26 of the most beautiful buildings in the world, according to architects

Archimatika/World Architecture Festival
  • The World Architecture Festival is the world’s largest international architectural event.
  • During the festival, a panel of expert judges recognises the best architecture of the year through the World Architecture Awards.
  • Hundreds of designs were shortlisted during the 12th annual World Architecture Festival in December, but less than 30 completed buildings won an overall or category award.
  • This year’s winners include a library in the Netherlands, a nursery in Japan, and an airport terminal in the Philippines.
  • Visit Insider’s homepage for more stories.


The LocHal Public Library in the Netherlands was named 2019’s World Building of the Year.

Stijn Bollaert/World Architecture FestivalThe LocHal Public Library is located in the Netherlands.

According to a World Architecture Festival (WAF) press release provided to Insider, the LocHal Public Library sits in a former train station. The space was going to be demolished until it was remodeled as a library and community centre by Civic Architects, in collaboration with Braaksma & Roos Architectenbureau.

The judges thought the building was outstanding because it “created a physical facility in which a variety of users can meet for multiple purposes,” as the WAF press release stated.


The JCA Living Lab, located in Taipei City, Taiwan, won Interior of the Year at the 2019 World Architecture Awards.

Kuo Min Lee/World Architecture FestivalThe JCA Living Lab is in Taipei City, Taiwan.

The Lab, designed by J.C. Architecture, is a refurbished Japanese colonial house, and it combines a historical structure with the needs of modern dwellers. J.C. Architecture built the house with children in mind, creating space for them to run throughout the indoor area.

The judges selected the Lab because “the house is unusually in tune with the differing and sometimes contradictory needs of a young family,” according to the same WAF press release. “Every space can be negotiated and adapted, encouraging the house to be an incubator for a positive difference in the family unit.”


Lokadhatu (The World), a pavilion for children in Zhangzhou, China, was named Small Project of the Year.

Su Chen/Chun Fang/World Architecture FestivalLokadhatu is located in Zhangzhou, China.

Studio Link-Arc created Lokadhatu, a play area for children.

The WAF judges liked Lokadhatu both because of its creativity and interplay with the surrounding environment.


Located in Kiev, Ukraine, Comfort Town won the award for Use of Colour.

Archimatika/World Architecture FestivalComfort Town is located in Kiev, Ukraine.

This apartment complex, built by Archimatika, features 180 apartments and spans over 90 acres. The buildings stand out because of their pastel hues.


The Freebooter, located in Amsterdam, won the 2019 Amsterdam Prize.

Francisco Nogueira/World Architecture FestivalThe Freebooter is located in Amsterdam, the Netherlands.

Designed by GG-loop, the apartment complex Freebooter is a steel building wrapped in timber panels.

The timber regulates the amount of sunlight that reaches the structure.


China’s Swirling Cloud took home the Engineering Prize for 2019.

Su Chen/Chun Fang/World Architecture FestivalSwirling Cloud is located in Haidan, China.

SUP Atelier designed Swirling Cloud for a garden festival. The building is made of bamboo, allowing for the curved structure.


Landscape of the Year 2019 went to the Demonstration Section of Yangpu Riverside Public Space, which is located in Shanghai, China.

Su Shengliang/Zhan Changheng/Zhang Yong/World Architecture FestivalThe Demonstration Section of Yangpu Riverside Public Space is in Shanghai, China.

Original Design Studio created the Demonstration Section, a bridge alongside the Yangpu River.

The judges favoured the site because it “reconnects the city with the waterfront by reusing the material language of this historic site in an innovative way with excellent details,” as the WAF press release stated.


The Smith Campus Centre at Harvard University in Boston, Massachusetts, took home the prize for Best Use of Natural Light.

Janie Airey/Nic Lehoux/World Architecture FestivalThe Smith Campus Centre is located in Boston, Massachusetts.

Designed by Hopkins Architects, the Smith Campus Centre melded the indoors and outdoors through glass windows and ceiling tiles.

The judges said the building is “a seamless mixture of public and private spaces that sensitively enhance an iconic development.”


The judges gave the Pingelly Recreation and Cultural Centre, located in Pingelly, Australia, the award for Best Use of Certified Timber.

Peter Bennetts/World Architecture FestivalThe Pingelly Recreation and Cultural Centre is in Pingelly, Australia.

The Iredale Pedersen Hook architects collaborated with Advanced Timber Concepts Studio to design the Pingelly Recreation and Cultural Centre, which is made with real timber.

The panel of judges “were impressed with the efficient and durable timber detailing, which delivers comfort and affordability for present and future users,” as stated in the WAF press release.


The Gaobu Book House, located in Guangdong, China, won the Civic and Community category.

Xu Liang Leon/World Architecture FestivalThe Gaobu Book House is in Guangdong, China.

The Condition Lab at the School of Architecture CUHK and the UAL Studio at the School of Architecture and Urban Planning GZU designed the Gabou Book House together as a community centre for the 2,500 people who live in the area.

“Gaobu Book House is totally intertwined with the community; a project that goes well beyond the actual building and demonstrates excellence of process,” the judges said of the building.


New York City’s Vessel took the top prize in the Display category for its open design.

Michael Moran/World Architecture FestivalThe Vessel is in New York, New York.

Designed by Heatherwick Studios, the judges liked the Vessel because its open concept design encourages human interaction and spontaneity.


The Castle Cove House, located in Sydney, Australia, was named the best house.

Brett Boardman/World Architecture FestivalThe Castle Cove House is located in Sydney, Australia.

TERRIOR designed the Castle Cove House, an angular and monochromatic domestic dwelling.

The judges appreciated that “with the diversity and complexity of space, there is a visual shattering of the boundaries between inside and out.”


Likewise, Cedrus Residential, located in Tehran, Iran, took home the top prize in the Completed Building Housing category.

Majid Jahangiri/World Architecture FestivalCedrus Residential is located in Tehran, Iran.

Nextoffice designed Cedrus Residential, an apartment complex in Tehran that uses layered balconies and an open floor plan to create a dynamic space.

“This is a wonderful, holistic, and intellectually challenging project of worldwide merit,” the judges said of the complex.


The Bower in London, England, won the New and Old award.

Tomothy Soar/World Architecture FestivalThe Bower is located in London, England.

Designed by Allford Hall Monaghan Morris, the Bower is an office space that also features shopping, dining, and studios.


Located in Shenzhen, China, the Vanke Liuxiandong Design Community was named the best office.

Guanhong Chen/World Architecture FestivalThe Vanke Liuxiandong Design Community is in Shenzhen, China.

FCHA designed Vanke Liuxiandong Design Community, a multifunctional office complex that incorporated greenery into its design.

The judges thought FCHA made a “highly sustainable and transformed corporate environment that welcomes the public.”


The Macallan Distillery and Visitor Experience in Speyside, Scotland, won the Production, Energy, and Recycling category.

Partners © Rogers Stirk Harbour + Partners/World Architecture FestivalThe Macallan Distillery and Visitor Experience is in Speyside, Scotland.

Designed by Rogers Stirk Harbour + Partners, the Macallan Distillery and Visitor Experience was “masterfully embedded in the landscape through an undulating timber roof with grass cover,” as noted by the WAF judges.


The YM Nursery in Yonago, Tottori, Japan, earned the top prize in the School category.

studio BAUHAUS/World Architecture FestivalThe YM Nursery is in Yonago, Tottori, Japan.

Hibinosekkei and Youji no Shiro collaborated on the YM Nursery, and encouraging children’s curiosity towards nature was an integral part of the design process.

In the press release, the judges said the building “demonstrates huge sensitivity to the experience of young children, from the layout of the building as an open pavilion, to the use of materials such as wood, stone, fire, and water.”


Located in Barcelona, Spain, the Turó de la Peira’s Sports Centre was named the winner of the Sports category.

Enric Duch/World Architecture FestivalThe Turó de la Peira’s Sports Centre is in Barcelona, Spain.

The Turó de la Peira’s Sports Centre was designed by Anna Noguera and Javier Fernandez after they won an architecture contest in Barcelona for the commission. It is both an urban block and sports centre, complete with a swimming pool and sports courts.

The judges gave the award to the space because of its “outstanding use of resources with a sustainable ethos.”


Terminal 2 of the Mactan Cebu International Airport in Manila, Philippines, won the Transport category because it showed that everyday architecture can be outstanding.

John Nye/World Architecture FestivalThe Mactan Cebu International Airport Terminal 2 is in Manila, Philippines.

Created by Integrated Design Associates, Terminal 2 of the Mactan Cebu International Airport is an expansion project. The judges commended its simple design that made use of locally sourced materials in an aesthetically pleasing way.


The Health category winner was the Bayalpata Regional Hospital in Acham, Nepal.

Sharon Davis Design and Possible Health/World Architecture FestivalThe Bayalpata Regional Hospital is located in Acham, Nepal.

The Bayalpata Regional Hospital was created by Sharon Davis Design as the only hospital to serve the over 250,000 people living in the area.

The campus takes up 7.5 acres and offers almost any kind of medical service you can think of.


The Kokugakuin University Learning Centre in Tokyo, Japan, won the Higher Education and Research award.

Nozomu Shimao/World Architecture FestivalThe Kokugakuin University Learning Centre is in Tokyo, Japan.

Designed by Nikken Sekkei, the Kokugakuin University Learning Centre sits between a shrine and a residential neighbourhood, tasking it with the job of merging these two vastly different spaces.

The judges awarded the centre because it “solves complex urban challenges in a way that looks effortless.”


The Lindis Lodge in Ahuriri Valley, New Zealand, was the favourite in the Hotel and Leisure category.

Patrick Reynolds Photography/World Architecture FestivalThe Lindis Lodge is in Ahuriri Valley, New Zealand.

Architecture Workshop designed the Lindis Lodge, a luxury space located in New Zealand’s Southern Alps.

The lodge features five bedrooms, and it was made to combat the drastic changes in temperature the area experiences throughout the year.


Located in Punggol, Singapore, Oasis Terraces placed first in the Mixed-Use category.

Hufton + Crow/World Architecture FestivalOasis Terraces is in Punggol, Singapore.

Serie and Multiply Architects worked together to make Oasis Terraces, a mixed-use public housing space. The building features residences, shopping, and community services in one convenient location.

The judges thought the building “displays a very successful integration of disparate programs into a coherent composition, which appears very adaptable to alternative uses.”


The top building in the Religion category for 2019 was Qasr Al Hosn: Al Musallah, which is located in Abu Dhabi.

CEBRA/World Architecture FestivalQasr Al Hosn: Al Musallah is in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates.

Designed by CEBRA, Qasr Al Hosn: Al Musallah combines the old and the new, as the oldest structure in Abu Dhabi is part of the complex, alongside a new cultural centre, according to the WAF press release.

Both buildings are given equal importance in the layout, creating a cohesive space.

“CEBRA has enhanced this heritage site and in doing so, created great architecture,” according to the judges.


Coal Drops Yard in London won the Shopping category for 2019.

Hufton+Crow/World Architecture FestivalCoal Drops Yard is in London, England.

Designed by Heatherwick Studios, Coal Drops Yard’s two buildings were previously part of a coal plant. Heatherwick transformed it into a shopping centre, linking the two buildings with a bridge.

“Through a simple gesture, the project becomes a landmark for King’s Cross while respecting the site’s heritage,” said the judges.


Villa B in Munich, Germany, took the top spot in the Villa category.

Bas Princen/World Architecture FestivalVilla B is in Munich, Germany.

Powerhouse Company designed Villa B, a high-end residential space that is as practical as it is beautiful.

The judges appreciated that Villa B was “engineered to meet quality expectations beyond luxury.”

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