Cover The facade is covered with elegant Arabic calligraphy (Image: Museum of the Future)

From the futuristic Museum of the Future in Dubai to British designer Thomas Heatherwick’s 1,000 trees in Shanghai, these landmarks are among the must-sees in 2022

This article was first written on January 31, 2022 and updated on March 11, 2022.


2022 is shaping up to be an exciting year. After facing numerous delays in construction schedules due to the Covid-19 pandemic, a wide variety of major of architectural projects are set for completion this year. Many of these inspiring projects reflect thoughtful design and construction, especially through a green lens.

Notable for their scale and impact, here are some of the most exciting projects we can expect in the built environment this year.

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1. Museum of the Future by Killa Design

Where: Dubai, United Arab Emirates

An architectural and engineering marvel, the design of the Museum of the Future in Dubai reflects its visionary namesake. Conceptualised by architectural studio Killa Design and built for the Dubai Future Foundation, the building’s futuristic form makes a striking impact across the Dubai skyline; its rounded structure differs greatly from the rest of the towering skyscrapers surrounding it. The elongated ring shape represents humanity, while the void at its centre signifies the unknown future. The building sits on a grass-covered month that represents the earth.

The glistening facade forms a canvas for beautiful Arabic calligraphy spelling out three quotes on the future by the emirate’s ruler Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum. 

Inside, the building has no internal columns. Instead, the 77-metre-tall building is supported by a steel structure, developed with engineering studio Buro Happold. The seven storey museum, which opened on the palindrome date February 22 2022, houses a multi-use hall, a lecture theatre, laboratories dedicated for testing and developing emerging technology, as well as numerous exhibition spaces.

2. CapitaSpring by Bjarke Ingels Group

Where: Singapore

Built on the principles of biophilic design and wellness, Capitaland’s new integrated development CapitaSpring offers a slice of calm amidst Singapore’s bustling CBD area. The 280m-tall skyscraper is Danish architectural practice Bjarke Ingels Group’s (BIG) first few projects in Singapore, and is designed in collaboration with Italian practice Carlo Ratti Associati.

The conspicuous aluminum facade is defined by a dynamic interplay of orthogonal pin-striped fins that allows the lush tropical plants incorporated throughout the building to peek out. “At multiple elevations, the facade peels open to reveal urban oases for its users and the surrounding city—animating the elegant smoothness of modern architecture with the ubiquitous tropical nature,” says Bjarke Ingels, founder of BIG.

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The towering skyscraper also features verdant garden areas that are open to the public. The Green Oasis, an open-air botanical promenade, spans four floors and features teeming tropical greenery with over 38,000 plants. Level 51, the building’s highest floor, features a rooftop garden and a 5,000 sq ft urban farm with a variety of plants and herbs. Slated to open to the public in the second quarter of 2022, the rooftop space is also Singapore’s tallest publicly accessible observatory deck.  

3. Central Bank of Iraq by Zaha Hadid Architects

Where: Baghdad, Iraq

Conceptualised by the British-Iraqi architect Zaha Hadid, the Central Bank of Iraq is one of the few buildings the late architect has designed in her home country. Hadid was approached by the late Sinan al-Shabibi, then-governor of the Central Bank of Iraq, to consider designing the national bank’s Baghdad headquarters.

The building is nearly 11 years in the making; while the plans were presented in 2011, construction on the project only began in late 2018, two years after the architect’s passing, and is scheduled to be completed in 2022.

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Located on the banks of the Tigris River, the 560-foot-tall skyscraper features graceful curving forms that’s a signature of Hadid’s, who’s known as “The Queen of the Curve”. Dynamic open and closed elements on the building’s facade are references to the light reflection from the waves in the river below the building. Designed to convey the institution’s core values of  “solidity, stability, and sustainability”, the building is constructed from climate-friendly materials such as smart glass and pollution-resistant cement. 

Heightened security measures have also been taken into account, with blast-resistant glass and reinforced concrete incorporated within the tower. Strikingly elegant, the modernist skyscraper is meant to signify a new beginning for the war-torn Middle Eastern country.

4. 1,000 Trees by Thomas Heatherwick

Where: Shanghai, China

British designer Thomas Heatherwick has unveiled a new mixed-use development in Shanghai, China. As its name suggests, the building houses a shopping mall and features over 1,000 trees and 250,000 plants scattered throughout the nine-storey building.

The structure of the building was built to angle at 45 degrees for maximum river views. Each of the building’s columns also features a planter topped with locally-sourced fruit and flowering trees, shrubs, flowers and green climbers. Having just opened its doors, the building’s current retail space is part of the development’s first phase.

The second phase—which will contain offices and a hotel—is under construction and is scheduled to be completed in the next two years.

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5. Merdeka 118 by Fender Katsalidi

Where: Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

Designed by Australian studio Fender Katsalidis, the world's second-tallest skyscraper—the title of the first continues to be held by the Burj Khalifa in Dubai—is currently the 678.9-metre-tall Merdeka 118 building in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.

Located on a site overlooking ​​Stadium Merdeka, a historically significant site where Malaysian independence was first declared in 1957, the mixed-use residential, hospitality and retail building will feature 118 floors upon completion in late 2022. The skyscraper has currently reached its full height with the completion of its spire, and will also offer a double-height observation deck that’s set to be the tallest in Southeast Asia. 

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6. Taipei Performing Arts Centre by OMA

Where: Taipei, Taiwan

This summer, architectural firm Office for Metropolitan Architecture (OMA) is set to unveil their highly-anticipated project, the Taipei Performing Arts Centre (TPAC). Sitting on a 59,000sqm plot that’s located near the Shilin Night Market, one of Taipei’s most popular night markets, the cultural landmark boasts a unique structure with three auditoriums protruding out of a central glass cube-like building.

The central cube building will house all of the TPAC’s backstage areas. The three auditoriums are named the Globe Playhouse, a spherical 800-seat theatre designed to mimic the appearance of a planet; the Grand Theatre, a theatre that can seat up to 1,500 viewers; and the Blue Box, a multiform theatre that can seat 800 people and is equipped with technology and facilities for experimental performances. The Grand Theatre and the Blue Box can also be combined into one theatre, dubbed the Super Theatre, for large showings.

7. Rosewood São Paulo by Jean Nouvel

Where: São Paulo, Brazil

Pritzker Prize–winning French architect Jean Nouvel’s first project for the year is the Mata Atlantica building for Rosewood São Paulo. The vertical garden tower sits on a seven-acre Cidade Matarazzo estate—which also houses a former maternity hospital—and will serve as home to the five-star luxury hotel, its residences and other amenities and buildings including the Chapel of Santa Luzia.

Rooted in sustainable principles, Nouvel and his team designed the building with ​​a latticed corten-steel facade and a vertical garden with over 250 trees. These leafy species—carefully curated to withstand the city’s torrential rain storm—will be planted across the terraces around the building as well as throughout the path leading to the tower.

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8. Qorner Tower by Safdie Architects

Where: Quito, Ecuador

The masterminds behind Singapore’s Marina Bay Sands and Jewel Changi Airport, Safdie Architects is designing yet another eye-catching skyscraper—this time in Quito, Ecuador. Qorner Tower, a 24-storey residential building, is composed of vertically stacked cuboids that uniquely stagger in and out. Each level features generous double-height landscaped terraces with indigenous regional planting.

With a “building profile that steps back to reveal a ‘hillside’ of terraces, and also steps forward to create a ‘cliff face’,” the stacked and staggered design of the units are also the firm’s answer to the tight site. To further amplify the greenery, the building’s north facade will also feature a vertical green living wall that extends to the full height of the tower with native plantings hanging from the exterior.

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