October 6, 2020

“There is a danger when every building has to look spectacular; to look like it is changing the world. I don’t care how a building looks if it means something, not to architects, but to the people who use it.” This quote by prolific architect David Chipperfield suggests that the best architectural designs are not necessarily grandiose or aesthetically pleasing, but provide value and meaning to local communities or the public at large. Here are five stupendous creations that have made a profound impact on people’s lives.

Unité d’habitation

The Unité d’habitation was built by architect Le Corbusier in 1952 in response to the gap in residential housing after the WWII bombings in France. To cut down on costs, this “vertical garden city” was constructed with béton brut (raw concrete) and pioneered a new spatial organisation approach to the use of living and public spaces. It offered 1600 residents a community to shop, play and live, and redefined the notion of what high-density housing could be. Till this day, it remains as one of the most influential brutalist buildings in history. 


In the rural village of Sinthian, Senegal, lies Thread, a 1,000m² hub that serves as a community space, performance centre and international artist residency. The Josef and Anni Albers Foundation together with architect Toshiko Mori created an infrastructure to allow locals to cultivate their skills, with environmentally-friendly features. For instance, local materials are used to build bamboo structures and heat-absorbing earth brick walls with perforated sections for air ventilation. During the dry season, undulating thatched roofs are strategically implemented to collect rainwater for consumption and agricultural purposes.

Jewish Museum Berlin

To say the Jewish Museum is a sobering experience is an understatement. Through its design, Daniel Libeskind’s approach is to confront and wholly embrace the impalpable impact of the Holocaust on the Jewish culture. His philosophy is reflected through deeply discomforting experiences felt by increasingly enclosed spaces, dead ends and the absence of windows. In addition, there is a sixty-six feet tall void with concrete walls and a ray of light peeking from above—reminiscent of hope. The Garden of Exile, which has forty-nine towering pillars, encapsulates the overwhelming sense of anxiety and loss felt by the Jews.

Heydar Aliyev Centre

The Heydar Aliyev Centre by Zaha Hadid is a stark contrast to the Soviet modernist buildings in Baku, Azerbaijan. The wave-like ascension and descension of the building epitomise the succession of the past, present and future, akin to the circle of life. Presently, this post-modernist creation not only serves as a shining beach of light, but is also a multi-functional venue that operates as a museum, conference centre, auditorium and exhibition space.

Ilinden Spomenik

After the Ilinden Uprising in 1903, the Ilinden Spomenik was erected as a remembrance of the resistance fighters and upheld as a symbol of independence in the Republic of North Macedonia. The shape of this political monument bears an uncanny resemblance to a mace weapon (which signifies  resistance and authority), while the doors to the entrance form the letter ‘M’—representing the land of Macedonia. Inside, eight wall reliefs depict the people’s struggle for freedom. 

Image Credit: Iwan Baan via ArchDaily