Architecture can be an art form, but it also presents special challenges because the result has to be functional as well as attractive. Even if you are not an architect,  you can certainly appreciate a beautiful, well-designed building. Although every building has some of the same features, architects are constantly finding unique and unusual ways to put their own twist on it. Innovative architects design with an understanding of the environment and how best to carve out our space within it, while creating striking and functional spaces. In our list of innovative architects to watch you may not see any names that you recognize — yet. But that doesn’t make their accomplishments any less impressive Their success is measured by our clients satisfaction, and the ability to surpass their expectations:

Foster + Partners



For using old-world techniques to bring Jordan’s Queen Alia Airport into the modern era. The new terminal, slated for completion in early 2013, will have space for 9 million passengers, up from its current capacity of 3 million. Bedouin tent structures and dome shapes, inspired by Jordan’s unique history, lessen the desert heat. ( )


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For aspiring to reunite New Yorkers with Times Square by reconfiguring the messy pedestrian plaza. The design firm’s success with its opera house in Oslo–famous for a slanted roof that provides a welcoming seat for visitors–also helped it win a bid for a waterside opera house in Busan, South Korea. ( www.snø )

Adjaye Associate

Adjaye Associate

Adjaye Associate

For keeping libraries relevant with the beautiful, open-air Francis George Library in Washington, D.C. Adjaye’s banner year includes beating out 70 firms with its bid for the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture, for which it will break ground on the National Mall in Washington, D.C., this year, and an affordable housing project in Harlem. ( )

Wang Shu

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Wang Shu

For rebelling against the westernization of modern China. Shu’s museums, academies, and homes speak to China’s roots, aesthetically and, most importantly, literally: He advocates use of inexpensive materials like recycled bricks and tiles from renovated sites. ( )



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For leading the crusade to clean up our buildings–from hospitals to schools–by using better building materials. Perkins+Will advocates for healthier people through healthier buildings, meaning no more paints, countertops, or carpets with chemical toxins. ( )

Herzog & de Meuron

Herzog Meuron

For paring down design to fit the setting. Its Parrish Art Museum in Water Mill, New York, will mimic the traditional artist studios found in eastern Long Island. ( )



For outfitting London for the 2012 Olympics–and beyond. The firm wanted to do away with white elephants–expensive, gargantuan structures that are useless after the games (look no further than the Bird’s Nest in Beijing). Populous’s modular stadium was the first of its kind, and its capacity of 80,000 can be reduced to 25,000, depending on London’s needs. ( )

Valle Architetti Associati


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The Italian–based group is an architectural and urban design firm with offices in Udine and Milan. Formed by a team of 11 architects, engineers and administrators, the firm is specialized in large scale urban and architectural projects. The studio has been awarded a Honorable Mention of the Gold Medal for Italian Architecture for the Portello Shopping and Office Center in Milan. ( )



For engineering a madcap vision of the sustainable future. Its designs included public swimming pools in New York’s East River and a new King’s Cross Station in London. ( )

Mazzanti Arquitectos

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Mazzanti Arquitectos

The work of Colombian architect Giancarlo Mazzanti, whose projects succeed in improving lives of ordinary folks, reflects significant social shifts in Latin America today. It is therefore not surprising that the most fascinating architectural projects in this part of the world are social, such as schools, kindergartens, libraries, and sports arenas. Moreover, by and large the most intriguing and successful of them are built in the poorest neighborhoods. Comparing many of these humble projects with the elitist concert halls, condominiums, banks, and museums, often built as fanciful gestures wrapped in expensive skins in countries with developed economies, one begins to sense a certain decorative nature and even detachment of contemporary architecture in the West from challenges of real life. For revitalizing the slums of Bogota in Colombia by turning crime-ridden public spaces into delightful community centers. The Cubierta Cazucá canopy in Bogota transformed an unused basketball court into a shaded sports court and public plaza for the neighborhood.(