Here are AN’s most important stories of 2019

Of Maximum Import

Here are AN’s most important stories of 2019

The proposed exterior of Coldefy & Associés' Pulse Museum. (Courtesy Coldefy & Associés with RDAI/onePULSE Foundation)

As 2019 draws to a close, we’re looking back on some of the events that made it memorable. We’ve rounded up this year’s funniest, most important, and most controversial stories, as well as homages to some of the people we lost.

Groundbreaking projects, heartbreaking disaster, and poignant progress toward social change made headlines this year. Take a look back at the highlights and lowlights, from the smoke above Notre Dame to the Pritzker Prize. 

Notre Dame burns

Photo of Notre Dame Cathedral engulfed in flames
Though Notre Dame Cathedral isn’t the only religious building to be violently damaged over the past year, it seemed to be the only one to be inundated with design attention. (manhhai/Flickr)

After the Parisian cathedral caught fire this April, architects such as Foster + Partners proposed fanciful renovations and additions to the structure as France launched an international competition to rebuild the spire before the 2024 Summer Olympics. As other architects, engineers, and academics protested the hasty renovation of the building, eventually the French government announced the cathedral would be rebuilt as it was, squashing the speculation. Chief architect Villeneuve has since made his opposition to anything short of an identical reconstruction clear, “I will restore it identically and it will be me, or they will build a modern spire and it won’t be me.”

The Pulse Memorial & Museum competition

Rendering of the exterior of the Pulse Museum by Coldefy & Associés'
The proposed exterior of Coldefy & Associés’ Pulse Museum. (Courtesy Coldefy & Associés with RDAI/onePULSE Foundation)

In October, French firm Coldefy & Associés won the design competition for a museum and memorial honoring the victims of the shooting at Pulse nightclub in Orlando, Florida, in 2016. The team, which includes RDAI and Orlando-based HHCP Architects, beat out MVRDV, MASS Design Group, and Diller Scofidio + Renfro, among other top competitors. The design is to feature an open-air museum that spirals up to the memorial site and will slice the existing club in half, making room for a pathway through the building. 

Rikers replacement towers 

A drawing of a map shows New York City's Rikers Island in an alternative plan to the current jail system on the island.
A group of Manhattan architects has organized to create an alternative college-campus like plan for Rikers Island, in opposition to the proposed towers. (Courtesy Lin Sing Association)

After pushback, New York City decided this fall to cut in half the borough-based jail towers replacing the notorious facilities on Rikers Island, but activists are still outraged; some demand the jails be built elsewhere, while others say the city should close and not replace the existing prisons. This month, the City Planning Commission certified an application that would rezone the island as a public space, a huge step forward in the Mayor’s borough-based jail plan. 

Studio Gang will lead the O’Hare expansion 

Rendering of an airport terminal
Rendering of the Studio ORD team’s proposal for Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport Terminal 2 replacement (Courtesy the Chicago Department of Aviation)

The studio of Chicago’s own Jeanne Gang won a leading role in the expansion of O’Hare International Airport, which includes updating the nearly 60-year-old Terminal 2. Skidmore, Owings, & Merill were later added onto the project to design two new 1.4 billion concourses.  

Amazon cancels plans for Queens HQ2

Rendering of One Court Square tower with an Amazon logo from New York City’s proposal to win the new Amazon headquarters. (Courtesy NYCEDC)

Cheers rang out around New York last winter when Amazon relinquished its plans to set up an HQ2 in Queens after substantial local opposition, but—as an April AN article detailed—the company still has a massive footprint in the city and around the country. Plans for the site are still moving forward in a different form, however, as a coalition of community members and organizations have joined together to rethink development that would benefit the neighborhood. 

Arata Isozaki wins the 2019 Pritzker Prize

Photo of Arata Isozaki speaking at the 2019 Pritzker Prize ceremony at Versailles
Arata Isozaki speaking at the 2019 Pritzker Prize ceremony at Versailles (Courtesy Ken Tadashi Oshima)

In March, the great architect, planner, and theorist Arata Isozaki won the top prize in the architecture world, making him one of the eight winners hailing from Japan.