The 10 Most Innovative Companies in Architecture

01 / Snøhetta >>

For design that's both social and beautiful that blurs the lines between architecture and landscape. Snohetta's buildings are notable for their "architecture of engagement," in which the social experience of the structure is as important as its form.

02 / BIG

For winning high profile commissions and international accolades—a feat given the firm's small size—thanks to the work of its Danish architect Bjarke Ingels. The studio has designed Denmark's much-lauded pavilion for the Shanghai Expo, put the final flourishes on the Figure 8 House in Copenhagen, unveiled a pyramid-shaped residential tower for Manhattan, and knocked off the competition for a waste treatment facility in Denmark by envisioning the unglam building as the site of an urban ski slope.

03 / Foreign Office Architects

For its bold vision for the digital media education center at Ravensbourne College, which defines the school as a machine for learning by melding departments, rethinking the function of classrooms, and incorporating social media into design.

04 / Sanaa

For Kazuyo Sejima and Ryue Nishizawa's ability to design properties that meld light, transparency, and materiality into ethereal spaces. These winners of the 2010 Pritzker Architecture prize designed the acclaimed New Museum in New York and the Rolex Learning Center in Lausanne, Switzerland. Next up: a new branch of the Louvre.

05 / REX

For transforming the abandoned skeleton of an unfinished hotel in Istanbul into the Vakko Fashion Center and Power Media Center, a significant new addition to Turkey's contemporary architectural landscape. Joshua Prince-Ramus's firm also won accolades in 2010 for designing the Wyly Theater in Dallas, the Edvard Munch Museum in Oslo, and the Finnish Innovation Funds' Low2No sustainable development in Helsinki

06 / Michael Maltzan

For scoring tony commissions, such as designing Michael Ovitz's house, while also tackling less glamorous work by by providing shelter and other accommodations for the poor in Los Angeles. Over the past 16 years, Maltzan has also worked on several housing projects and designed an arts complex for underprivileged children.

07 / Kengo Kuma

For developing a signature style that uses light and nature to reinterpret the design of traditional buildings. Kengo Kuma's big win in 2010 was beating out an array of the globe's heaviest architecture hitters to create a new landmark building for the Victoria and Albert Museum in Dundee, Scotland.

08 / T.R. Hamzah & Yeang International

For going beyond the usual LEED guidelines and broadcasting the green credentials of the buildings the firm designs by wrapping them in continuous strips of vegetation. Next up for thei Malaysian firm: a 26-story high-rise in Singapore whose photovoltaic panels, natural ventilation, and biogas generation plant are all wrapped in a "living wall" that covers half of its surface area.

09 / Moshe Safdie

For having a banner year, despite the difficult economic climate for architecture, and for debuting projects from Singapore to Arkansas. His most recent commission: a large residential tower in China.

10 / Diebedo Francis Kere

For doing innovative architecture projects in his native Burkina Faso, one of the poorest countries in Africa. Among them: using traditional unbaked mud bricks to rebuild a school.

Browse our list of The World's Most Innovative Companies 2011

[Photograph: Courtesy of MIR/Snøhetta]

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2 Comments

  • Jeremy Fretts

    It's amusing to me that even a business publication (Fast Company) gets caught up in the design lust. Why not talk about architecture firms that actually have innovative business practices? In my observation many (if not most) are "Slow Companies," averse to change, with outdated management models.