World's best buildings? 2018 RIBA International List revealed

Updated 12th December 2017
Sancaklar Mosque_527_Cemal  Emden_ORIGINAL_3.jpg
Credit: Courtesy Cemal Emden
World's best buildings? 2018 RIBA International List revealed
Written by Jonathan Glancey, CNN
CNN Style is the international digital news partner for the RIBA International Prize.
The RIBA International List 2018, announced today, is a biennial selection of some of the world's best new or recently completed buildings in a bedazzling variety of forms, functions and styles.
Somewhere among these 62 individual buildings drawn from 29 countries are the four that will eventually be scrutinized by the 2018 RIBA International Prize grand jury.
The 2018 list, said RIBA president Ben Derbyshire, "illustrates the meaningful impact and transformative quality that well-designed buildings can have on communities, wherever they are in the world." This is "the award for buildings that sets the gold standard for architectural achievement."
There are nine categories of buildings embracing public and private offices, places of worship, private homes and museums, apartment blocks, assembly plants, buildings responding to conflict and natural disasters, and new architectural landscapes.
Bremer Landesbank Headquarters in Bremen, Germany
Bremer Landesbank Headquarters in Bremen, Germany Credit: Courtesy Hélène Binet
Within these categories are a numinous mosque like no other on the fringe of Istanbul; a thatched visitor center set in the sand dunes of Jutland, from where millions of migrating birds can be observed; and a pair of "vertical forest" apartment blocks in a revitalized industrial quarter of Milan.

A sense of place

Wadden Sea Centre in Ribe, Denmark
Wadden Sea Centre in Ribe, Denmark Credit: Courtesy Adam Mørk
Many nominated buildings appear to be part and parcel of the landscape they inhabit. Although a big new building, the Wadden Sea Centre on the Danish coast by Dorte Mandrup Architects, for example, has a feeling of happy inevitability about it: this is the landscape it ought to belong to.
Equally, the low-lying and gently undulating form of Lisbon's new Museum of Art, Architecture and Technology (MAAT), designed by London's AL_A firm, feels a natural part of the Tagus riverside, even though its design is radically new. At one end, the museum dips into the Tagus in a sequence of long, broad steps for sitting on or walking along that reveal themselves at low tide.
Museum of Art, Architecture and Technology in Lisbon, Portugal
Museum of Art, Architecture and Technology in Lisbon, Portugal Credit: Courtesy Francisco Nogueira
"We like to think of MAAT," said AL-A founder and principal Amanda Levete, "as more of a place than a building. It does have presence, but it's not bombastic. It's a place to meet, to congregate, to encounter new ideas in art, architecture and technology."
As for the Sancaklar Mosque on the outskirts of Istanbul, Emre Arolat Architecture (EAA) have shaped a place of worship in a prairie-like landscape overlooking Lake Büyükçekmece. Because a mosque has no preordained form, EAA have created an essentially underground place of worship, adorned and decorated by sunlight brought in slits and chutes into elemental and meditative spaces.
Beyazit State Library in Istanbul, Turkey
Beyazit State Library in Istanbul, Turkey Credit: Courtesy Emre Dorter
In Istanbul itself, Tabanlioglu Architects have converted the former soup kitchen and caravanserai of the early-16th-century Beyazit Mosque into the magnificent Beyazit State Library, an exemplary illustration of how modern architects can reuse historic buildings.

Past meets present

City Hall Deventer in the Netherlands
City Hall Deventer in the Netherlands Credit: Courtesy Scagliola Brakkee
The RIBA list also shows that crafted brick buildings with a sense of warmth and a degree of historical familiarity are returning to city centers where sleek, icy steel-and-glass designs have been dominant.
The new Deventer City Hall in the Netherlands by Neutelings Riedijk Architects, and the Bremer Landesbank headquarters in Bremen, Germany by Caruso St John are two buildings that show modern office buildings can be a part of their own era while comfortably rubbing shoulders -- or cornices -- with their medieval and Renaissance predecessors.
One of the three Barcelona Line 9 metro stations designed by Garcés-De Seta-Bonet
One of the three Barcelona Line 9 metro stations designed by Garcés-De Seta-Bonet Credit: Courtesy Adrià Goula
Three new raw and cavernous metro stations along Barcelona's Line 9 -- a herculean engineering project -- take us further back into history to geology. Designed by Garcés-De Seta-Bonet, the haunting Amadeu Torner, Parc Logístic and Mercabarna stations do nothing to hide passengers from the thrilling reality of bravura excavations made under the Catalan capital. Served by the latest in design, from lighting to seating and signage, the marriage between raw nature and 21st-century technology is deeply affecting.
In contrast to these heroic urban projects are low-cost buildings shaped in developing regions or those where natural disasters have struck. Small budgets, however, preclude neither structural dignity nor architectural imagination.
Among several such nominees is the Lanka Learning Center by feat.collective on the east coast of Sri Lanka, where "the goal was to create a place where disadvantaged children of different ethnic and religious affiliations can come together through various communal educational and sporting activities, and thus to make a better future possible," according to a statement. It does this simply and well with a protective circle of low-key, low-energy buildings that feel they belong here quite naturally.
Lanka Learning Center in Sri Lanka
Lanka Learning Center in Sri Lanka Credit: Courtesy Barbara Vetter/Vincent Heiland
While it is hard to compare a low-cost school innocent of steel frames, air conditioning and even glass with highly engineered Catalan metro stations or even a sophisticated thatched visitors' center on the Jutland coast, this is the challenge judges and jurors of the RIBA International Prize 2018 are tasked with. The grand jury's final decision, however, will have to wait until December 2018.
Top: Sancaklar Mosque. Courtesy Cemal Emden