1. Town House, Kingston University
By Grafton Architects; opened in January
A grown-up climbing frame for students. A three-dimensional town square for the social life that will one day return. Generous and dignified.
2. Z33, Hasselt, Belgium
Francesca Torzo; opened in May
The expansion of an art and architecture museum in a historic building that goes far beyond your usual thoughtful minimalism. The experience is of a series of atmospheres, created by subtle modulations of its surfaces and shadows, as much as of solid masonry. A work of pleasure and beauty.
3. Tainan Spring, Taiwan
MVRDV; opened in March
The ruins of a shopping mall made into a water garden that changes with the seasons – more water when it’s rainy, vapour mists when it’s hot. Perhaps Philip Green’s legacy could be transformed like this.
4. Mountain View, Sydenham
CAN Architects; completed in September
This small-scale house extension may not literally be one of the world’s best five buildings this year, but its bright colours, playful bits of ruined brickwork, and faux-mountain-shaped gable offer hope. Because it feels that someone had a good time while designing it, which is not an impression of which you get enough in architecture.
5. Zoe Zenghelis: Do you remember how perfect everything was?
Betts Project, London EC1; December-30 January 2021 (temporarily closed)
Exhibition of paintings by the artist and designer who was one of the founding members of the Office of Metropolitan Architecture, one of the most influential practices in the world, in the 1970s. Zenghelis and her collaborators treated architecture as a thing of imagination and dream, not just function and styling. Another small but hopeful event.