In the heart of Tirana, Albania’s city center, both residents and visitors now have the opportunity to ascend a monumental pyramid that was once a glaring symbol of oppressive dictatorship. The Pyramid of Tirana, reimagined by the Dutch architecture studio MVRDV, has undergone a remarkable transformation from a deteriorating former museum dedicated to the country’s former leader (later repurposed as a NATO base and for various other uses) into a vibrant cultural hub featuring colorful boxes, stairs, and sloping slides. This iconic structure is among the 18 new architectural projects highlighted by Architectural Digest in its annual “Works of Wonder” (WOW) list, as showcased in the February issue.
Amidst the looming threat of climate change and the considerable environmental impact of new construction, Architectural Digest’s global features director, Sam Cochran, emphasized the importance of spotlighting how existing architecture can be adapted for the future. Cochran praised MVRDV for demonstrating through careful design interventions that it is not only feasible to repurpose old buildings but to do so with a sense of joy, wit, and fun.
The WOW list, a yearly compilation, showcases outstanding projects from around the world. This year’s featured projects span five continents and include a repurposed public pool transformed into a Yoruba cultural center in Lagos, Nigeria; floating glass exhibition spaces in Hiroshima, Japan; a new aquarium designed to resemble a sprawling ruin in Mazatlán, Mexico; and a spherical LED-paneled concert venue making waves in Las Vegas.
Many of these projects stand as cultural milestones crafted by some of the world’s foremost architects, such as the relocated Istanbul Modern, the first contemporary art museum in the Turkish city. Renzo Piano Building Workshop designed the new space, described by Talib Choudhry, head of editorial content at AD Middle East, as filled with “Wow” moments. Perched along the Bosphorus Strait, the building draws inspiration from the surrounding body of water and features a 650-square-meter rooftop viewing terrace suspended above a water expanse covering the entire roof.
Other projects highlight a connection with the natural world, such as Chile’s LAMA Pavilion, which rises above the tree line in Yungay, offering a breathtaking view of the Andes mountains, and India’s revitalized Parimal Garden, providing an idyllic green space in Ahmedabad. Sustainable feats are also honored, including a new Hermès workshop in Normandy, France, where architect Lina Ghotmeh engaged local artisans to hand-make 500,000 bricks.
Marina Hemonet, head of editorial content for AD France, commended the Hermès saddlery workshop for seamlessly blending beauty and sustainability while paying homage to Hermès’ equestrian heritage with an arched structure reminiscent of a show-jumping course. She highlighted the virtuous dimension of the project, noting it as the first low-carbon, positive-energy industrial building delivered in France.
Tiffany & Co. also earned a spot on the list for the overhaul of its iconic Fifth Avenue three-story flagship. The project, featuring new interiors by architect Peter Marino and a luminous glass crown by the firm OMA, lit up in Tiffany Blue, was recognized for its exceptional contribution to the world of luxury architecture.