What’s New:
9 Places to Watch in 2021

The year 2020 has defied every expectation — and yet, thankfully, our work continues.

The year 2020 has defied every expectation — and yet, thankfully, our work continues.

As our design teams have adapted (fashioning workspaces out of bedrooms, screen shares replacing pin-up boards, etc.) the distances between Los Angeles, Chicago, and London have never seemed shorter. Even while being physically apart from our colleagues and clients, we’ve invented new, meaningful ways to collaborate. Our work has kept us inspired and focused on the future.

With construction advancing on airport terminals, creative offices, and arts venues, we eagerly await a return to routines once taken for granted. Meanwhile, we’re grateful to contribute to projects that will be transformative for cities and communities around the world. Here’s to 2021 — and a look ahead at a few of the new buildings we’re excited to celebrate.

1245 Broadway

New York City

Commercial real estate in New York City has recently been dominated by mega-developments. But an exquisitely crafted new building at the corner of Broadway and 31st Street represents an altogether different type that’s increasingly in demand — the boutique office building.

In every detail, 1245 Broadway is anything but standard issue. The design of the 22-story tower makes a contemporary impression while evoking its historic surroundings. It riffs on the form of classic Manhattan high-rises, with setbacks that create a series of outdoor terraces, each tailored to take advantage of specific views. The same purposeful balance comes through in its materials. Bold lines of textured concrete echo the surrounding masonry buildings, while floor-to-ceiling, triple-glazed windows provide dramatic views and light-filled interiors.

© Timothy Schenck

These design choices contribute to making 1245 Broadway a sought-after place to work, of course, but they also earn the building high marks for sustainability. And many features which are not commonly found in typical office buildings, such as outdoor spaces and touchless technology throughout, gain a new relevance for the workplace in our post-pandemic reality. It’s not hard to imagine that 1245 Broadway offers a glimpse of where commercial office design is headed next.

Sea-Tac Airport, International Arrivals Facility


While many of us put travel plans on hold this year, we’ve been dreaming about destinations far and wide. If predictions for an eventual post-pandemic travel boom play out, Seattle, for one, will be ready. Work is scheduled to wrap up in April of next year on a reimagined and greatly expanded International Arrivals Facility (IAF) at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport (Sea-Tac) — a project that further positions the growing Puget Sound region as a destination for business and tourism.

As part of the most significant capital development program in Sea-Tac’s 70-plus-year history, the new IAF will double the airport’s capacity and handle increased demand for international flights. The new multilevel, 450,000-square-foot facility is located east of Sea-Tac’s current Concourse A. It’s designed to comfortably accommodate an additional 2,600 passengers per hour. The signature feature is an aerial bridge which spans 700 feet, providing a walkway from the south satellite terminal, and across the top of Concourse A, to the new space.

Baggage area at Sea-Tac’s new International Arrivals Facility. © SOM

The overall expansion increases Sea-Tac’s capacity for wide-body aircraft, while speeding up passport checks and luggage processing. It also provides direct access to ground transportation, reducing connection times from 90 to 57 minutes. Travelers, take note: 2021 might turn out to be a good year to renew your passport.

United Nations Office at Geneva, Strategic Heritage Plan


For years, the United Nations has taken the lead in coordinating a global response to climate change. With the UN’s own European headquarters in Geneva due for a major renovation, it was clear that the project should set an example for the 21st-century sustainable workplace. The challenges were also evident: How do you incorporate cutting-edge architecture into the context of an important heritage site?

The Strategic Heritage Plan involves the renovation of the Palais des Nations complex, initially built between 1929 and 1938, to dramatically improve its environmental performance, as well as the construction of an efficient new building that will initially be used as a swing space while the retrofit takes place.

Embedded in the landscape, the new building keeps a low profile on the site with a terraced design. It offers access to outdoor spaces and remarkable vantage points from inside, such as a new dining hall that faces the parklands and Lake Geneva. In this workplace that prioritizes well-being, people are immersed in nature. The new building is due to open in 2021, allowing the complete renovation of the Palais des Nations to proceed. Geneva’s refurbished landmark will embody the commitment to climate action that the United Nations continues to advance.

Shenzhen Rural Commercial Bank Headquarters


Shenzhen Rural Bank
© Seth Powers

A striking new architectural landmark is nearly complete in Shenzhen’s Bao’an district. The 150-meter-tall Shenzhen Rural Commercial Bank Headquarters appears as a glass volume enveloped in a net of structural steel, pulled away from the facade. It’s the latest evolution in SOM’s decades-long development of diagrid structures — an approach that’s both efficient and sustainable because it reduces the amount of steel required for construction.

Shenzhen Rural Bank

The design was created with air quality and ventilation as key considerations, and it will be opening at a time when these factors are newly top-of-mind. Operable louvers give the building’s occupants control for natural ventilation, while two expansive atria contribute to better airflow. Even the diagrid structural design contributes to indoor comfort and energy performance by shading the facade and reducing cooling needs. When the building opens next year, it may well set a new benchmark for health and wellbeing.

800 Fulton


Mulva Cultural Center

De Pere, Wisconsin

Fifteen Fifty

San Francisco

Mark Schwettmann © SOM

Loyola Marymount University, School of Film and Television


In front of the main building is an 80-seat theater, clad in semi-reflective metal panels. It features a roof garden breakout space for SFTV students and faculty. When complete, Loyola Marymount plans to use the theater and courtyard for events and film screenings, and also as a venue available to other departments across the university.

Mashreq Bank Headquarters


Mashreq Bank
View looking up from the podium-level roof garden. © SOM