Architecture is the art and process of designing and constructing small and large buildings. Architects accomplish practical and expressive requirements to provide both functional and artistic ends. Contemporary architecture is a compilation of many styles with no dominant hierarchy. From traditional to highly conceptual, the square buildings of the twentieth century have given way to buildings with the look of a sculptural piece of art. With the use of digital technology, the pencil has been replaced. We have entered a process of digitized architecture, transforming societies' way of life and raising awareness of the global environmental damage caused by the overuse of natural resources. New technologies challenge gravity as they spiral higher into the atmosphere as competitions become the highest.
The building materials of the new millennium are prefabricated on-demand using computer-aided machines to cut, construct, and process raw materials into pieces transported to the job site. Using robotics guarantees the accuracy and continuity of the fabricated components and reduces human error. Testing labs for earthquake stability, wind stability, and fire prevention are essential for the design. More than half of the world's population resides in urban cities, and contextual models have become important. Today, architects use computers to help design and draw the final plans and make live 3-dimensional models viewable from different angles. Contemporary Architecture design continues into the twenty-first century; however, the transformation from traditional upright buildings to organically designed with diverse functions and connections to the surrounding environment takes precedence. Architects are challenged to create unusual designs using twenty-first-century materials and engineering techniques.
In the twenty-first century, architecture remains dominated by male architects. Many people define female architects as interior designers. A survey of the largest 100 architecture firms worldwide found only three were headed by women, and only two have at least fifty percent female management teams. Sixteen firms do not have any women in senior positions. A recent article in the New York Times stated, "To get a sense of the state of opportunity for women in architecture, consider that the firm getting the most high-profile architectural commissions in the world right now has just two female principals."  A few female architects have impacted the field, including Zaha Hadid, who won the Pritzker Architecture Prize in 2004 and broke the proverbial glass ceiling. Twenty-six men previously won the Pritzker Prize before Hadid won. Most women still work at lower levels of major companies or start their own small companies to enter the field successfully. Architects included in this section:
- Zaha Hadid (1950-2016)
- Kazuyo Sejima (1956-)
- Frida Escobedo (1979-)
- Sheila Sri Prakash (1955-)
- Farshid Moussavi (1965-)
- Yasmeen Lari (1941-)
- Susana Torre (1944-)
- Jeanne Gang (1964-)
- Odile Decq (1955-)
Heydar Aliyev Cultural Center, designed by the legendary Zaha Hadid, has become a signature landmark of modern Baku.
Growing up in an upper-class Iraqi family, Hadid studied mathematics at the American University of Beirut and moved to London to study at the Architectural Association School of Architecture. After graduation, Hadid opened her firm, Zaha Hadid Architects, in London and continued her unique modern styles, setting her apart from other architects. Her pioneering vision redefined architecture worldwide, transforming concrete, steel, and glass into free-flowing virtuosic construction. "Experiencing Hadid's architecture yields an understanding that the quest for beauty alone was not her modus operandi. Her buildings are beautiful—and beauty may account for their seductive urban presence, for their hold on the eye—but the beauty and virtuosity within her work are married to meaning. Her architecture is inventive, original, and civic, offering generous public spaces that are clearly organized and intuitive to navigate." 
The Phaeno Science Center (10.5.1) in Germany was completed in 2005 and is considered a "hypnotic work of architecture—the kind of building that utterly transforms our vision of the future." The building stands on stilts creating a covered plaza, allowing people to walk under the construction. The structure is 27,000 square meters of concrete and steel girders laid out in distinct patterns and includes workshops, laboratories, theater, and shopping. The free-flowing space has no right angles, and the different floors are intertwined, giving visitors a unique experience. It has been described as a spacecraft that has just landed and put out the welcome mat. The original design used digital animation to conceptualize the spatial diagram of the building and its contents. The interior (10.5.2) needed to house an exhibition space with plenty of room for young visitors to explore. The open floor arrangement encourages children's learning experience, free of dogmatism or any pedagogical paradigm based on the approach to learning.
The new Library and Learning Center of Vienna University (10.5.3) in Austria is one of the tallest and most prominent pieces of architecture on campus. The polygonal cube design has both inclined and vertical facades and two elements of contrasting colors separated by glass. However, as you move inside, it becomes curvilinear, creating a free-form inner canyon. The building contains classrooms, an auditorium, a cafeteria, social rooms, administrative offices, and an extensive library. The multiple spaces are joined with ramps and bridges overlooking the great hall filled with light. The operational plan was to define the different areas of use into blocks of sites. The library can accommodate 25,000 students and 1500 staff for gathering, learning, and meeting. The facade of the building is made from maintenance-free Corten steel, which will age over time. There are over 100,000 square meters of floor space with 4,000 rooms, 90 auditoriums and classrooms, and over 3,000 workstations.
The Heydar Aliyev Cultural Center (10.5.4), located in Azerbaijan, challenges the concepts of geometry and gravity, giving way to all forms and no structure—the flowing architecture curves in sweeping shapes containing halls and a museum without a right angle in sight. As the fluid form of the outside topography merges, the entrances are found in the surface folds. When viewers enter the center, the building folds inside decrease, becoming part of the interior (10.5.5). The 57,506 square meters are made from glass-fiber-reinforced polyester panels and are seamless as the building undulates like a giant wave.
The interior is a large-scale column-free space created by a concrete structure and a space frame system showing off the hypermodern world wrapped inside. Inside the curved wave of white glass fiber, reinforced polyester plastic covers the visitors in a sense of comfort. Hadid's design continuously self-transforms in many directions with no terminus and little understanding of boundaries. The center is so large it can host several events simultaneously. The core of the building is a large atrium with floor-to-ceiling glass panels allowing sweeping views of the grass landscape. The video reviews the Heydar Aliyev Cultural Center.
Guangzhou Opera House (10.5.6) overlooks the Pearl River in Guangdong Province, China, and is one of China's most prominent theatres. Hadid designed the building to interplay architecture and nature, engaging the ideologies of erosion, geology, and topography. The two buildings resemble two large rocks washed up on the river. The auditorium was made from concrete with large swaths of glass and granite blocks. The unique contoured twin boulder design has a promenade from the land across the water. The 1800-seat auditorium (10.5.7) houses the latest acoustic technology, and the smaller 400-seat performance hall for opera and concerts in the round. The cultural development will combine land and sea in harmony.
Often known as the "Queen of the Curve," Zaha Hadid was one of the most admired and extraordinary architects of her time. Forbes even named her among the 100 most powerful women in the world. Her daring and unconventional buildings tiptoe the line between fantasy and reality, changing our understanding of what architecture can do. She has won some of the world's top honors in the realm of architecture, including the Pritzker Prize.
Kazuyo Sejima (1956-) is a Japanese architect known for her clear modernist elements with shiny, slick, clean surfaces. After graduating from Japan Women's University, she worked for another architect. Sejima founded Kazuyo Sejima and Associates (SANNA) as a worldwide studio for innovative building designs. Sejima redefined her style, and instead of narrowing down a design, she used models to finalize what she calls "process designs." Sejima was the second woman (Zaha Hadid was the first) to win the coveted Pritzker Prizein 2012. In 2016, Fast Company named SANNA one of the 50 Most Innovative Companies.
To celebrate his work, the Sumida Hokusai Museum (10.5.7) in Tokyo is dedicated to the great print artist Katsushika Hokusai. The monolithic block is five stories with angular cutouts bringing light into the museum's center. A patchwork of residential, commercial, and light industrial zones surrounds the building. She had to fit the building into an environment of the architectural hodgepodge. Sejima divided the building into several units of various sizes so the entire building did not overwhelm the neighborhood. The geometric forms continued inside, creating walkways with a triangular appearance. The outside of the structure is clad in aluminum panels that softly reflect the skies, and there are huge windows for natural light, producing a fluid passage between inside and outside. One of the design challenges Sejima confronted was to minimize the amount of sunlight to protect the delicate prints of Hokusai's artwork. Leveraging the slanted wall, she allowed sunlight into the building using the A-frame construction. The video reviews the Sumida Hokusai Museum.
A visit to Sanaa's Hokusai Museum in Tokyo. I think the building itself is quite beautiful. The brushed metal clad facade and triangular cut wedges are proportionately well balanced, but that's where it all stops. SANAA, Kazuyo Sejima and Rye Nishizawa received the Pritzker Prize in 2010 for being "deceptively simple" and for their architecture which "stands out in direct contrast with the bombastic".
In 2007, The New Museum of Contemporary Art (10.5.8) opened its doors to 5,453 square meters of changeable exhibition spaces as an incubator for new ideas. The bold decision to stack boxes on each other allowed Sejima to create a harmonious symbiotic connection to the surrounding neighborhood. The seven boxes are of various sizes and heights (53 meters), giving the appearance of a child stacking blocks before falling. The four public galleries are located on the first through the fourth floor, with educational centers and offices occupying the rest of the building. The light and airy spaces are covered in a seamless, anodized, and expanded aluminum mesh wrapped to mimic soft, shimmering skin. Visitors are drawn into the museum through large 4.5-meter glass doors stretching the entire width of the building. The grey concrete sidewalks change into the grey concrete polished floors inside the doors.
Frida Escobedo (1979-) was born in Mexico City. Her father was a doctor, and her mother was a sociologist who worked on women's rights for the National Institute of Women in Mexico. Although her parents divorced when Escobedo was young, she grew up close to both parents. She visited the Metropolitan Museum of Art on her first major trip to New York City and believed the building and exhibits significantly influenced her. Escobedo received her degree in architecture, a last-minute choice, from the Universidad Iberoamericana and a master's degree from the Harvard Graduate School of Design. She spent her early years teaching at different universities while she set up her studio. Her first actual project was designing tiny homes. Escobedo realized the difficulties of a female architect. However, she entered a few competitions and won them, one for a new pavilion at a museum in Mexico City and one to expand the museum at Mexican muralist David Alfaro Siqueiros.
One of Escobedo's first major commissions was the Serpentine Pavilion (10.5.9 & 10.5.10), the youngest architect to apply for and receive the commission. The design was to be temporary and located in the Kensington Gardens. The pavilion was shaped as an enclosed courtyard made from two angled rectangular shapes. Escobedo was familiar with courtyards, a common feature in Mexico. Instead of the more usual adobe brick used in Mexico, Escobedo used cement roof tiles found throughout England. The dark tiles were textured and, when stacked, provided places for people to view the outdoors. The stacked tiles were also based on the celosia, a breeze wall common in Mexican architecture. Parts of the tiles were covered with mirrored panels reflecting the sun as it moved across the sky. The pavilion was a multi-use structure for meetings, music, dance, and even interdisciplinary lunchtimes for community groups to meet, plan, and connect. In an interview, Escobedo said, "I think one needs to plan for change. Make everything more flexible in every way so that the building becomes more like a palm tree and less like a completely rigid structure because that's the one that will fall down. Rigid things collapse. The rest can move; yes, it transforms, it may lose sections, but its spirit will remain."  The video reviews the Serpentine Pavilion.
Frida Escobedo discusses the influences on her 2018 Serpentine Pavilion. From the celosia walls found in her native Mexico to the work of El Lissitzky, Escobedo weaves these references into her courtyard-based design, which harnesses a subtle interplay of light, water and geometry.
At the Open House exhibition in Geneva, Switzerland, Escobedo designed System 01 (10.5.11). For the exhibition, multiple architects focused on housing or shelters of any material, style, or use, rethinking the structures in a habitat. Escobedo's design was circular similar to the tepees of the Indigenous people in the Great Plains or the huts of people who lived along lakes. Round buildings and rooms open the space, with no corners or flat walls, and people can move around. In 2022, Escobedo was selected by the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City to design the new $500 million wing for the museum to house Modern and contemporary art. She was a surprising choice because she is a relatively young woman of color. The museum director stated, "She is a strong voice in the architectural discourse. She produces very contemporary buildings that are rooted in a modern canon." 
Sheila Sri Prakash
Sheila Sri Prakash (1955-) was the first woman in India to form her architectural organization. Born in Bhopal, India, Prakash was classically trained as a child in dance, music, and art. As a young woman, she was an experienced performer of Indian dances. Prakash studied at the Anna University School of Architecture and Planning, fighting against the prejudice of women becoming architects. She also went to the Harvard Graduate School of Design. Today, Prakash is an influential worldwide architect and a leading architect in India. Her primary focus is green and sustainable architecture and low-cost structures for the socio-economically distressed. Her buildings are energy efficient and can fit into an urban environment- integrated villages or unique stand-alone buildings like sports stadiums or luxury hotels. Prakash was even commissioned to restore the ancient Brihadisvara Temple. She was also the first Indian architect on the World Economic Forum's Global Agenda Council on Design Innovation. As part of the council, Prakash created the "Reciprocal Design Index," and she established the Reciprocity Wave Movement. The movement is based on the principles of integrating art and policies into sustainably designed cities and buildings. In 2019, Prakash received the Lifetime Achievement in the Field of Architecture Award 2019 for her outstanding achievements and contribution to sustainable design thinking and the growth of the Indian real estate sector.
Prakash created a sustainable design studio (10.5.12) and was awarded the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design Platinum rating. The building was designed based on a small carbon footprint, geothermal air-conditioning for the hot environment, and a collaborative work environment. The building was divided into different layers, each containing meeting spaces and studios. The staggered floors allow air to circulate and vent upwards. Solar panels generate power, and the water for air conditioners is recycled. The front door stands twelve feet high and appears as a temple door giving visitors the feeling of entering a grand and restful place.
From Shiraz, Iran, Farshid Moussavi's (1965-) parents commissioned an architect to design a contemporary house for the family, and Moussavi went with her father to the meetings about design and construction. She remembered her excitement to see how the plans developed. When Moussavi was fourteen, the Iranian Revolution started, and her parents sent her to a boarding school in London where she had to learn English and a new culture by herself. She studied architecture at the University of Dundee, the Bartlett School of Architecture, and University College London. She was fortunate to work as an intern at Zaha Hadid's office during summer breaks. Moussavi also received her master's degree in architecture from the Harvard University Graduate School of Design. Originally, Moussavi founded a successful company working worldwide designing multiple projects. She was also known for her knowledge and dedication to architecture. She taught at the Harvard School of Design and has been a visiting professor at several key universities and architecture schools. Moussavi liked shifting back and forth between the academic world and her architecture practice, believing it helped maintain her creativity and flexibility.
Moussavi wrote several books on The Function of… about the different vital functions in architecture. She was elected to the Royal Academy of Arts in London and has received multiple awards, including the Order of the British Empire (OBE). When asked about the challenge facing female architects, Moussavi said, "While male architects have role models in the profession to emulate, there are very few female role models. This makes us female architects uniquely flexible. It gives women the creative freedom to outdo the stereotype. Rather than championing for homophony between men and women, we should embrace the notion of exteriority as a source of creativity." 
Early in her career, Moussavi was the co-designer with her husband for the Yokohama International Ferry Terminal (10.5.13), resulting from a design competition. The result was based on new materials available in the twenty-first century and advanced computer-aided design capabilities. The central part of the design resembles waves rising and falling, creating pathways, openings, and an observation area (10.5.14). The elevation changes defined the more prominent parking garage spaces, operational areas, and waiting places. The three levels are connected by ramps curving up and down instead of stairs. The structure's design enabled movement to flow instead of the sharp boundaries of stairs. The complex was built with folded steel plates and concrete support girders. The strong materials minimized the requirements for multiple vertical supports, allowing an open feeling. The whole top of the observation deck is covered with wooden planks, enhancing the sensation of movement. The entire complex is integrated into the neighborhood, the deck part of the public plaza park with the wood and grass landscape. The video reviews the construction of the Yokohama International Ferry Terminal.
Yokohama Terminal by FOA (Contemporary Architecture MOOC)
Initially, a "folie" was based on an eighteenth-century concept of the wealthy building a grand mansion in the middle of a garden setting. Moussavi used the concept to design the Folie Divine, (10.5.15), a residential building taking the idea of luxury down a different pathway. Moussavi wanted luxury to be designated as multiple choices of room arrangements, flexibility to modify a home, and privacy inside and out. She developed thirty-six apartments based on five different types of structures. The compact footprint of the building left room for gardens around the space. The curved balconies provide 180-degree views without ever seeing into a neighboring balcony. The terraces became part of the exterior design and beauty of the entire building. The load-bearing walls are part of the exterior of the apartments, so people can change their interiors as they desire. The exterior is built with aluminum paneling and glass. Moussavi used hardwood floors for the balconies so they would flow into the interior.
Moussavi's first commission in the United States was for the Museum of Contemporary Art in Cleveland (10.5.16). The geometric-shaped, four-story structure rises from a base with six sides and ends in a four-sided top. The hexagonal base creates eight triangles and trapezoids as the reflective black stainless-steel panels form the building. The reflections on the panels reflect the local traffic and the city skyline. Another part of the building is covered with clear glass, giving a view of the interior painted in bright purple, orange, and yellow illustrations. With its metal and glass exteriors, the design was tested with computer-modeled simulations to ensure the sun did not cause interior hotspots or negative reflections on the community outside. The building's interior is painted a deep blue suggesting the dark sky, an unusual choice. Generally, museums display artwork in white cubic rooms. The museum does not own a permanent collection, and the open floors are flexible in arranging different presentations.
Yasmeen Lari (1941-) is Pakistan's first female architect and received the Royal Gold Medal in 2023, the first recipient King Charles III approved in his newly established reign. The award is given to some with a significant influence on architecture. After receiving the award, Lari said, "I never imagined that as I focus on my country's most marginalized people—venturing down uncharted vagabond pathways—I could still be considered for the highest honors in the architectural profession." And she concluded, "Totally delighted." The award was based on her work to create emergency shelters and housing for Pakistan's people devastated by earthquakes, floods, and conflicts. Lari created simple designs to rebuild from the available debris of disasters. She worked with a foundation to build 50,000 accessible dwellings from found materials, focusing on low cost and zero carbon. Previously, Lari received an award for designing and implementing a smokeless cooking device made from mud and quickly constructed by local people, an alternative to the polluting stoves generally used by Pakistanis.
Lari's life as a child was focused on her father and his work on development projects in different cities where she was exposed to architecture. As a teenager, she went to school in London, followed by attending Oxford Brookes University in the School of Architecture. After graduating in 1964, Lari and her husband returned to Pakistan, where she opened her own company. The time was difficult as construction site workers constantly challenged her authority and expertise because she was a woman. She built a successful architectural career designing office buildings, hotels, and apartments. The latter part of her career was spent with her Heritage Foundation to help people restore their lives, dignity, and homes after disasters. Lari called it "Barefoot social architecture," using naturally available materials of mud, bamboo, and recycled materials. She also set up training programs to educate local people on building safer, inexpensive dwellings with their own hands. Lari's concepts are the opposite of the usual "international colonial charity model that believes in treating people as victims, giving them handouts, telling them to use concrete and all kinds of materials that are going to be even more destructive to the planet."  She believes that the approach does not work.
Since 2010, Pakistan has endured multiple significant floods and earthquakes, destroying the homes of already impoverished people. Lari believed the usual tents sent by charity groups to house people were not long-lasting and did not fit with the people's lifestyles. Lari designed shelters or living places (10.5.17) made from bamboo, mud, and lime, locally sourced, sustainable materials. The latched roofs and supporting bamboo poles were constructed first, followed by mud/lime bricks. The walls were covered with smoothed mud and frequently decorated with local designs. A family could build one or more of the structures. The building could be built on stilts for flood-prone areas, mud floors, or platforms. The people were trained in simple construction techniques and could create their housing. Thousands of these styles of houses have been constructed in Pakistan. The video is a TED Talk by Lari.
Award-winning architect and humanitarian Yasmeen Lari says it's time to redesign foreign aid to promote self-reliance rather than dependence on handouts. As Pakistan's first female architect, Yasmeen led a glittering career designing government complexes and major landmarks. After retiring, she shifted her focus to building sustainable low-cost homes in some of Pakistan's poorest areas, and shares her passion for how to deliver social and ecological justice through architecture. Yasmeen Lari is a world-famous pioneer of zero carbon architecture and designer of over 50,000 zero carbon, low-cost homes in her home country of Pakistan. Yasmeen Lari qualified as Pakistan's first female architect in 1963, and lives in Karachi. She rose to become a nationally famous 'starchitect' during her early career. Since her official retirement from architectural practice in 2000, her UN-recognised charity' Heritage Foundation Pakistan' has built thousands of zero carbon homes for some of the poorest rural villages in Pakistan. She was awarded the Fukuoka Prize in 2016, and the Jane Drew prize in 2020. This talk was given at a TEDx event using the TED conference format but independently organized by a local community.
Susana Torre (1944-) has always supported women in architecture and tried to change the profession to be more inclusive. Even in the twenty-first century, Torre concedes the culture has not changed much, and the media focuses on the 'exceptional' women allowing for the marginalization of most women in the field. Torre writes, "I have chosen to work for equality and to open up opportunities for women and those at a social and economic disadvantage. … it is also important to make visible what has been suppressed; to change the organization of spaces so women can inhabit them as social agents; and to carve out spaces of recognition for women's contributions to culture and society until these become the accepted norm, not the much-publicized exception."  Torre was born in Buenos Aires, Argentina, and attended the Universidad de La Plata and Universidad de Buenos Aires. She received a fellowship allowing her to travel throughout the United States. When Torre returned to Argentina, she started a design department at the Museo Provincial de Bellas Artes, the first department in a museum to focus on design. In 1968, Torre went to the United States and attended Columbia University to finish her postgraduate work. Her work included designing buildings, teaching, and writing. She incorporates cultural and social requirements into her designs and how women work or live in an environment.
Torre designed the residential compound in Carboneras, Spain (10.5.18) around three freestanding houses and incorporated apartments around them. The houses and apartments were joined by their roofs, with the penthouses on the roofs turned into terraces. Each unit had a different configuration while appearing as integrated. The complex was built into a cliff above the seaside with glass partitions and windows facing the water. Open walkways wind through the buildings, protected from the sun and capturing the breeze. The Skirt House (10.5.19) has two completely different facades. One side is flatter, with a three-story tower in the middle with stairs taking the viewer to the lookout room. The other side has circular walls with the roof extending as though rotating in space. The windows are located so the sun starts on one side into the main bedroom to the other side and the kitchen at sundown. The outside is covered with wooden shingles, and the inside wood is used extensively for the trim.
Jeanne Gang (1964-) was from Illinois and had the opportunity to travel with her father, a bridge and road designer. Gang learned the importance of a bridge's style and structure. She received her Bachelor's degree in Architecture from the University of Illinois and a master's from Harvard Graduate School of Design. Gang teaches and lectures at multiple universities around the world. She had opened her own company with offices in several cities. She focuses on using new technologies and ecologically proven materials and creating an environment that positively affects society and people's connection. After COVID-19, Gang became more aware of the importance of public spaces and how essential large, open spaces are for humanity. She also works on how to integrate the work she does into the natural environment. Gang is busy designing buildings around the world while taking time to write publications and create exhibitions to develop public awareness and cause change for what she calls "actionable idealism." Gang has "championed innovative design strategies to improve ecological biodiversity in cities, including bird-safe building techniques and an experimental prairie ecosystem on the rooftop of their Chicago office. At the same time, Jeanne has challenged the status quo in professional practice by closing the gender wage gap in her company and encouraging her colleagues to follow suit."  The video describes Gang's ideas and approaches to her work.
Jeanne Gang, arguably the most important female architect working today, heads her own firm, Studio Gang, which is pushing the boundaries of the good that architecture can do, for connecting communities and for the environment. Gang talked with correspondent Martha Teichner about her most recent project, an expansion of New York's American Museum of Natural History, and about the skyscrapers, airport terminal, and other civic spaces she has designed in her hometown of Chicago meant to transform spaces, outside and within.
The south pond in the Lincoln Park Zoo was left over from the nineteenth century and was not very attractive. Gang's design changed the area into an ecological habitat based on maintaining quality water, landscaping, accessibility, and use as a classroom in natural surroundings. A new boardwalk was added around the complete pond with the pavilion (10.5.20) integrated to provide a space for shelter. The design was an inspiration from a tortoise shell. The wood was bent and laminated to support the fiberglass sections curving around the roof. The pond was deepened, and plant shelves were incorporated around the pond to provide different animal and insect habitats and create water stability. The boardwalk, made from recycled plastic milk bottles, circles the pond past different animal habitats and creates an educational environment for the community. The video displays the intricate construction of the pavilion.
The building of the Lincoln Zoo Pavilion by the construction crew.
The Aqua Tower (10.5.21) was designed to help people and the outdoors connect, even in an eighty-two-story building. The whole structure was designed to contain multiple environments and incorporate different parts of life, including a hotel, offices, apartments, parking, and even a green roof. Each floor has a different shape and balcony structure, allowing people to be inside and outside regardless of the floor. However, the building is shaped like a standard rectangular box; from the outside, the rippling concrete balconies change the box into a sculptural multi-faceted structure. Each balcony is different in size and shape and how far it protrudes outward. The undulating balconies also break up the wind and minimize the strong Chicago airstream. The balconies are a projection of the inside floor, bringing additional inside space. One reviewer noted, "From a distance, you notice the texture of the undulating balconies (or waves) and the 'pools' of reflective glass that look like water. But Aqua is unique among skyscrapers because the best view is close-up, just across the street, looking up at those concrete balconies that appear soft, like marshmallow outcroppings."  The video reviews some of the design problems.
At 82 stories and over 1.9 million sf, Aqua Tower is one of few high-rises in the world that creates a community on its façade. With a hotel, apartments, condominiums, parking, offices, and one of Chicago's largest green roofs, this multi-use tower demonstrates both architectural and technical achievements. Its outdoor terraces—which differ in shape from floor to floor based on criteria such as views, solar shading, and dwelling size/type—create a strong connection to the outdoors and the city and form the tower's distinctive undulating appearance.
Odile Decq (1955-) is a French architect who attended the École Régionale d'Architecture de Rennes for two years before moving to Paris. She went to the École Nationale Supérieure d'Architecture de Paris-La Villette and graduated in 1978. Decq then attended the Paris Institute of Political Studies to study urban planning. In 1979, along with her future husband, she opened her own company ODBC. Decq was aware of the sexism existing in the field of architecture and the prejudices against women, and their difficulties in success. Decq's husband died in 1998 from a car accident, and her work afterward was still frequently attributed to her husband. By 2013, Decq changed the business name to Studio Odile Decq, growing the business based on her unique designs. Decq believed, "For me, architecture is an adventure. It has to be a place where people can move, live in good conditions, and forget the hardness of the life outside, so it has to have a kind of humanistic approach, whatever the project is - a museum, housing, offices, whatever- so it always has to have something in addition to the functional programme to provide people with something which is better and more comfortable." 
Decq's project for the Macro Museum (10.5.22, 10.5.23) was to solve the problem of adding a new wing and integrating parts of the old museum and a former brewery. The surrounding area was filled with dense, aged housing, and Decq linked the city to the museum by creating a roof terrace accessible from the street. Incorporating the different levels helped merge the street scene and the museum. The red theater was the heart of the addition with the glass roof (x.x). A fountain on the roof has water running down the sides, changing the perceptions of light from the inside and outside. Through the massive windows, the surrounding buildings are visible (x.x). The auditorium is in the heart of the new wing and was encased with a red-lacquered shell, the red bringing a bright contrast to the view from both inside and outside.
Decq designed Twist (10.5.24) to create a feeling of a natural landscape with sections offset from each other. The movements and sights of a company at work in an office building redefine the rectangular version of a company building. The dynamic movements of the walls change in sections and bring a fluidness to each area and how people move, sit, and work. The building has three parts; two are parallelepipeds, and the third appears as the head. The building itself slightly twists and the head forms a contrasted twist. From the inside, the transitional lines change and appear to be moving, creating a dynamic work environment. In the video, Decq discusses how architecture changes to meet the requirements of a different society. The video is an interview with Decq.
French architect Odile Decq is an unmistakable icon of architecture and contemporary design. In this new short film from the Time Space Existence series, Decq places her practice into the context of the revolutionary spirit of the 1960s, talks about cultivating a design approach while waiting for the critical acclaim awarded to male designers, and advocates for boldness and personality from today's generation of emerging architects.
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