“If everyone is different, then why do so many buildings look the same?” 

Danish architect Bjarke Ingels

New residential projects are often faulted for being soulless glass boxes, criticized for failing to provide an architecturally meaningful contribution to a city’s ever-changing skyline. Yet, high-rise living can truly be transformative when design leads the way. Building design, at its visionary best inspires, engages, and connects. 

The following list shows the most inspiring residential designs that are expected to reshape the skyline and streets of some of North America’s major cities. 

1. 5th and Hill – Los Angeles, CA

  • Architect: Arquitectonica 
  • Construction Status: Preconstruction
  • Estimated Completion: 2023

Thanks to Arquitectonica’s daring pool concept, this 53-storey tower will become not only one of the taller buildings in the LA skyline, but one of the most unique. Renderings show a vision for a tower with terraces and glass-bottomed swimming pools that will project out of 12 units from various sides of the building. Cantilevered pools are surprisingly common and have been built in other cities for years, but this design concept will be a first for Los Angeles. 

2. Fifteen Fifteen – Vancouver, BC

The cantilevered trend continues north of the border, but this time, the unique design features the units themselves. This residential tower will stand at the entrance into the downtown Vancouver core, and showcasing a multi-directional design of distinctive glass-enclosed cantilevered living spaces. The horizontal rotation and outward projection of living spaces allows for the creation of unique terraces while maximizing views of the surrounding park, water and city.

3. MIRA – San Francisco, CA

Award-winning architecture firm Studio Gang is bringing a twist, quite literally, to the San Francisco skyline. MIRA features classic bay windows spiralled around its exterior, a reinterpretation of the city’s architectural traditions and a familiar feature of San Francisco’s early houses. The windows gradually twist in different directions to create unique spaces in every residence, with striking views of the city, water and nearby Bay Bridge. 

4.  130 William Street – New York, NY

  • Architect: Adjaye Associates 
  • Construction Status: Construction
  • Estimated Completion: 2020

British architect David Adjaye is celebrating New York City’s heritage of masonry with his firm’s first Manhattan skyscraper. Pushing away from the typical commercial feel of glass, the condo building at 130 William Street is anything but a boring glass box. With its concrete facade, this high-rise will be an important contribution to the city’s ever-changing skyline and will create a striking form against the cityscape of Lower Manhattan. 

5. King Toronto Condos – Toronto, ON

Modelled after a mountain range, the Bjarke-Ingels design features irregular stepped, terraced residences with glass-brick facades covered in vertical gardens. The 45-degree rotation from the street helps to maximize each unit’s exposure to light and air, while also accommodating the vertical space needed for the mountain-like shape they create. The residences will rise up and around several century-old heritage brick buildings that have been worked into the design. Once complete, Toronto’s most ambitious condo project will undoubtedly transform the King Street West area.

6. Tribune Tower Residences – Chicago, IL

Originally built in 1925, Chicago’s iconic Tribune Tower has been reimaged for the future. This architectural landmark is set to be redeveloped into luxury residences while honouring the historic building’s heritage. Preserving the original neo-Gothic architecture, one of the building’s signature features will be the crown amenity terrace on the 25th floor. The tower currently features 150 “Stones of the World”, a collection of famous building fragments from historically important sites from across the globe that are embedded in the facade. This includes fragments from the Great Wall of China, the World Trade Center, Taj Mahal, Angkor Wat and the Great Pyramid. These pieces will remain as part of the new residential building.

7. Lantern House – New York, NY

Named for its interpretation of the modern bay window, Lantern House will be British designer Thomas Heatherwick’s first residential project in the United States. Responding to the industrial aesthetic of warehouses in the surrounding Chelsea neighbourhood, the two-tower design pairs antiqued grey brickwork with industrial metal detailing. Meanwhile, the “lantern-shaped” bay windows provide distinctive character, plenty of natural light, and unobstructed views of the surrounding Hudson River and the Manhattan skyline. 

8. The Terminal at Katy Trail – Dallas, TX

Inspired by some of the world’s grandest train terminals during the prime time of rail, the building’s base features an appropriately train station-reminiscent exterior with grand arched windows and elegant bronze finishes. The project’s design is embracing a unique blend of traditional, contemporary and historical elements. Austin-based Michael Hsu Office of Architecture is also paying homage to the area itself since Katy Trail was one an important railroad line, hand-built in the 1860s. 

9. Miami Produce Center – Miami, FL

Designed by Danish architect Bjarke Ingels, the Miami Produce Center aims to create a new destination for the city while retaining the neighbourhood’s industrial character. The ambitious project will include residential units, office space, a hotel, retail, education areas and urban farming. BIG’s design involves buildings that will be supported by stilts and connected horizontally above a tiered landscape. Zigzagging walls will create triangular balconies, with their offset arrangement producing patterns across the facades. These walls will be coloured pale pink, orange, or blue, depending on their block.

10. Akimbo – Burnaby, BC

  • Architect: IBI Group
  • Construction Status: Preconstruction
  • Estimated Completion: 2023

Akimbo’s bold exterior is set to define the city’s skyline and make it the most architecturally significant condo tower in Burnaby. Soaring to a height of 40 storeys, the design is sculpted by uniquely shaped balconies. The pattern of angled, offset balconies are vertically connected and wrap the height of the building, creating a dramatic architectural perspective.

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