These fabulously innovative buildings are the future

By Oliver Smith 17 August 2017

Four glorious designs.

Whether it’s China’s vertical forests to house and protect the environment, fabulous prefab housing that’s slashing the cost of a new-builds or minimalist flat pack Muji cabins for the masses – the world of architecture is changing rapidly.

That’s why London’s Design Museum in revealing the shortlist for its 10th annual design awards, has shortlisted some of 2016’s most groundbreaking architecture.

From a plug-in house to a structure that harvests water from the atmosphere without any power, welcome to the habitats of the future:

Mrs Fan’s Plug-In House

For those living in Beijing in their early 30s, buying a property is nearly impossible.

Soaring property prices leave most people either stuck in cramped high-rise blocks in the centre, or in the suburbs where the conditions are best described as slum-like.

The Plug-in house was designed by the People’s Architecture Office in China to be thirty times less expensive that buying a typical apartment by using prefabricated techniques to reduce the cost.

It’s ‘plug-in’ nature comes from the fact that the structure is actually fused to an existing slum property, which has been cut open to allow the extension and transformation into a modern structure.

The final structure merges old with new, fusing a light, contemporary kitchen with a traditional living space.

Warka Water

Designed by Arturo Vittori, Warka Water is a prototype that has currently been constructed in Italy (but is designed for Ethiopia) to harvest water from the atmosphere.

Its design captures dew and fog overnight and in the early hours of the morning, as well as any rain throughout the day, all of which can be used for drinking or irrigation.

Depending on where it’s placed, the Warka structure can capture between 40 to 80 liters of water a day, and eventually Vittori plans to construct a Warka House which will combine the water-capturing properties of the tower with living quarters.

Wind and Rain Bridge

The Water and Rain Bridge was constructed in a mountainous region of China, around a village that was isolated following flooding in 2014.

Designed by Donn Holohan from the University of Hong Kong, the bridge is entirely built from interlocking panels of wood, with no mechanical fasteners or binding substances.

Its 265 pieces of wood are held together merely by gravity, and it was constructed in just 10 days.

Today the Water and Rain Bridge connects the previously isolated Peitian village with its surrounding farmlands.

Port House

This vast glass and metal ‘boat’ had to be constructed on top of Antwerp’s previously derelict fire station, an epic feat given the property below is heritage-listed.

Designed by famed architect Zaha Hadid, today it houses 500 staff from the city’s port authority.

“There was only one rule laid down in the architectural competition, namely that the original building had to be preserved,” said Marc Van Peel, president of the Port of Antwerp.

It’s also entirely heated and cooled by a geothermal energy system which pumps water 80m below sea level to heat it up and then circulate it around the building.