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This year’ s best buildings proved that architecture doesn’t have to be loud to be important.
Throughout the year, the loudest works of new architecture tend to get the most attention. It makes sense; people want to know: Are the balconies at the new downtown Whitney Museum of American Art a thrilling new experience? Yes, but getting around inside can be confusing. Is The Broad Museum worth a trip to downtown Los Angeles? Definitely, but expect an adventure not an architectural experience.
There are also quieter projects that slip onto the scene with less hoopla but are equally worthy of notice, especially when they expand on definitions of what architecture can be. Here’s to looking at the buildings of 2015 that, even though commanding, don’t shout “Look at me”:
The Josey Pavilion, a new meeting and education center at the Dixon Water Foundation in Cooke County, Texas, belongs to an emerging category of architecture called “living building.” That means the structure is made almost entirely from local and recycled materials, its energy consumption is self-generated and next to nil (“net zero” in the new jargon), and it is water independent. It was designed by San Antonio-based architects Lake|Flato, a firm known for ingeniously making traditional building features—deep overhangs, clerestory openings, air chimneys and ceiling fans—look new again.
Built around a majestic live oak, Josey Pavilion’s two rectangular sheds clad in reclaimed pine are pulled apart and reconnected with walls and doors of slatted wood carefully positioned to provide shade from the hot summer sun and shelter from winter’s north winds. The Dixon Water Foundation provides resources and education on water management and conservation; and the 5,000-square-foot pavilion is surrounded by wetlands that will be used to filter and recycle wastewater and ultimately restore the local watershed. Architects Ted Flato and David Lake posit that a connection to beautiful architecture can lead to caring and a desire to preserve and conserve one’s surroundings. This low-key, elegant building makes a case that it could truly be so. […]