Year in review: top 10 architecture stories of 2023, selected by Wallpaper* architecture editor Ellie Stathaki

Stathaki presents her top 10 architecture stories of 2023, from a world-leading festival to lesser-known 20th-century architecture, contemporary transport hubs, museums and a pool to splash in

lord house by richard neutra refurbished in los angeles - part of the top 10 architecture stories of 2023 by Wallpaper* architecture editor Ellie Stathaki
(Image credit: Michael Weber)

Our top 10 architecture stories from 2023, as picked by Wallpaper’s Ellie Stathaki, offers a whistle-stop tour of the year; and what a year it was. From the critically acclaimed launch of the Venice Architecture Biennale 2023, to the opening of a slew of cultural spaces and private homes, our attention this year oscillated between key topics that have been prominent in the mind of the architectural world globally. Scroll below for a selection (in no particular order) of stories from 2023 touching on sustainability, community, innovation and emerging talent. 

Top 10 architecture stories of 2023

01. LA’s ‘lost’ Lord House by Richard Neutra is brought back to life by Spatial Practice

lord house in los angeles

(Image credit: Michael Weber)

When Dora Chi and Erik Amir came across Lord House in 2021, they knew they had struck gold. The Los Angeles home, commissioned by TV writer and composer Stephen Lord in 1961, may have been in a terrible state, all gutted and dilapidated, but the hand and intention of its architect were still present and strong. This was a modernist architecture classic waiting to be revived, an original Richard Neutra design, which the husband and wife team, and co-founders of young architecture studio Spatial Practice, decided to snap up and bring back to life. 

Lord House sits off Mulholland Drive at the end of a private road, in a lot that provides both seclusion and long views over the Los Angeles hills, with the Santa Monica Mountains and the San Fernando Valley in the distance. The two architects embarked on transforming the neglected structure into their own home, at the same time bringing it back to its former glory, respectfully restoring and sensitively tweaking the midcentury bones for 21st-century living. 'We were captured by the simplicity and purposeful design toward nature by Neutra that made the quality of space so unique,' says Dora Chi. 'Naturally, we were also excited to dive into the world of one of the most influential midcentury architects, Richard Neutra.'


02. Venice Architecture Biennale 2023: the ultimate guide

Olalekan Jeyifous' 'ACE/AAP'

(Image credit: Matteo de Mayda)

The Venice Architecture Biennale 2023 opened to the public in May 2023, its rich offerings around this year's theme, 'The Laboratory of the Future’, catering to a wide range of topics to be unpicked – as it should - promising exciting debate, spearheaded by this year's curator Lesley Lokko. Contributors come from across the globe, a mix of established names and emerging studios - from Francis Kéré, to Dream the Combine and Cave_bureau. A total of 89 contributors form the main show (and over half of them are from Africa or the African Diaspora), which is divided into six sections - all of which having impressively obtained a sustainability credential, flagging the importance of rethinking the festival model towards a more environmentally friendly future. 

Lokko saw the 18th iteration of what is probably the grandest festival of the built environment in the world, as 'an agent of change.' Curated by Lokko, the Venice Architecture Biennale 2023 main exhibition theme, titled 'The Laboratory of the Future’, put Africa in the spotlight. ‘Africa is the laboratory of the future,’ Lokko said during the Venice Biennale press conference in May 2022. ‘We are the continent with the world’s youngest population, the fastest urbanisation, growing at a rate of four per cent per year, often at the expense of local ecosystems – so we are at the forefront of climate change, too. Yes, the show will focus on Africa, but we are not only talking about Africa – we use it as a place in order to try and understand everything everywhere. After all, the Biennale itself is a workshop for the future.’ 


03. Museum of Art and Photography in Bangalore aims to democratise art and culture

MAP Museum of Art & Photography Bangalore nighttime hero exterior

(Image credit: Iwan Baan)

The Museum of Art and Photography (MAP) wasn’t born as a museum – at least, not in the flesh. Conceived by philanthropist and collector Abhishek Poddar in 2020 as India's first online-only art and photography gallery, it effectively upended the typical ‘physical-first, digital-next’ museum rulebook by assuming a bricks-and-mortar avatar earlier this month, three years after its digital launch. Situated in the heart of Bangalore, at the crossroads of Vidhana Soudha (the state capitol), The High Court, and the Government Museum, MAP – which officially opened its doors on 18 February 2023 – aims to preserve India’s rich artistic legacy by democratising art and culture, and making it accessible to diverse audiences. The museum is led by director Kamini Sawhney. 


04. Architect Byoung Cho on nature, imperfection and interconnectedness

AYU Space by Byoung Cho hero exterior

(Image credit: Sergio Pirrone)

When describing his architecture, Byoung Cho often talks about nature. But his connection to it is not achieved through specific physical means – such as materials of a certain provenance, or particular low-tech construction methods. He doesn’t only build on arcadian sites, neither does he forsake dense urban conditions or tall buildings. At the core of his practice, Cho places ‘interdependent nature,’ a flexible, context-specific take on architecture, centred on the idea of an equilibrium. He cites the Dalai Lama, who first talked about this concept in his ‘The Path to Tranquility’ (1998): ‘We need a clear awareness of the interdependent nature of nations, of humans and animals, and of humans, animals, and the world. I feel that many problems, especially man-made problems, are due to a lack of knowledge about this interdependent nature.’ 


05. Kempegowda International Airport’s Terminal 2 is a celebration of its ‘garden city’, Bengaluru

Kempegowda International Airport by SOM hero exterior day time

(Image credit: Ar. Ekansh Goel © Studio Recall)

Kempegowda International Airport has just unveiled its new Terminal 2 structure, a pioneering bamboo design by architecture studio SOM. Located in Bengaluru (BLR Airport), southern India, this significant piece of transport infrastructure services one of the country's largest cities – as well as its wider region. Aiming to create a facility that not only can handle the 25 million new visitors expected, but is also rooted in nature and sustainable architecture, the new terminal is rich in interior planting, lush exterior gardens (its landscaped spaces designed in collaboration with Grant Associates and Abu Jani/Sandeep Khosla), and natural materials such as brick and bamboo. It is all conceived to uphold Bengaluru's reputation as the 'garden city'.


06. Perelman Performing Arts Center by REX is New York’s marble-clad cultural gem

Perelman Performing Arts Center by REX in its context in final stages of construction

(Image credit: Iwan Baan)

The Perelman Performing Arts Center (PAC NYC) in Lower Manhattan – the final public piece of the 2003 masterplan to redevelop the World Trade Center site – officially opens in September 2023. Guided by the leadership of former mayor Michael Bloomberg, the new not-for-profit arts centre will celebrate the artists and audiences of New York City and the connections to be made between music, theatre, dance, opera and film, with a mission to demonstrate that the arts have the power to entertain, inspire and unite.  PAC NYC is housed in a building befitting a modern-day cultural keystone. Designed by New York-based firm Rex, and created in collaboration with executive architects Davis Brody Bond and theatre consultant Charcoalblue, who developed the initial brief, the 138ft-tall monolithic structure boasts an eye-catching marble façade that appears solid by day, but gives way to a translucent and luminous appearance by night. Made from thin slabs of veined Portuguese marble that have been laminated on both sides with glass, bookmatched and fabricated into insulated panels, the façade allows natural light to penetrate the space while still upholding the building’s energy performance.


07. Behind the V&A East Museum’s pleated façade

V&A East Museum hero exterior

(Image credit: Peter Kelleher © Victoria & Albert Museum, London)

It only takes a quick walk around Stratford station to realise that there are changes afoot in this corner of east London; and one of the biggest is swiftly taking shape, its concrete pleats seemingly moving in the summer breeze. V&A East Museum and its dynamic, soon-to-be instantly recognisable volume is somewhere midway through construction. The cultural destination is working full steam ahead towards a 2025 opening, as part of a twin scheme alongside V&A East Storehouse (designed by Diller Scofidio + Renfro with support from Austin-Smith:Lord), the V&A’s upcoming immersive archive experience. The new museum’s architects, Dublin-based practice O’Donnell + Tuomey, stress that in their project, this urban context was key – as was creativity, making and design itself, which not only will be celebrated in the content and exhibits, but also offered inspiration for the structure’s shape. 


08. Floating infinity pool by Herzog & De Meuron at Lake Como is largest of its kind

Mandarin Oriental floating infinity pool platform by Herzog and de Meuron

(Image credit: Mandarin Oriental)

Known for its dramatic scenery, set against the foothills of the Alps, it's easy to see why Lake Como has long been the go-to destination for the rich and famous. Standing proud amid the lush greenery of a botanical park on the lake’s south-east shores, the 19th-century Villa Roccabruna, with its bold neoclassical lines, perfectly encapsulates the romance of the destination, not least because it is the former home of one of Italy’s most beloved opera singers, Giuditta Pasta. These days, the property has been transformed into a hotel by the Mandarin Oriental group, and includes a total of 21 rooms, 52 suites, two standalone villas, two restaurants and an award-winning lower-level spa, designed by Swiss architecture practice Herzog & de Meuron. This season, the resort stepped things up again, with the launch of its much-awaited 40m floating infinity pool – the largest in the world. Created by the same firm, the pool, from the lake, is a beauty to look at, an understated addition that complements the villa’s original architecture and the lower vaulted stone colonnade it sits against.


09. Tomoaki Uno’s forest-inspired office in Japan is mesmerising

tree trunks seen in Forest office in Japan by Tomoaki Uno

(Image credit: Edmund Sumner)

The Meito Arts Association Office, designed by Tomoaki Uno, a 62-year-old Japanese architect, is unlike any other workplace. To enter it, you are forced to bend down, then squeeze through a circular hole cut into the middle of a large cement block. When you’ve straightened up, you are suddenly confronted by large tree trunks towering over you from floor to ceiling. One of them is slightly out of line. ‘We couldn’t fit that one in but I didn’t want to waste it, so we just found a random place for it in between the others,’ the architect says. Its placement makes the room feel more like a real forest, rather than what it is: an architect-designed office space. Could we call it ‘Forest Office’? ‘I don’t mind what you call it,’ Uno says, unperturbed. ‘Each project is like a child I’ve nurtured, but that child will not be a carbon copy of me. Whatever I create as an architect is not a direct expression of me. It will have its own life.’


10. Wallpaper* Architects Directory 2023: meet the practices

wallpaper* architects directory graphic

(Image credit: Future)

The full list for the Wallpaper* Architects Directory 2023 was revealed with our October 2023 issue, celebrating 20 studios as our finest emerging architects to watch. Conceived in 2000 as an international index of architectural talent, the Wallpaper* Architects’ Directory is our annual listing of promising practices from across the globe. While always championing the best and most promising young studios, over the years, the project has showcased inspiring work with an emphasis on the residential realm. Now including more than 500 alumni, the Architects’ Directory is back for its 23rd edition. This year’s survey participants? 20 young studios, from Australia, Brazil, Canada, Congo, Ecuador, Greece, Hong Kong, India, Italy, Japan, Lebanon, Mozambique, Pakistan, Senegal, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, the UAE, the UK, the USA and Vietnam, with plenty of promise, ideas and exciting architecture.


Ellie Stathaki is the Architecture & Environment Director at Wallpaper*. She trained as an architect at the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki in Greece and studied architectural history at the Bartlett in London. Now an established journalist, she has been a member of the Wallpaper* team since 2006, visiting buildings across the globe and interviewing leading architects such as Tadao Ando and Rem Koolhaas. Ellie has also taken part in judging panels, moderated events, curated shows and contributed in books, such as The Contemporary House (Thames & Hudson, 2018), Glenn Sestig Architecture Diary (2020) and House London (2022).