Futuristic architecture: mind-bending structures conjuring visions of tomorrow

Inspired by the future – from Blade Runner to Black Mirror – these architectural projects combine technology, engineering, material science and imagination. Be transported into tomorrow by these infinite facades, eternal elevators and limitless lobbies – a new architectural dimension is upon us.

Zaha Hadid Architects

(Image credit: Zaha Hadid Architects)

Morpheus hotel, Macau, designed by Zaha Hadid Architects (opens in new tab)

Designed by Zaha Hadid Architects, the 150,000 sq m, 40 storey flagship Morpheus hotel in Macau is the final chapter of Melco Resorts and Entertainment’s sprawling City of Dreams resort development, combining casino gaming, shopping and four other hotels located on the Cotai Strip. The unconventional monolithic structure features a freeform exoskeleton that rises from ground level, wrapping around a pair of towers and a cathedral-like central atrium to create a gargantuan block punctuated by three undulating voids that reflect the figure eight.

Zaha Hadid Architects


(Image credit: Zaha Hadid Architects)

Morpheus hotel, Macau, designed by Zaha Hadid Architects (opens in new tab)
Inside, three futuristic sky bridges connect the main circulation cores while providing vertigo-inducing communal dining and lounge spaces. There are 780 hotel rooms and the upper seven floors house VIP gaming facilities, three pool villas and six duplex villas, as well as a semi-enclosed rooftop swimming pool. Interior design by California-based Peter Remedios takes inspiration from super-yachts with custom-design textiles and furnishings.

Goetheanum, Switzerland,

(Image credit: François Coquerel )

Goetheanum, Switzerland, by Rudolf Steiner (opens in new tab)

When Austrian architect and thinker Rudolf Steiner developed his philosophy of Anthroposophy in Germany at the turn of the 20th century, he soon came to require a place from which to spread its teachings of spirituality and science. Named after German writer Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, whose works Steiner studied and revered, the Goetheanum was therefore born for this purpose on the rising slopes of the Jura Mountains overlooking the town of Dornach, Switzerland.

Goetheanum, Switzerland

(Image credit: Francois Coquerel)

Goetheanum, Switzerland, by Rudolf Steiner (opens in new tab)

One of the largest reinforced concrete buildings of its time, the Goetheanum has an enigmatic design that combines the charismatic volume of Gaudí, with the zeal of an Orthodox onion dome and the command of a Brutalist masterpiece. Perhaps surprisingly, its form grew directly from its function as a venue for performance and learning. Steiner compared the Goetheanum to a shell shaped around its kernel. Steiner’s kernel was the living and breathing activity of the main theatre with 1000 seats at the heart of the plan. From here, performance spaces, rehearsal rooms, classrooms and offices evolve as if Steiner was building from inside to out.

Zaha Hadid Architects

(Image credit: Zaha Hadid Architects)

Mathematics gallery at the London Science Musuem, by Zaha Hadid Architects (opens in new tab)

‘Mathematics: The Winton Gallery’ is a permanent public exhibition designed by Zaha Hadid Architects for the Science Museum in London. Inspired by aerodynamics – with the revolutionary Handley Page ‘Gugnunc’ aeroplane soaring through its midst – the gallery architecture descends down onto the displays, its swooping voluminous curves wrapping up the objects into a convincing case history on how mathematics is the pivot of our human world.

Zaha Hadid Architects

(Image credit: Zaha Hadid Architects)

Mathematics gallery at the London Science Musuem, by Zaha Hadid Architects (opens in new tab)

The gallery was designed around 100 artefacts selected from the science, technology, engineering and mathematics collections at the museum. A symmetrical pod-like structure made of fabric with a frame of powder-coated aluminium engulfs existing columns in the gallery, creating a central seating area and folding itself around display cases all lit by a soft and unearthly glow, which fades from yellow to pink to light purple.

Eppich House

(Image credit: Grant Harder)

Eppich House, West Vancouver, Canada, by Arthur Erickson (opens in new tab)

The Arthur Erickson-designed Eppich House, created with his long-time collaborator Nick Milkovich, is both time capsule and design beacon. The house is a modernist classic, built for a steel manufacturer and his family, but it is far removed from its more rectilinear relations, such as Mies van der Rohe’s Farnsworth House. Its curvilinear lines and response to the site are much more Frank Lloyd Wright than Mies – a late 1970s equivalent to Fallingwater that took a decade to complete, with owner Hugo Eppich acting as general contractor.

Eppich House

(Image credit: Grant Harder)

Eppich House, West Vancouver, Canada, by Arthur Erickson (opens in new tab)

Everything inside the house, including the curved steel furniture, was custom-designed by Erickson and his partner Francisco Kripacz, and manufactured by Eppich’s Ebco Industries. ‘Steel is different in nature than concrete,’ said the late Erickson of the house. ‘It’s a malleable material, like plastic. I wanted to show its plasticity by taking I-beams and curving them.’ But more than anything, this house is a device to bring the outside in. Chrome-plated, polished steel columns, extensive glazing and water elements reflect and refract the surrounding greenery, creating a translucent residential cocoon.

DUO, Singapore

(Image credit: Claudio Chock)

DUO, Singapore, by Büro Ole Scheeren (opens in new tab)

Büro Ole Scheeren’s DUO is sheathed with a honeycombed grid of hexagons – a pattern Scheeren used with great effect on his first Singaporean project at the Interlace - the striking silhouette of the twin-towered mixed-used development more than holds its own against its senior neighbours including IM Pei’s majestic Gateway Towers, Paul Rudolph’s griddled Concourse, and DP Architects’ Golden Mile Complex found along Singapore’s Beach Road.

Salerno Maritime Terminal

(Image credit: Helen Binet)

Salerno Maritime Terminal, by Zaha Hadid Architects (opens in new tab)

The Salerno Maritime Terminal in the Campania region of southern Italy was kick-started by then-mayor Vincenzo De Luca to aid the area’s social, economic and environmental regeneration. Completed under mayor Vincenzo Napoli, the building’s hard, asymmetric concrete shell was designed to protect users from the region’s hot sun during the popular summer vacation months. Its curvaceous form – a Hadid trademark – even takes its references from the sea, abstractly resembling an oyster.

Salerno Maritime Terminal

(Image credit: Helen Binet)

Salerno Maritime Terminal, by Zaha Hadid Architects (opens in new tab)

The programme inside is straightforward, containing administration offices for national border controls and shipping lines; a terminal for international ferries and cruise ships; and a separate terminal for local and regional ferries. Internal ramps criss-cross the building, enhancing connections between areas. The terminal’s striking form is illuminated at night, acting as a beacon or lighthouse for the coastal town. ’The new terminal operates, both functionally and visually, as a smooth transition between land and sea,’ explain the architects, ’a coastal land formation that mediates between solid and liquid.’

University of Iowa’s Visual Arts Building

(Image credit: Iwan Baan)

University of Iowa’s Visual Arts Building, by Steven Holl (opens in new tab)

The Univeristy of Iowa Visual Arts Building is a strong three-dimensional composition of stacked concrete-frame boxes that creates a carefully articulated façade of interlinked volumes, as well as seven courtyards. These, together with several minimalist square openings that dot the façades, ensure plenty of natural light and ventilation inside, bringing sunlight deep into the structure’s generous floorplates. The perforated Rheinzink (zinc) cladding also works to this end. At the same time, its pattern adds texture to the external appearance and lends the building its cool, steely grey hue.

University of Iowa’s Visual Arts Building

(Image credit: Iwan Baan)

University of Iowa’s Visual Arts Building, by Steven Holl (opens in new tab)

Inside, a clean white interior matched with polished concrete floors is structured around a system of interlocking ramps and staircases that forms the building’s main circulation system. Featuring generous landings and occasionally opening up to lounge areas, the ‘stairs are shaped to encourage meeting, interaction and discussion’, explain the architects.

La Alameda, Seville

(Image credit: Juan Delgado)

La Alameda, Seville, by Lucas y Hernández Gil (opens in new tab)

Madrid-based design firm Lucas y Hernández Gil took its cues from a mishmash of influences for La Alameda including Blade Runner and the poetic vision of Italian artist Giorgio Morandi – famous for his still life paintings. ‘We reworked the usual codes of an industrial space,’ say the designers. ‘It is a balance of opposites... accents of exposed pipes, rounded forms, smooth matt textures on walls and floors that contrast with a corrugated metal ceiling that gives silver reflections.’ 

La Alameda, Seville

(Image credit: Juan Delgado)

La Alameda, Seville, by Lucas y Hernández Gil (opens in new tab)

On a base of unpolished concrete, the designers have layered candy-coloured pink and yellow velvet furnishings – Marcel Breuer’s Cesca chairs and the studio’s own collection – while sensual curves, including circular mirrors and lighting add a sense of warmth to the otherwise clean-lined space. Neon lighting meanwhile, adapts to the time of the day to meet the various offerings. ‘The neon lighting is projected at varying intensities and in different colours to meet the different audiences,’ explain the designers.

Yangzhou bookstore

(Image credit: Shao Feng)

Yangzhou bookstore, Yangzhou, China (opens in new tab)

At this Yangzhou bookshop an optical illusion turns an ordinary, rectangular room into a cylindrical tunnel. Created by Shanghai-based studio XL-Muse for book retailers Zhongshuge, a black mirrored floor paired with two walls of arched shelving helps to create a seemingly never-ending funnel of books.

Yangzhou bookstore

(Image credit: Shao Feng)

Yangzhou bookstore, Yangzhou, China (opens in new tab)

The design is inspired by the rich cultural heritage of Yangzhou, said to be a historical gathering place for literati and poets. The lead designer Li Xiang took inspiration from a verse in the classic Chinese romance novel A Dream of Red Mansions, by Cao Xueqin, which is thought to refer to the area in which the shop now stands. Visitors are supposed to flow with the river, swept along by the black mirrored floor, deeper into the bookshop and ‘into the vast ocean of knowledge,’ explains Xiang.

EUR Convention Hall and Hotel

(Image credit: Moreno Maggi)

EUR Convention Hall and Hotel/The Cloud, Rome, Italy, by Studio Fuksas (opens in new tab)

This eco-friendly complex is a mammoth of a project, comprising everything from auditoria, exhibition spaces and a hotel, to 55,000 sq m of public space, and bringing together trade and tourism in the Eternal City. Located in Rome’s business district of EUR, the centre is divided into three distinct architectural concepts, explain the architects: the basement, the Theca and Cloud, and the Blade. These respectively host the main foyer, information point and congress and exhibition hall; the glass and metal clad public space for conferences, exhibitions and large-scale events, as well as an auditorium; and the 439-room hotel.

EUR Convention Hall and Hotel

(Image credit: Moreno Maggi)

EUR Convention Hall and Hotel/The Cloud, Rome, Italy, by Studio Fuksas (opens in new tab)

The Cloud in particular is one of the complex’s most eye-catching design gestures. Its cocoon-like form sits hovering over the public areas, made of highly advanced membrane fibreglass and flame-retardant silicone. High-tech applications also extend to the building’s environmental strategies, which include a natural ventilation system, a rainwater harvesting system and photovoltaic panels.

Colorado Springs’ Air Force Academy

(Image credit: Magda Biernat)

Colorado Springs’ Air Force Academy, US, SOM (opens in new tab)

The Center for Character and Leadership Development (CCLD) is an addition to SOM’s 1954 design of Colorado Springs’ Air Force Academy. The building is a symbolic yet practical structure totals 46,000 sq ft and is a critical meeting point between public and cadet areas of the site, acting as a nexus due to its select location by different sectors of the building which are each designated to professors, cadets, important visitors and the public. 

Colorado Springs’ Air Force Academy

(Image credit: Magda Biernat)

Colorado Springs’ Air Force Academy, US, SOM (opens in new tab)

The building contains a forum, a flexible working space, collaboration conference and seminar rooms, along with a library, offices and an honour board room where important matters concerning the Cadet Honor Code are held.

Colorado Springs’ Air Force Academy

(Image credit: Magda Biernat)

Colorado Springs’ Air Force Academy, US, SOM (opens in new tab)

A 105 ft skylight looms over the CCLD’s visitors casting natural light into the depths of the building. The glass structure was designed to align with the position of the North Star, to the signify the Academy’s guiding values. An architectural and engineering marvel, the dynamic structure is composed from Architecturally Exposed Structural Steel (AESS), and exists without any embellishment or ornamentation, its sleek connections working in aesthetic harmony with SOM’s refined and pared-back design.

Sheats Goldstein house

(Image credit: Jeff Green)

Sheats Goldstein house, Los Angeles, by John Lautner (opens in new tab)

With its sloping angles and clam-shell-like structure that boast striking views of Los Angeles, the Sheats Goldstein residence was designed by architect John Lautner in the early 1960s, and immortalised in pop culture through films like The Big Lebowski and fashion shoots by legends like Herb Ritts, Helmut Newton and Michel Comte (as well as ads for Jimmy Choo).

Sheats Goldstein house

(Image credit: Jeff Green)

Sheats Goldstein house, Los Angeles, by John Lautner (opens in new tab)

The house’s owner – businessman and fashion/basketball aficionado James F Goldstein – has ensured that the house will be experienced for generations to come by  donating the residence to LACMA. Pictured here, interiors and custom furniture at the house.

Origami House

(Image credit: Matthieu Salvaing)

Origami House, Kuwait, by AGi Architects (opens in new tab)

This house gained its nickname the Origami House owing to its resemblance to a large piece of grey paper that has been bent and folded into shape. The 1,300 sq m home is formed from reinforced concrete and a lot of stainless steel, which was used to make the doors, balconies and some of the windows.

Origami house

(Image credit: Matthieu Salvaing)

Origami House, Kuwait, by AGi Architects (opens in new tab)

Middle Eastern and Islamic architectural styles can be observed all over the house – in the use of mashrabiya latticework in the screens, for example, through which the sun dapples the interior space. The internal spaces are organised around a central courtyard, where a concrete pool provides a focal point.

The Mercedes Benz Stadium

(Image credit: HOK)

The Mercedes Benz Stadium, Atlanta, by HOK (opens in new tab)

Home to the Atlanta Falcons football team and Atlanta United FC soccer team and located just next to Atlanta’s Georgia Dome on the western edge of Downtown, the Mercedes Benz Stadium is notable for its ‘Ocular Roof’, which features eight ETFE-clad petals that slide past each other simultaneously on steel trusses, simulating an opening flower or camera aperture, and eliciting more than a few gaping expressions. The apparatus – emblazoned, of course, with the Mercedes-Benz logo – can open or close in about ten minutes. The roof’s lightweight ETFE membrane allows natural light to filter inside. The rest of the stadium contains eight triangular steel and glass sections whose angular sides echo the logo of the Atlanta Falcons, and create a stunning imprint on the Atlanta skyline.

The CoFuFun station plaza

(Image credit: Daici Ano)

The CoFuFun station plaza, Tenri, Japan, by Nendo (opens in new tab)

The CoFuFun station plaza at Tenri Station in Japan, designed by Nendo, is an upbeat urban intervention and a new community hub for Tenri City in Nara prefecture. The 6000 sq m plaza features a series of white circular structures, that serve as multi-functional pavilions hosting a café, shops, information kiosk, bike rental, a play area, an outdoor stage and a meeting area. The orbiting concrete forms are also historically informed, referencing ancient Japanese burial structures ’cofun,’ common to Nara which can be found dotted around the mountainous area surrounding the city.

The CoFuFun station plaza

(Image credit: Daici Ano)

The CoFuFun station plaza, Tenri, Japan, by Nendo (opens in new tab)

While playful, these contemporary interpretations of cofun are very conducive to public space, with the stepped layers welcoming all manner of purposes from seating, to steps, to roofs, to shelves for products in shops, fences, or simply delightful sculptural forms for weaving around on your commute. Instead of a gateway, this new station plaza is a destination in itself. It takes on board its tasks, to provide space for people to wait, meet or waste time, yet activates its potential to bring people together and revitalize the community.

La Seine Musicale

(Image credit: Laurent Blossier)

La Seine Musicale, Paris, France, by Shigeru Ban and Jean de Gastines (opens in new tab)

Designed by Shigeru Ban and Jean de Gastines, La Seine Musicale on Île Seguin is an icon of the 21st century and a gateway to west Paris. The most striking feature of La Seine Musicale is the egg-shaped auditorium made of glass and a lattice of timber laminate from a woven spruce wood and accessorised with a dynamic 800 sq m sail of photovoltaic cells, which shields this core from direct sunlight. This agile and entirely solar-powered form is mounted on rails and follows the path of the sun at 15 minute intervals as it progresses, supplying the auditorium with energy.

La Seine Musicale

(Image credit: Laurent Blossier)

La Seine Musicale, Paris, France, by Shigeru Ban and Jean de Gastines (opens in new tab)

A warm and organic interior contrasts the technology-inspired futuristic outer-shell. Designed to bring audiences closer to musicians, a gentle terrace of seating holds a capacity of 1,150 people. The Grand Lobby, pictured, is a covered ‘street’ that progresses through the heart of La Seine Musicale and out the other side. This was a route planned by Jean Nouvel, when he set out his masterplan for the Île Seguin in 2010 – a complex task for the long and narrow 2.35 hectare site.

Centro Botin

(Image credit: Enrico Cano)

Centro Botin, Santander, Spain, by Renzo Piano (opens in new tab)

The bulky tank shaped building is covered in the 280,000 pearly, circular ceramic tiles. Like the scales of a fish, the surface effervesces in the sunlight, absorbing reflections from the sea. The volume of the building has been sliced neatly down the centre, and opened up to reveal two façades of glass (which allow floods of light into the gallery and auditorium spaces inside). These two volumes were hoisted up onto slim stilts and a fully glazed ground floor restaurant, café and shop.

Centro Botin

(Image credit: Enrico Cano)

Centro Botin, Santander, Spain, by Renzo Piano (opens in new tab)

Piano moved the circulation to the exterior, so the volumes are accessible and connected by light walkways and staircases of steel and glass. The submarine-style building quotes the industrial waterfront economy of the city, which originated as a Roman port settlement, and now is a major cruise ship terminal. Driving down the S-10 road into the city, from the rocky and green countryside of Cantabria, Santander’s urban identity is defined by the warehouses, tanks and containers of the fishing and ship building industries that line the waterfront.

NASA Orbit Pavilion

(Image credit: Chuck Choi)

NASA Orbit Pavilion, pictured here in NYC, designed by Studio KCA (opens in new tab)

This shell-shaped chamber has a futuristic skin of aluminium panels that are cut with a pattern that illustrates the orbital paths of the satellites through space. The decision to use the water jet cutting technique for the structure was made because of ‘the precision and quality needed in making so many cuts across 3,500 sf of material’. The captivating pavilion, a symbol for the collaboration between the STEM industries, has been inspiring younger generations of astronomers and architects alike.

Exhibition road Quarter

(Image credit: Hufton + Crow)

Exhibition road Quarter, V&A , London, UK, by AL_A (opens in new tab)

A sleek new ‘quarter’ designed by AL_A, led by Amanda Levete, for London’s Victoria & Albert Museum includes a huge performance space, art handling units, a cargo entrance and a modern courtyard entrance, which smoothly ensconces a café and shop into its porcelain-tiled midst, and guides visitors to the new entrance hall. With the open contemporary courtyard, the museum hopes to interest new audiences into the space which includes a futuristic-looking metallic oculus, and a sweeping aluminium extension that glides between the existing Grade I building.

Exhibition road Quarter

(Image credit: Hufton + Crow)

Exhibition road Quarter, V&A , London, UK, by AL_A (opens in new tab)

This is just the tip of the iceberg. Eighteen metres below ground is where the rest of the story plays out; the 11,100 sq m column-less Sainsbury Gallery – which stretches 38m in length – will be a new venue for live music and ‘performance’. In a spirit of renewal and evolution of the much-loved museum, Levete weaves sensitive references to its heritage throughout her contemporary design. The 11,000 handmade porcelain tiles that coat the courtyard in a luminous surface were inspired by the collections.

Molecure Pharmacy

(Image credit: Waterfrom Design)

Molecure Pharmacy, Taichung, Taiwan, by Waterfrom Design (opens in new tab)

A combination of natural and man-made materials were selected for the interiors of this pharmacy in contrast to the often unwelcoming, sterile composition of pharmacies. Molecure Pharmacy in Taichung, Taiwan, has been designed with a modern holistic concept in mind. Designed by local architecture practice Waterfrom Design, the interior design encourages an ambience that endorses a healthy state of mind.

Molecure Pharmacy

(Image credit: Waterfrom Design)

Molecure Pharmacy, Taichung, Taiwan, by Waterfrom Design (opens in new tab)

The open dispensing area known as the ‘green laboratory’ features a large counter, the base made from the trunk of a century-old tree. The walls are decorated with white beach pebbles and lined with floor-to-ceiling metal and lightweight glass modular-systems. Display cases are stocked in abundance with attractive remedial products and antique medicine bottles and a bronzed spiral staircase stands in the centre of the store, cleverly imitating the double-helix structure of a DNA molecule.

Innovation lab for China Resources Group

(Image credit: Dirk Weiblen)

Innovation lab for China Resources Group, Huizhou, China, by Aim Architecture

Design and technology often go hand-in-hand, and never more so than in the places where great ideas begin: science labs. Shanghai-based studio Aim Architecture combined these factors for the innovation lab for China Resources Group, one of China’s largest industrial conglomerates. The space, set within an existing building where it occupies a fairly compact 700 sq m within a single floor, is situated in the Chinese city of Huizhou, which is part of the Pearl River Delta River industrial region. 

Innovation lab for China Resources Group

(Image credit: Dirk Weiblen)

Innovation lab for China Resources Group, Huizhou, China, by Aim Architecture (opens in new tab)

There is an all-white, aluminium-clad, futuristic interior data hub; a room filled with partition screens and movable whiteboards for creative workshops; and several meeting and presentation areas of varying sizes that are defined by fabric curtains. The interior lighting is embedded within the acoustic ceiling panels, becoming an ornament in itself and defining the space with its strong linearity. A strong palette contrasted with colour blocking in black or white in certain areas creates a varied experience and different atmospheres, bringing a sense of diversity and generosity to this relatively modest-sized interior.

Ellie Stathaki is the Architecture Editor 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) and Glenn Sestig Architecture Diary (2020).