12 Projects to Watch in 2018

Design that‘s making an impact around the world.

Jan 30, 2018 · 8 min read

This year, architecture and urban design projects will revitalize neighborhoods, realize innovative ideas for mixed-use development, and blend technology with education. Here are a dozen works in progress that we’ll be celebrating in 2018.

Residential, Remixed

New housing developments provide an opportunity to reconsider how urban neighborhoods grow and thrive.

Manhattan Loft Gardens

London, United Kingdom

Part 150-room luxury hotel and part 34-floor residential high-rise, Manhattan Loft Gardens in London’s Olympic Park is designed to foster a vertical community. The double-cantilevered tower features three sky gardens that bring outdoor space to residents, while shared amenities including meeting spaces, a spa, and a swimming pool will bring neighbors together. The 248 living spaces include single-story and loft-style apartments, interwoven together. Each flat can be customized to maximize space, daylight, and views. The project is set for completion in 2018.

Taylor Street Apartments and Roosevelt Branch Library

Chicago, Illinois

The Taylor Street Apartments and Roosevelt Branch Library will be one of the first co-located Chicago Housing Authority and Public Library branches. Image © SOM

Working with the City of Chicago, SOM is designing one of the city’s first co-located Chicago Housing Authority and Public Library branches. Having broken ground in 2018, the mixed-income apartment and library complex is designed to create a synergy between the two distinct programs. Set back and staggered on the site along West Taylor and Ada Streets, the building​ will provide rooftop green space, communal areas, and floor-to-ceiling windows for residential units. The library will offer soaring open spaces designed for kids, teenagers, and adults, bringing vital public space to the city’s Near West Side.

Retrofitting the City

Urban-scale projects are refocusing the center of attention — and in one case, creating new land — to bring people to revitalized neighborhoods.

Capitol Crossing

Washington, D.C.

Capitol Crossing is one of the biggest city design efforts undertaken in the nation’s capital in decades. Photo © SOM

Thanks to a feat of structural engineering, a new neighborhood is taking shape above an urban expressway. For decades, an open portion of Interstate 395 ran through three city blocks in northwest Washington, D.C. In 2015, ground broke on Capitol Crossing, a project to cover the sunken stretch of highway, restore the street grid, and create a walkable mixed-use development. SOM’s master plan included engineering the platform built at street level above the highway.

“There was both an art and a science to calibrating the plan,” said Kristopher Takács, director of SOM’s D.C. office. With one building set to top out this year, and another due for completion, 2018 brings significant progress for the restored and revitalized district.

Moscone Convention Center Expansion and Improvement

San Francisco, California

The expansion and improvement to San Francisco’s Moscone Convention Center is on pace for completion in August 2018. The project knits together disparate buildings, underutilized public streets, and open areas to create new indoor and outdoor amenities, including 8,000 square feet of new public space. The use of transparent and translucent materials will bring natural light to interior public spaces, while revealing the activity within. Beyond enhancing the public realm of San Francisco’s SoMa neighborhood, the project upgrades Moscone’s environmental credentials: when complete, it will create fewer carbon emissions per visitor than any other major North American convention center.

Tanjong Pagar Centre


The Tanjong Pagar Centre includes two towers and a six-story podium. Images © Digital Mirage Pte. Ltd.

The mixed-use Tanjong Pagar Centre will become a new landmark in Singapore’s historic central business district. Due for completion this year, the complex will include multiple levels of retail space, along with parking, restaurants, and entertainment areas. Offices and a hotel will occupy the upper floors. An underground pedestrian network, connected to an existing transit station, will make the tower easily accessible. More than just a high-rise, the project brings major improvements at ground level — a redesigned Tanjong Pagar City Park will enhance the public realm, along with a “city room” venue for art and outdoor performances.

Ripe for Reinvention

Creative commercial spaces are bringing new life to old buildings, historic areas, and formerly industrial zones from Chicago to Guadalajara.


Guadalajara, Mexico

Bio-Esfera comprises two building blocks that offer flexible office spaces oriented toward technology and creative companies. Image © SOM

The Bio-Esfera office complex will transform an underutilized area in Guadalajara, Mexico, where a dormant Kodak manufacturing facility once stood. As the first parcel of the Distrito La Perla Master Plan to be developed, the complex is scheduled to open in the spring of 2018. The building provides richly varied open spaces, including a central courtyard evocative of the public plazas prevalent throughout Guadalajara, along with gardens, balconies, terraces, roof decks, and an outdoor amphitheater.

Designed with the region’s abundant summer rainfalls in mind, the building incorporates ample roof gardens and terraces to capture and re-use rainwater and minimize stormwater discharge.

1515 West Webster Avenue

Chicago, Illinois

The design of 1515 West Webster accommodates open, flexible workspaces across four stories. Image © SOM

Located where the North Branch of the Chicago River meets one of the city’s vital east-west corridors, 1515 West Webster Avenue is the first development to emerge on the former site of Chicago’s historic Finkl Steel mill. The office building will house open, flexible, and daylit workspaces across four stories, anchored by a skylit central atrium featuring a two-story staircase for circulation, gathering, and informal meetings. Targeting LEED® Gold certification, 1515 West Webster incorporates low-cost, high-efficiency materials to achieve significant improvements in performance and to reduce construction materials. When completed in 2018, the building will house the Midwest headquarters of C.H. Robinson.

Optimo Hat Factory

Chicago, Illinois

The adaptive reuse of a decommissioned firehouse on Chicago’s south side accommodates Optimo Hat Factory’s continued growth. Photos © Tom Rossiter

Optimo is one of the leading makers of bespoke, handcrafted hats, serving a diverse and global clientele. For more than 25 years, the company has based its operations in a small storefront-turned-factory in Beverly, a historic neighborhood in southwest Chicago. When Optimo decided to bring its headquarters and production facility under one roof, it purchased a decommissioned firehouse, built circa 1915 and formerly owned by the City of Chicago. SOM developed an adaptive reuse scheme for the building that will accommodate the company’s continued growth and reaffirm its commitment to the community.

Towering Achievement

Working together, architects and engineers can make breakthroughs in sustainable design. Tianjin’s newest supertall is a case in point.

Tianjin CTF Finance Centre

Tianjin, China

Tianjin CTF Finance Centre topped out in 2017. Photo © SOM

Soaring 530 meters, the 96-story Tianjin CTF Finance Centre will bring office space, serviced apartments, and a five-star hotel to the Tianjin Economic-Technological Development Area. The tower’s striking design serves a dual purpose: its curved corners, tapering form, and porous crown mitigate wind loads, while maximizing structural efficiency. A high-performance facade system saves energy by reducing heating and cooling requirements, while providing daylight and views. All of these features contribute to the project’s anticipated LEED® Gold certification. Already an icon on the skyline, the supertall tower is on pace to be completed in 2018.

Designing the Future of Education

How will learning spaces evolve for the 21st century? This year, three projects across the United States are embracing technology to support new approaches to academic exploration.

UConn Innovation Partnership Building

Storrs, Connecticut

The Innovation Partnership Building is the centerpiece of our master plan for UConn’s Technology Park. Photo © Magda Biernat

The Innovation Partnership Building is the first to be completed at the University of Connecticut’s new Technology Park. Envisioned as a bridge between academia and industry, as well as between science and engineering, it will be a collaborative hub for advanced product development, biomedical engineering, and advanced information systems.

The building is organized in three primary parts: a flexible tenant laboratory and incubator space, an advanced manufacturing and additive materials wing, and an advanced characterization laboratory wing that will be among the country’s most sophisticated microscopy centers when it opens in 2018.

The Milstein Center, Barnard College

New York, New York

The Cheryl and Philip Milstein Teaching and Learning Center is located at the heart of Barnard College’s New York City campus. Construction photo (left) and rendering (right) © SOM

Due to open for the fall 2018 semester, the Cheryl and Philip Milstein Teaching and Learning Center will become a new hub of academic and intellectual life at Barnard College. Designed to foster collaboration and dialogue, The Milstein Center will provide a range of innovative and essential resources that reflect the connections at the core of Barnard’s educational philosophy.​ Much more than a traditional library, the facility will include centers for pedagogy, empirical reasoning, digital humanities, design, and media, as well as a movement lab. It will also house the Vagelos Computational Science Center, supporting students and faculty in pioneering research​.

“It’s a very high-tech, very 21st-century, very forward-looking space,” Roger Duffy, a design partner working on the project, said.

Loyola Marymount University, School of Film and Television

Los Angeles, California

The School of Film and Television at Loyola Marymount University is due for completion in the summer of 2018. Image © SOM

Loyola Marymount University (LMU) will soon open its Playa Vista campus, designed to house graduate programs for the School of Film and Television. Along with classrooms, production and post-production facilities, and administrative offices, the campus will provide spaces for other academic programs and creative activities and events. Located in The Brickyard development, the new campus will place LMU students and faculty members in the heart of Silicon Beach, L.A.’s tech innovation and creativity hub.

The 50,000-square-foot facility, due for completion in the summer of 2018, will offer film and TV students dynamic creator spaces — small and large, efficient and flexible, and, most importantly, focused and collaborative.

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