Architectural Trends: Inspiration

Posted On 2017-04-10

Are you inspired?

You can’t use up creativity. The more you use, the more you have.’ – Maya Angelou

We’re going to let you in on a little secret. The truth is, there’s no limit to your creativity. And allowing yourself to be inspired by the creativity of others will only fuel your own creativity more than ever.

Feed your inner creative

Creativity needs to be fed, no matter the work it will result in. So, go out and visit other buildings.  See what other architects are doing. Be inspired by what works for you in their work. And learn from what doesn’t work for you in what they’ve created. You don’t have to like everything.

Read more

The clever chaps at have compiled a list of what they consider this year’s must-read books for architects who want to achieve more this year:

  • Edwin Heathcote, Meaning of Home, Francis Lincoln, 2012.
  • Leonard Koren & Willian Hall, Concrete, Phaidon Press, 2012.
  • Brian Girling, Lost London in Colour, Amberley, 2013.
  • Bradley Garrett,Explore Everything: Place-Hacking the City, Verso, 2013.
  • Brillembourg, H. Klumpner, ETH Zurich, Torre David: Informal Vertical Communities, Lars Muller Publishers, 2012.


Sure, local is lekker. But nothing delivers a fresh vantage point like a totally fresh space.

The world is a book, and those who do not travel read only a page.” – Saint Augustine

This is true for everyone, in every field. Travel broadens the mind, and it broadens one’s creative horizons, as well.

The range of architecturally-inspiring travel options is almost infinite. Visit your favourite cities. Visit the homes of your favourite architects. Visit ancient landmarks and cultural ruins. Find out about the history of the space itself.

Important travel tips for architects:

  • Take a camera! You’ll want a record of what you see.
  • Take a notebook. Better yet, take your sketch pad!
  • Take time to see: watch the use of space and the effect of the light, shadows, orientation, and everything that goes with it. Be inspired by the colours used, the textures and finishes on the walls, floors, and above you.
  • Take time to listen. Consider the acoustics and how the physical shape of the space influences them. Listen to the people talking about the space (if you understand them) and see if you can glean what works, and what doesn’t, for those who use the space most.
  • Watch everything. Try to identify the patterns of the people who use the space. After all, what would architecture be without the people we design for? Make sure you consider those people and what they need from your designs.
  • Draw inspiration from everything. You’re not limited to the buildings you see. Look at nature, the arts, local culture – anything that grabs your imagination.

Be inspired

We’ve rounded up some of the most inspiring spaces created in 2016, to help you find the inspiration to fuel your next project.

Roy and Diana Vagelos Education Center / Diller Scofidio + Renfro

Light is a beautiful, elusive mistress. The holy grail of a truly holistic space, it can be difficult to capture and even harder to create in an urban setting, where skyscrapers soar into the heavens and block the light from those below.

However, this beautiful space creates its own light. Glowing from within, it generously illuminates the landscape around it.

National Museum of African American History and Culture

Keeping with the theme of light, the National Museum of African American History and Culture actually rains light on its visitors. The aptly named Contemplative Court is an underground escape, providing a tranquil, soul-soothing space in which to reset.

Los Angeles Federal Courthouse

A legal monolith is not something most of us usually associate with beautiful architecture. LA’s new courthouse, however, shatters preconceptions about what a government building should be. This impressive building manages to blend into the landscape through the clever use of angled glass walls that reflect the sky, and create the illusion of a mirage, rather than a court of law.

Inside, daylight floods all tend storeys, streaming in from the giant skylight centrally placed above the main atrium. Waiting areas are social spaces, designed for comfortable collaboration. Gardens festoon the rooftops, dotted with indigenous flora and zen-garden tranquillity.

Why so much glass – enlightenment – appears to go into the sky infinitely; looks like it goes into the heavens and the edges can’t easily be defined

World Trade Center Transportation Hub

Designed by leading architect Santiago Calatrava, the brand new World Trade Centre Transportation Hub in New York is a breath of fresh air. Reminiscent of Swan Lake’s achingly beautiful ballet, this feat of architectural imagination spreads its wings into the air. The building pays homage to the tragedy seen in this very spot, conveying a sense of respectful bowing and powerful protection at the same time.

Architectural Digest interviewed Calatrava, who described the challenges of this work:

“The emotional components, the cultural significance of the place all made the project more demanding.” He drew his inspiration from two of his favourite buildings: Grand Central Terminal and the old Pennsylvania Station. “… these two train terminals in New York were boldly built as an excuse to create wonderful civic monuments and breathtaking spaces for the people,” he explains.

Moses Mabhida Stadium, Durban

Arguably one of the most attractive stadia in the world, the Moses Mabhida stadium was erected in advance of South Africa hosting the 2010 Soccer World Cup. It has become a Durban landmark and popular destination for a wide variety of events, from sports to music festivals and even cultural gatherings.

Cleverly designed to take advantage of the local infrastructure, this stadium actually makes Durban’s inner city easier to access and navigate than it was before 2010.

The novel addition of the SkyCar, a cable car ride that gently transports sightseers to the very top of this epic feat of engineering and design, affording them a breathtaking 360-degree view of the heart of Durban.

Black Glass Tower for New York by Richard Meier & Partners

This imposing residential building soars 42 storeys into the stratosphere, commanding an impressive view over the East River. Continuing the trend towards using glass in building design, this construction is composed of a series of black metal panels, and a black glass curtain wall.

Designer Drains describes the project:

Minimalistic in form, the design of this predominantly glass building evidences great consideration for materiality, lightness, transparency and order. Its taut curtain wall is incised with modular subdivisions and articulated with selective metal panel elements in the form of balconies, canopies and corners. A distinguishing feature — an architectural cut-out at the 27th and 28th floors — will exist in dialogue with the building’s context and be visible from across the East River.

‘This is a milestone project for us, as our first all-black glass and metal panel building, the tallest tower in New York City by our firm, and a complete Richard Meier & Partners project including both architecture and interiors,’ comments Dukho Yeon, design partner-in-charge at Richard Meier & Partners.


The Diamond Building, Johannesburg

Built to resemble the diamonds that fed the early economic growth of South Africa, the iconic Diamond Building in downtown Jozi is a local landmark of legend. Looking every bit the inspiration for New York’s Black Glass Tower, it’s plate glass-finish towers 80m into the Jo’burg skyline, reflecting the city around it from different angles.

US Air Force Campus in Colorado

“Airplanes are not for making war. Airplanes are beautiful dreams.” – Hayao Miyazaki.

When art imitates life, we know we are among the fortunate few who live lives of great beauty. For anyone with a fascination for flight, Miyazaki’s sentiment rings true. Engineers who build aeroplanes turn those dreams into reality.

Architects who build buildings to look like planes do the same thing.

SOM, a globally-respected architecture firm, designed the original Air Force campus in 1954. Now, they have revisited the spot, designing an innovative research and education facility inspired by the field the facility serves: flight.

Thinking without the box

Who says spaces need to be square? The 21st Century Museum of Contemporary Art in Kanazawa, Japan and the Faena Forum in Miami Beach, Florida, are both great examples of what can happen when architects don’t think of walls in straight lines. Using curved lines, and angles, interesting spaces open up.

What inspires you?

Which spaces have informed your work in the last twelve months? What will you be drawing on for inspiration in the months ahead? Let us know in the comments below. We’d love to hear from you.

Architectural Trends: Inspiration

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