Top 10 smart buildings in the world

Top 10 smart buildings in the world

Dave Tyson is Managing Director at leading structural and civil engineering practice Design2e. With experience spanning over 30 years, he has been responsible for the delivery of many structures and civil engineering projects with build values in excess of $140mn. Here, Tyson reveals his top 10 ‘smart’ buildings from across the globe. ‘Smart’ can be interpreted in many ways, but Tyson has focused on seminal works rather than simply paying homage to clever electronics.

10 | Market Hall, Rotterdam

Designed by Winy Maas, Jacob van Rijs and Nathalie de Vries

This $216mn market hall is made up of 228 apartments, 100 fresh market produce stalls, food related retail units, preparation and cooling space, a supermarket and 1,200 parking spaces. The horseshoe-shaped building has a glass façade on both sides and these are full height glass screens. Only by visiting can you appreciate just how thin the end glass wall construction is and how smart the building is. The shape of the building provides a structure that can resist the tensioned rods strung across the glass screens that resist the horizontal wind forces.

9 | Wohlen High School, Roofs and Hall, Wohlen, Switzerland

Designed by Santiago Calatrava 

Calatrava’s contribution to Wohlen High School is a collection of four roofs: an outside entrance canopy, an inside entrance hall, the assembly hall and the library. While all four roofs are quite different, they are all signature Calatrava. This design is worthy of inclusion on my list, not only for its control of light, but also for its elegance in form and clever structure. The petal-like circular roof represents a very intelligent engineering form.


8 | Kuwait Pavilion, Sevilla, Spain

Designed by Santiago Calatrava 

This is an ingenious way to control sunlight. Kuwait had become a focus for international events, but the culture remained little known. Calatrava came up with the design of this pavilion to represent Kuwait, but also as a symbol of internationalism. Seventeen scimitar-shaped ribs, each 25m in length, are computer-controlled to open and close in 15 pre-programmed positions to let in the desired amount of sunlight. It’s just a shame that the pavilion has not been kept in pristine condition for all to see and now rots in obscurity after the Expo in 1992.

7 | Church of the Light, Osaka, Japan

Designed by Tadao Ando

This is a real example of form which follows function. Tadao Ando has merged architecture and nature to create a cruciform of light which is pure magic. Using the medium of concrete which is simply glued-together earth, the course nature of the concrete is managed in such a mannered way that makes this otherwise plain space exquisite. Completed in 1989, the Church of the Light was a renovation to an existing Christian compound in Ibaraki.

6 | Gallery Of The Menil Collection, Houston, Texas

Designed by Renzo Piano

Influenced by Luis Khan’s Yale Centre for British Art, this building brings attention to detail together with control of light. Piano wanted the whole gallery to be illuminated by natural light. The solution was a roof of ‘leaves’ of thin ferro-cement. The outside walls are cypress wood timbered in reference to the surrounding houses in the neighbourhood. Renzo Piano’s IBM pavilion is another great example of where attention to detail has driven the design and modular construction.


5 | The Pompidou Centre, Paris, France

Designed by Renzo Piano

The Pompidou Centre is a real example of how to build with future adaptability. It has its own style – which I’ll admit takes some getting used to – but the building has certainly performed and delivered on flexibility. Each 7,500 sqm floor extends through the building entirely uninterrupted by load-bearing structures, meaning it can be divided up and reorganised at will for exhibitions or a myriad of other activities.

4 | The Steve Jobs Theater, Cupertino, California

Designed by Norman Foster

The Steve Jobs Theater is a real example of how you can be inside and outside at the same time. The use of glass with the distinctive 155-foot metallic carbon fibre ‘flying saucer lid’ is a symbol to the world that Apple is still reaching for the stars. The building is sending a clear message about who is using it, which I admire.

One of the most stunning aspects of the Steve Jobs Theater is the large, completely open top floor. There’s no visible frame, pipes, wires, or speakers – they are hidden in 20 of the thin joints separating each glass panel. Beautiful in its simplicity.

3 | Riverside Museum, Glasgow, Scotland

Designed by Zara Hadid

The Riverside Museum is a more modest example of a building with flowing style that still plays with your senses. It is a clear blend of the vernacular historic form, turned in a dynamic space, that draws you through it. It too has the capacity to be adaptable, given its simple expanse of open space. With its distinctive zinc zig-zag roof, the building – open at opposite ends – has a tunnel-like configuration between the city and the Clyde.

2 | Guggenheim Museum, Bilbao, Spain

Designed by Frank Gehry

This list would not be complete without something from the body of work of Frank Gehry. The Guggenheim Museum shows how architecture can drive regeneration, as well as how deconstructional architecture manages the internal environment, and especially light, very well. The building provides vistas and spaces you cannot get bored with. The sculpture-like structure perfectly integrates with the surrounding area.

1 | Beijing National Stadium, China

Designed by Ai Weiwei, Pierre de Meuron, Jacques Herzog, Li Xinggang

Alongside the theme of chaos being used in architecture, the Beijing National Stadium has something of a playfulness about it. It is its nickname, the “Bird’s Nest”, that gives away its attempt to emulate nature. It is still man-made and a little heavy, therefore the Beijing National Aquatics Centre is probably the cleverer of the two from a structural perspective. However, the Bird’s Nest – the world’s largest enclosed space and also the world’s largest steel structure – simply oozes presence.