton Hong Kong is taller but is ruled out as the building is not solely a hotel.

Smallest hotel
Central Hotel, Copenhagen, 2.4m by 3m, including a minibar and photos of Ronnie Barker (the owner’s a fan), $360 a night. (centralhotelogcafe.dk).


This article by Belinda Jackson was published in the Sydney Morning Herald and The Age newspapers.

Building Interest: architectural tourism

Sheraton Huzhou Hot Spring
Resort, China.

Build it and they will come. Or will they? Belinda Jackson rounds up the best newcomers on the architecture scene.

Could you visit Paris without seeing the Eiffel Tower? Or
miss the Blue Mosque when in Istanbul? The Tower Bridge is a London
essential and Cairo’s pyramids are possibly the oldest tourist site on
the map.

But tell friends you’re going to Oslo to see the new design
by Renzo Piano and chances are you’ll be tarred with a try-hard hipster
tag. “Architecture is the great public art,” says Eoghan Lewis,
architect and founder of Sydney Architecture Walk, in defence of
architectural tourism.

While not buying into the tallest-fattest-most-brightly-coloured
debate (“Do people really travel to see the new tall?”), he readily
admits to admiring Burj Khalifa, but describes Sydney’s Opera House as
“the most important 20th-century architectural moment”, matched only by
Antoni Gaudi’s Sagrada Familia basilica, in Barcelona.

The Cardboard Cathedral, New Zealand.

However, if you were so inclined, the battle for the tallest,
longest and shiniest building has just two serious contestants: the UAE
and China, with Dubai’s Burj Khalifa, at 829 metres, currently the
tallest building in the world. Pitch that beside Australia’s loftiest
offering, the Gold Coast’s Q1, and we come out looking positively puny
at just 322 metres high.

Architecture aficionados have their 2013-14 diaries full,
with a smorgasbord of beautiful little offerings from Britain and plenty
of Zaha Hadid curves in Asia.

Off the list is the tediously square new George W. Bush presidential
centre. And while we’d love to jet to Lima for sheer wackiness, its
cliff-hanging hotel is, unsurprisingly, still at the planning permission
stage, while Shanghai’s Songjiang Hotel, where two floors are
underwater, won’t open till 2015.

Back home in Australia, now is the time for quiet, beautiful,
subtle achievers. Read on for a baker’s dozen of great new
architectural statements going up around the world.

ASIA

Here’s a statistic that will probably be outdated by the time we go
to print: nine of the 20 tallest buildings currently in construction
across the world are in China. But just because they’re tall doesn’t
make them fabulous: they have to be beautiful, too.

At heart, many travellers are mountain goats who need to
climb to the top for the birds-eye view of a new city. So take a look at
the new Shanghai Tower, which erupts from Pudong, one big paddy field
until a couple of decades ago.

he stats are impressive: the futuristic
skyscraper designed by American super-firm Gensler, was “topped out” in
early August at 632 metres, making it China’s tallest building; well
under Burj Khalifa. It is expected to be overtaken in the sky race even
before its completion by the ambitious Sky City, in Hunan, which aims to
scrape past the Burj by nine metres. Is it just me, or does this smack
of playground politics? Would it make you plan a trip to Hunan to see a
pointy tower that won’t fit in your camera lens?

Still big but less pointy, the new Sheraton Huzhou Hot Spring
Resort, also near Shanghai, is dominated by what’s unscientifically
been dubbed a “doughnut”. Perhaps “glowing horseshoe” is a kinder term
to describe Beijing-based MAD architects’ work: the ring is covered in a
metal skin covered with LED lights, which erupts 100 metres high from a
lake. The resort opened this year to the tune of about $1.5 billion and
should win dinner parties as the ultimate Shanghai weekender.

The Iranian-born, British-based architectural powerhouse Zaha Hadid
has been one seriously busy woman, with the new Dongaemun history and
culture park opening in Seoul next year. With her signature organic
curves, Hadid’s “urban oasis” is in the centre of old downtown Seoul and
includes a design museum and traditional Korean gardens. Detractors say
Hadid hasn’t tried hard enough to keep the old city but her admirers
won’t be disappointed (ddp.seoul.go.kr/eng/).

As an aside, while she’s not everyone’s cup of tea, Hadid’s
work definitely is admired by a group of Chinese builders, who have
pirated her Beijing Wangjing SoHo complex, in Chongqing. The copy may
even be completed before the original is finished, in 2014.

For more organic forms and materials, head to Kontum City in
Middle Vietnam for a cup of coffee at the waterside cafe in Kon Tum
Indochine Hotel. Designed by Vo Trong Nghia architects, the cafe’s roof
is upheld by 15 gigantic bamboo columns inspired by Vietnamese fishing
baskets. The cafe is on the shortlist for an award at this month’s World
Architecture Festival at the Marina Bay Sands in Singapore (indochinehotel.vn).

Den Bla Planet, Denmark.

SCANDINAVIA
For most, the drawcard of Copenhagen’s Den Bla Planet (The
Blue Planet) won’t be the architecture, it’ll be the 20,000 marine
animals wriggling around on display at this new aquarium, designed by
Danish architects 3XN. The largest aquarium in Northern Europe, Den Bla
Planet holds seven million litres of water inside, is encircled by a
reflection pool outside, and the building’s form is inspired by a
whirlpool, a visual treat from the air when you fly in to nearby
Copenhagen Airport. Australian aquarium architecture specialists
Crossley Architects, who spent almost four years working on the project,
name the Amazon display as the best in show (denblaaplanet.dk). The aquarium has just won its category for display architecture at the 2013 World Architecture Festival.

UNITED ARAB EMIRATES

Masdar City

Normally, we’d associate the United Arab Emirates (UAE) with excess:
the world recreated in man-made islands (“Anyone for Nigeria?”) or very,
very big, pointy towers, a la Burj Khalifa. Abu Dhabi’s new World Trade
Centre won’t disappoint on that count but for something completely
different, Dubai’s bankroller is also home to a sustainable,
zero-carbon, zero-waste, car-free city.

Set beside Abu Dhabi’s airport, Masdar City is designed by
British architect Norman Foster of Foster & Partners. A so-called
“arcology” project, which marries architecture and ecology to create
self-sustaining, densely populated cities, Masdar City runs on solar
energy – sensibly, given it’s built in a sunny desert.

Expect
super-modernity from the car-free city, which is connected by little
driver-less pods, but expect also lessons from the past, such as wind
towers, or barjeels, Iran’s ancient alternative to air-con (masdarcity.ae).

The Shard

BRITAIN
Architects
feature consistently in the top 10 sexiest occupations, which must make
Renzo Piano, co-architect of Paris’s Centre Georges Pompidou,
absolutely irresistible. Britain is currently revelling in golden years
and Piano’s Shard, which opened in February, is the new jewel in
London’s skyline. Stats first: topping 310 metres, yes, it’s the tallest
building in Western Europe, with 11,000 glass panels and, amazingly, 90
per cent of its construction materials are recycled. It’s not just a
viewpoint, the tower will soon house a hotel, four restaurants and
residencies with a price tag from £30 million ($50 million) (the-shard.com).

Shard aside (and we haven’t even gone to Glasgow’s
Commonwealth Games build), this year’s top talking points are all
low-to-the-ground historical landmarks, led by the new Mary Rose museum
in Portsmouth, which opened in May. The Mary Rose, a 16th-century Tudor
warship, was built on these docks in 1510, sinking after 34 years’
service. She was raised from the bed of the Solent River and four
centuries and $56 million later, is now encircled by a modern museum
displaying her sunken treasure. The museum is designed by architects
Wilkinson Eyre, the name behind Singapore’s Gardens by the Bay and the
Crown Sydney resort at Barangaroo (maryrose.org).

Going further back into the mists of time, the new visitors
centre at Stonehenge is set to open in February next year, after two
decades and more than $60 million spent on planning and construction.
The building has sparked interest among the design community for the
hurdles it faced: the low-key design, by Denton Corker Marshall, sits
lightly on the ground so as to not disturb nor detract from the ancient
Salisbury plain (stonehenge.co.uk).

The Mary Rose.

Serious design aficionados already have their names down for
the chance to sleep amid the serene architecture of celebrated architect
Peter Zumthor, winner of the RIBA Royal Gold Medal 2013. The Secular
Retreat, which taps into the concept of “ecclesiastical architecture”
(read “monastic use of rammed concrete”) is located among the rolling
hills of South Devon and will be completed in 2014 (living-architecture.co.uk).

OCEANIA
As a half-Tasmanian, here’s a sentence I never thought I’d
utter: “You must go to Glenorchy and check out this amazing piece of
architecture.” The Glenorchy Art and Sculpture Park (GASP!) sits on the
banks of the Derwent River, just a couple of kilometres downstream from
another fine architectural statement, Museum of Old and New Art (MONA).

GASP, Tasmania

Designed by the young guns at Room 11, a boardwalk that curls around the
bay to MONA opened in 2011, followed in April by a new pavilion of rose
glass and concrete that juts out over the river. GASP! is already a
popular promenade and there are plans for regular art events and a new
social enterprise cafe and food truck. Ferry to MONA and hire bikes to
coast down to GASP or borrow free Art Bikes in Hobart and ride 30
minutes to GASP! (gasp.org.au, arts.tas.gov.au/artsatwork/artbikes).

Across the pond to New Zealand, the Cardboard Cathedral in
Christchurch officially opened in late August, already has a solid fan
base. Designed and donated to the city by “emergency architect” Shigeru
Ban after the Anglican cathedral was destroyed in the 2011 earthquake,
the temporary cathedral is an exercise in the resilience of faith and
community. Made from gigantic cardboard tubes, it has a life span of
about 20 years (christchurchnz.com/planning/cardboard-cathedral).

Architecturally, across the world there is no one trend:
there are small conversations and there are immense statements. With
Australia’s and the world’s top awards soon to be announced, the
conversation continues.

FIVE CITY ARCHITECTURE TOURS
MELTOURS ARCHITECTURE TOUR
Found in Melbourne; costs $39, phone 0407 380 969; see meltours.com.au.
SYDNEY ARCHITECTURE WALKS
Costs from $30; phone 0403 888 390; see sydneyarchitecture.org.
CHICAGO ARCHITECTURE FOUNDATION
Costs from $10; phone +312 922 3432; see architecture.org.
THE BAUHAUS TOUR
Found in Tel Aviv, Israel; costs $18; see bauhaus-center.com/tours.php.
EDINBURGH ARCHITECTURE TOURS
Found in Scotland, phone +44 1620 825722; see edinburgharchitecture.co.uk.

FIVE MORE OCEANIA BUILDINGS

MELBOURNE
Occupying the corner of Swanston and Victoria Streets, the
super-restrained Design Hub by Sean Godsell Architects is tipped to
clean up at this year’s national architecture awards, agree Eoghan Lewis
and Jerome Miller, of Meltours Architecture Tours. The building’s
“skin” is a grid of disks that can be rotated to catch the sun,
ultimately to power the building. Jerome also names 700 Bourke Street,
Docklands worth a look for its vivid “slices”, best seen from Southern
Cross Station.

CANBERRA
Opened in February, the National Arboretum is 250 hectares
dominated by a dramatic amphitheatre with secret gardens, cork oak
forests and high-arched, stone-clad visitor centre overlooking Lake
Burley Griffin, designed by Tonkin Zulaikha Greer Architects and
landscape architects Taylor Cullity Lethlean (nationalarboretum.act.gov.au).

SYDNEY
The new Prince Alfred Park+Pool in Surry Hills is designed by
Neeson Murcutt Architects and Sue Barnsley Design. The 50-metre heated
outdoor pool lined playfully with palms and smart, sunny yellow
umbrellas, set amid grassy mounds that “fold” over the main building,
hiding it from street view (princealfred.org).

AUCKLAND
The Auckland Gallery Toi o Tamaki has just been named 2013
World Building of the Year at the World Architecture Festival. It was
remodelled by Sydney’s FJMT and Auckland-based Archimedia and reopened
in September 2011 (aucklandartgallery.com).

This feature by Belinda Jackson was published in the Sydney Morning Herald newspaper.

Tasting tradition: Ramadan kareem

Cairo at sunset. Photo: Belinda Jackson
Today is the first day of Ramadan 2013, which for me is about the scent of almonds, the sweetness of fresh dates and the call to prayer. 
If you’re shaky on the whole Ramadan thing, it’s Islam’s holy month, where Muslims take time to
reflect on themselves and their lives. 
The most
obvious part of Ramadan is fasting: followers don’t let anything pass their
lips from first light to sunset. At the moment, wintery Australia is considered a cushy place to be for Ramadan 2013: first light this morning was around 6am and the sun set at 5.15.
In comparison, it’s high summer in the Middle East, which sees 14-hour days,
with 5am sunrise and sunset not until 7pm.
That
means no food, no water, no cigarettes (a tough one for countries such as
Egypt, where smoking is rated a profession). Some people don’t use
toothpaste in the daylight hours…mmm.
Of all
the Muslim countries I’ve visited during Ramadan, I had the most fun in Egypt.
Egyptians like to joke that they actually put on weight in Ramadan, sunset
is the time for feasting, and feast they do. In a city where you can hit a
traffic jam at 1am, the streets are empty at sunset: you can cross town in 20 minutes,
normally a two-hour journey, as everyone’s sitting down to drink sweet drinks
such as tamrhindy (tamarind) or qamardeen, a thick, sweet apricot juice, and taste elaborate dishes and desserts made
only in this month.
Ben Youssef madrasa, Marrakech.
Photo: some helpful, random tourist
who didn’t run away with my camera.
The five-star hotels and the streets are lined with Ramadan ‘tents’ that serve banquets from sundown to sun-up, elaborate low lounges designed for smoking shisha and nibbling sweets, drinking tea and catching up with old friends. Music tends toward the traditional, though I spotted plenty of glam actors and smoking hot MTV stars (Amr Diab, people!). During Ramadan, TV shows tend toward swords-and-sandals dramas with strong moral punchlines.
I also
like the solidarity of Egypt’s citizens: around 10 percent of the population is
Christian, yet they will never smoke, eat or drink on the street. It’s
considered poor form, and most tourists get the picture.
In far
more liberal Morocco, where tourists amble around in hot pants, wining and
dining on street cafes during Ramadan, it must be tough not to have a tiny
touch of resentment when you’re hot, thirsty and hanging for a fag. But the locals I know are proud of their country’s
tolerance of all cultures, and they have some pretty fabulous Ramadan sweets, including honey and sesame cookies, halwa chebakia
I rate my favourite fitar or iftar (the meal you take when breaking fast at sunset) as the cool almond milk and dates stuffed with almond paste served at Marrakech’s sublime La Mamounia hotel.  
In
comparison, in Abu Dhabi and Dubai, we foreigners were ushered into makeshift
restaurants in the five-star hotels’ basements for lunch, and the bars were
shrouded affairs, if open at all. We were instructed sternly by hotel staff to dress even more modestly than usual, and our attire scanned before we left the hotel in case a rogue knee or shoulder should present itself to daylight.
Wherever you find yourself, Ramadan mubarak (Happy Ramadan)!

Hot to shop: Dubai

33C outside, -4 inside at Ski Dubia, in the Mall of the Emirates

In the US, they’d ask ‘do you want fries with that?’ In Dubai, they ask, ‘do you want the world’s largest aquarium/tower/shopping mall with that?’

You’d think Dubai might have tempered its outlook  after being ravaged by the global financial crisis, but no. It’s still got a one-way ticket to Hubris Central.

Spotted in the malls: Jimmy Choo’s collaboration with the Ugg boot, a Versace cafe (serving Illy coffee) and the world’s longest street of watch stores.

For record-breaking, up-to-the-second shopping, it’s all here. Click to read the full story here