The greatest architectural and design stories of 2021

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To wrap up our 2021 review, publisher Tom Ravenscroft looks back at this year’s most read stories, including Richard Rogers’ final building, a transparent outdoor swimming pool, Dubai Expo pavilions, and a car. by Virgil Abloh design.



Image is by Brick Visual, courtesy of Zaha Hadid Architects

January – Supertall skyscrapers connected by planted terraces will be built in Shenzhen by Zaha Hadid Architects

The year began with the announcement 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 very tall skyscrapers. Along with Zaha Hadid Architects, BIG, Foster + Partners and Dorte Mandrup are among the main architects designing these large buildings.

Find out more about the Shenzhen Bay Super Headquarters ›


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

February – Richard Rogers balances his final construction on the Provençal vineyard

In February, architect Richard Rogers, winner of the Prizker Architecture Prize, unveiled a photograph of his last building designed before his retirement from Rogers Stirk Harbor + Partners.

Named The Richard Rogers Drawing Gallery, the building is cantilevered 27 meters from a hill in a vineyard in southern France. The year ended with the announcement of the passing of Rogers, a pioneer of high-tech architecture, at the age of 88.

Find out more about the Richard Rogers Drawing Gallery ›


Allen key lamp by Gelchop for Ikea Art Event 2021

March – IKEA unveils Allen key lamp as a tribute to ‘the most iconic IKEA item of all’

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

Created as a nod to the company’s flatbed furniture, it was designed by Gelchop so that “arguably the most iconic IKEA item of all” could be in the spotlight.

Find out more about the IKEA Allen key lamp ›


A living room with a screw pine
The photo is by Tommaso Riva

April – Ten home interiors featuring remarkable plants that help bring nature inside

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

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

Find out more about interiors with plants ›


The photo was taken by Adrian Gaut for WSJ magazine

May – Photos reveal Thomas Heatherwick’s tiny island in New York City ahead of opening

In May, the highly anticipated Little Island designed by Thomas Heatherwick opened on the Hudson River in New York City.

Originally called Pier 55, the raised park supported by 132 mushroom-shaped concrete columns was completed following a long construction delay as part of a campaign against the project by advocacy group The City Club of New York.

Find out more about Little Island ›


Heavenly pool
Photo is by Simon Kennedy

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

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

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

Find out more about Sky Pool ›


Aerial view of the forest

July – Planting trees ‘makes no sense’ in fight against climate change due to permanence issues, experts say

In June and July, we aired our Carbon Revolution series, which aimed to explore how the element could be removed from the atmosphere and used on earth.

In interviews for the series, key figures told Dezeen that afforestation is not a reliable way to permanently sequester atmospheric carbon. The story was most read in July.

Find out more about the Carbon Revolution series ›


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

August – Amanda Levete designs the world’s first magnetized fusion power plant for the UK

A prototype power plant with a nuclear fusion reactor, to be built in England, gained worldwide attention in August.

Designed by architect Amanda Levete’s AL_A firm, 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 combining architecture and innovative energy solutions.

Find out more about the Fusion demonstration plant ›


The town of Telosa
Image courtesy of BIG

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

The news that Danish architect Bjarke Ingels is planning a city for five million people in the American desert was the most popular story in September.

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

Find out more about Telosa ›


Dubai exhibition pavilions
Photo courtesy of Santiago Calatrava

October – Ten must-see pavilions at Dubai Expo 2020

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

Our roundup of the 10 most interesting pavilions, designed by architects such as Foster + Partners, WOHA and Santiago Calatrava, was the most read story of the month.

Find out more about the pavilions of the Dubai exhibition ›


Munger Room
Image courtesy of UCSB

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

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

Planned to be built on the university’s Santa Barbara campus, the block would house more than 90% of its 4,500 students in windowless rooms.

Find out 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 saw the death of a trio of architecture and design greats with fashion designer Virgil Abloh and architects Chris Wilkinson and Richard Rogers.

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

Find out more about Virgil Abloh’s Mercedes-Benz ›

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