The World's Top 10 Most Innovative Companies in Architecture

1_Foster + Partners

For using old-world techniques to bring Jordan’s Queen Alia Airport into the modern era. The new terminal, slated for completion in early 2013, will have space for 9 million passengers, up from its current capacity of 3 million. Bedouin tent structures and dome shapes, inspired by Jordan’s unique history, lessen the desert heat.

2_Snohetta

For aspiring to reunite New Yorkers with Times Square by reconfiguring the messy pedestrian plaza. The design firm’s success with its opera house in Oslo--famous for a slanted roof that provides a welcoming seat for visitors--also helped it win a bid for a waterside opera house in Busan, South Korea.

3_Adjaye Associate

For keeping libraries relevant with the beautiful, open-air Francis George Library in Washington, D.C. Adjaye’s banner year includes beating out 70 firms with its bid for the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture, for which it will break ground on the National Mall in Washington, D.C., this year, and an affordable housing project in Harlem.

4_Wang Shu

For rebelling against the westernization of modern China. Shu’s museums, academies, and homes speak to China’s roots, aesthetically and, most importantly, literally: He advocates use of inexpensive materials like recycled bricks and tiles from renovated sites.

5_Perkins+Will

For leading the crusade to clean up our buildings--from hospitals to schools--by using better building materials. Perkins+Will advocates for healthier people through healthier buildings, meaning no more paints, countertops, or carpets with chemical toxins.

6_Herzog & de Meuron

For paring down design to fit the setting. Its Parrish Art Museum in Water Mill, New York, will mimic the traditional artist studios found in eastern Long Island.

7_Populous

For outfitting London for the 2012 Olympics--and beyond. The firm wanted to do away with white elephants--expensive, gargantuan structures that are useless after the games (look no further than the Bird’s Nest in Beijing). Populous’s modular stadium was the first of its kind, and its capacity of 80,000 can be reduced to 25,000, depending on London’s needs.

8_Arup

For engineering a madcap vision of the sustainable future. Its designs included public swimming pools in New York’s East River and a new King’s Cross Station in London.

9_Mazzanti Arquitectos

For revitalizing the slums of Bogota in Colombia by turning crime-ridden public spaces into delightful community centers. The Cubierta Cazucá canopy in Bogota transformed an unused basketball court into a shaded sports court and public plaza for the neighborhood.

10_Lake|Flato

For designing the new Texan landscape. The San Antonio–based group created structures with an aesthetic unique to Austin (the Hotel San Jose) and west Texas (the Thunderbird Motel, which played a crucial role in establishing Marfa, Texas, as a destination for creative folk). Lake|Flato’s recently launched Porch House project, a collection of high-end, modular, and LEED-certified dwellings, is one of the first appealing examples of pre-fab housing.

[Image: Flickr user Bert Kaufmann]

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