5 Innovative Firms Shaping the Future of Architecture


As society's wants and needs for residential and commercial properties continue to change and adjust to modern conditions, the architectural industry itself must be prepared to adapt. From rising demands for more affordable housing, to increasing attention paid to sustainable building practices, today's architecture firms are finding innovative ways to realize designs.

With a greater focus on eco-friendly, socially responsible and multi-functional projects, modern architecture is being gradually redefined. However, as with any great shift in an industry's operations, there are always a few subjects that stand tall as leaders of innovation.

From the exploration of new materials, processes and design standards, to interesting shifts in architectural philosophy, innovation is alive and well in our industry. With this in mind, let's take a closer look at 5 innovative architecture firms shaping the future of the profession.

1. Skidmore, Owings and Merrill (SOM)

5 Innovative Firms Shaping the Future of Architecture

Image Credit: www.som.com

Since the firm's inception in 1936, SOM has become one of the world's most well-respected architectural, urban planning and engineering organizations. Famous for key innovations in glass and steel construction at a time when masonry dominated much of the architectural landscape, SOM are often considered the grandfathers of modernist high-rise construction.

While the firm's historic achievements continue to bring prestige to the company name, their modern projects are shaping the future of the profession. One example exists in the striking steel towers of the Sany IROOTECH Headquarters in Guangzhou, China. A beautifully modern approach to high-rise construction that blends form and function through innovative design.

Built around an external system of steel columns formed in an eye-catching grid pattern, the design of the towers allows the floors to be suspended from the structure itself. With no need for bulky interior columns, additional space is provided for multiple outdoor garden terraces, demonstrating an efficient and innovative way to combine the natural and man-made worlds.

2. Perkins&Will

5 Innovative Firms Shaping the Future of Architecture

Image Credit: https://perkinswill.com

Another classic architecture firm that continues to transform the way we approach building design is Perkins&Will. With a company ethos formed around the idea that design has the power to inspire joy and strengthen community spirits, the firm's modern projects reflect the belief that the identity and culture of an organization can be emboldened with smart artistry.

Take the York University School of Continuing Studies, for example. A sweeping and angular complex built to combine the university's previously scattered study buildings into a singular communal structure. Grand triangular windows produce bright and airy interior offices and learning environments, with brushed aluminum panels standing tall against the city's skyline. 

The real innovation, however, is inside. The building envelope is designed to promote natural ventilation to reduce the site's reliance on HVAC units, while active chilled beams throughout the property act to further limit energy consumption. These aspects were specifically chosen to reduce the need for external energy sources and help to achieve a net-zero energy target.

3. The Miller Hull Partnership

5 Innovative Firms Shaping the Future of Architecture

Image Credit: https://millerhull.com

Founded in 1977, The Miller Hull Partnership is famous for both neoclassical commercial buildings like Seattle's Smith Tower, and the creation of multiple innovative earth-sheltered housing projects. These latter projects best illustrate the firm's core design principles, those being interests in resource conservation via the intelligent use of available building materials.

Today, the firm's efforts reflect both of the above styles of architectural design. From their work constructing the University of Washington's Health Sciences and Education Building using innovative composite systems of concrete, steel and timber, to the Kendeda Building's photovoltaic energy generation system designed to produce over 100% of the site's power.

Projects such as these demonstrate the ability to blend the necessary practical features of commercial buildings, like provisions for PTZ cameras and security infrastructure, alongside innovative elements of sustainable design. As the importance of renewable energy becomes more present in commercial construction, Miller Hull's work stands as an essential template.

4. Zaha Hadid Architects

5 Innovative Firms Shaping the Future of Architecture

Render by Visual Brick

The late Zaha Hadid was truly a great innovator in the architectural space during her entire career. Once described as the "Queen of Curves", Hadid's most prominent works such as the London Aquatics Centre, the Broad Art Museum and the MAXXI Museum in Rome stand as great examples of the expansive power of slick geometry in illuminating a structure's identity.

In her absence, Hadid's firm continues to uphold her passion for architectural innovation. An example of this exists within the rooftop walkways of the Hong Kong University of Science & Technology's intricate student housing complex. Formed like an idealistic version of a co-op housing installation, the space marries geometric design with practical form and functionality. 

Hexagonal rows of housing units span varying levels to account for the hilly terrain that the project rests on. Each unit is connected by a sprawling network of rooftop walkways formed to improve circulation and enable free movement across the site. The design may catch the eye, but the real innovation lies in an ability to make great use of the challenging landscape. 

5. Bjarke Ingels Group (BIG)

5 Innovative Firms Shaping the Future of Architecture

Image Credit: https://big.dk

Bjarke Ingels is considered a pioneer in the realm of tech-focused architectural design. The Danish architect believes that many modern properties and communal spaces lack a sense of vibrancy and playfulness that people could stand to benefit from. To address this, his firm uses data-driven design processes fashioned to blend vibrant culture with contemporary life.

A great example of this principle can be found in BIG's work designing the CopenHill Energy Plant, Copenhagen. The entire property is encased beneath a meandering hiking route and all-weather ski slope positioned to provide an additional playful purpose to an otherwise dull and moribund commercial property. Perfectly merging practical and playful design principles.

This exciting outdoor area also supports wider sustainability initiatives. The addition of plant life and greenery forms a biodiverse environment for local wildlife to enjoy, while also acting to absorb heat and eliminate particulate matter in the air to support a healthy micro-climate. Projects like this are great templates for increasingly necessary green urbanism initiatives.

The future is bright

As societal wants and needs continue to change, with growing urban centers and novel smart cities forming the future of our communities, innovation in design will be key. Existing architectural firms are already demonstrating how much can be done to support innovation within current practices. Enabling the development of forward-thinking commercial and residential properties

With the work of those mentioned above forming a solid foundation for future talents to build upon, the future looks bright for the architecture and construction industries. All that remains to be seen is how future trends and sensibilities help to produce new and exciting initiatives.

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