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7 of the Best New Buildings in the Americas

From Brazil to Mexico to Canada

As the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) continues to announce its 2016 awards, the Americas have their own, albeit smaller awards, showcasing some of the most outstanding projects of the past two years.

Seven finalists (selected from a pool of 175 nominees) have been announced for the biennial Mies Crown Hall Americas Prize (MCHAP), which recognizes the best buildings completed in the Americas between January 2014 and December 2015. This year’s finalists include projects from Brazil, Peru, Mexico, Toronto, and the United States.

MCHAP was founded to revitalize the architecture curriculum at the Illinois Institute of Technology. The inaugural awards, covering 2000-2013, were given to Álvaro Siza's Iberê Camargo Foundation, and Herzog & de Meuron’s 1111 Lincoln Road. The winner of the MCHAP.emerge award will be announced on October 19. Take a look at the selected buildings and excerpts from their respective project statements.

Weekend House by Angelo Bucci, Sao Paulo, Brazil

São Paulo is a metropolis of 20 million people. It is approximately one hour from the coast. Because of severe traffic jams, its inhabitants spend hours commuting every day. On weekends, especially in the summer, hundreds of thousands drive to the beach causing jams on the roads as well. In order to avoid being stuck in traffic during weekends, we received an unexpected but rather logical demand as a counterflow action: a weekend house in downtown São Paulo.

As an anti-FAR [floor area ratio] approach, a swimming pool, a solarium and a garden are the main elements of this project. In a properly inverted hierarchy, everything else on this program is complementary: a bedroom, a small apartment for a caretaker, and a space to cook and receive friends.

UTEC Campus by Grafton Architects, Lima, Peru

Because of Lima’s benign climate, it was possible to make all circulation open to the air. It forms a new external circulation landscape. In order to reduce the use of precious resources, only rooms that need environmental control are air-conditioned. Referring to Le Corbusier’s Free Plan and Adolf Loos’ Raumplan, in this benign climate, it is possible to make a Free Section, where space ‘flows’ in a three-dimensional way , blurring the boundaries between inside and outside.

Pachacamac Museum by Llosa Cortegana, Lima, Peru

The project was born from its relationship with the territory, its topographic trace and the ability to establish itself as a mediator with the Sanctuary. The exterior pathway spaces nest in their need to frame the prehistoric temples. The building itself adapts to its surroundings directing their views reinforcing the relationship with sacred buildings. Its volumes are folded in an earthquake gesture, (Pachacamac was known as the Earthquakes God) and stressed between their external pathway ramp gaps, associated with the pre hispanic streets where the pilgrims approached their temples in linear spaces within its large scale walls.

Tower 41 by Alberto Kalach, Mexico City, Mexico

The largest and most beautiful park in the city, seen from what could easily be called the back door, given the area’s lack of development and sort of in-between kind of shantytown by the road (or rather highway) feel, the spot seemed ripe for a statement, a link that could bridge the twenty-first century with the nineteenth, while avoiding the shortsightedness –of the twentieth. It is a complex, hybrid area, floating between time and space, where primitive and modern blend spontaneously around a question mark; may it be progress?

Star Apartments by Michael Maltzan Architecture, Los Angeles, California, United States

The project, through both its distinctive architectural design and focus on health and wellness, makes a positive statement about the importance of affordable supportive housing in Los Angeles and across the country. The six-story, 95,000 square foot building expands upon the client’s model of providing permanent supportive housing within the downtown core. The building is organized around three principal spatial zones, stacked one upon the other: a commercial/retail zone at street level; a second level for community programs; and four terraced floors of residences above.

Grace Farms by SANAA, New Canaan, Connecticut, United States

The private, non-profit Grace Farms Foundation sought to preserve the last undeveloped 80 acres of woodlands, wetlands and meadows in New Canaan, CT, as a gift of open space to the public. The Foundation wanted to create a porous building within this beautiful, rolling landscape that would invite people to experience nature while providing a place to foster community, participate in social justice initiatives, enjoy artworks and cultural presentations and explore faith. The program called for an architectural and landscape design that would be a new model of cultural and community center merged with nature.

Fort York National Historic Site Visitor Centre by Patkau Architects / Kearns Mancini Architects, Toronto, Ontario, Canada

The new Visitor Centre is intended to re-establish the site as part of Toronto’s identity and as a cultural touchstone for Canada. The delicacy of Fort York as a defensive site produces an architecture that is mostly about lines. Existing lines such as the lines of Fort walls and the lines of sharpened logs are our source of new lines—lines of weathering steel walls, lines of docks and bridges, lines of light. The grassed defensive moat in front of the Fort and the surprisingly low berm rampart are both quiet and subtle.