The world seemed to slow in 2020, and yet, urban advancement did not. Innovation, it seemed, could not be halted in modern cities around the globe. And so, this year, we continue honoring the best city beautification projects that were completed—or were at least 60% finished—between April 1, 2020 and April 30, 2021. From the infrastructure in Tokyo created for the Olympics to the pavilions in Dubai constructed for the World Expo and the stadium in Côte d'Ivoire that was unveiled ahead of the Africa Cup of Nations, these are the 2021 Legend Award honorees for best city beautification project.
Abidjan, Côte d'Ivoire: Ebimpé Stadium
The Ebimpe Stadium, a new addition to Abidjan, was built for the 2023 Africa Cup of Nations and is one of the newest and largest stadiums in Africa. The Olympic village surrounding the stadium is part of a sustainable vision for the city and long-term development of the economic success of the region. Fostering these sustainable values includes not just the construction of sporting complexes, but also schools, medical facilities, and retail shops in Abidjan.
Berlin, Germany: Brandenburg Airport
The newest airport in Berlin, Brandenburg Airport opened last fall with an emphasis on taking care of the surrounding ecosystems. Thousands of amphibians, who were going to be displaced during construction, were resettled in newly created and protected replacement ponds and water areas nearby. The airport has also planted trees to design and enhance the landscape with an increased variety of foliage. Half of the electricity demands from the airport will come from renewable resources as well, resulting in far fewer CO2 emissions. And any new buildings still to be added will be zero-energy buildings, thanks to geothermal and solar power.
Tokyo, Japan: Olympic Stadium
When the Summer 2020 Olympics were postponed due to COVID-19, Tokyo’s newly rebuilt National Stadium had to wait for its moment in the spotlight. However, the structure, along with the Japanese Olympic Museum, has helped to boost the Tokyo neighborhood of Shinjuku. The planning around the Tokyo Olympic infrastructure is meant to accommodate tourists not only during the Games but for years to come. By planning for future tourism, Tokyo is hoping to avoid the pitfalls of other past Olympic cities and their now-abandoned facilities.
Dubai, United Arab Emirates: Expo 2021
The next World Expo festival, taking place this year in Dubai after being postponed due to COVID-19, will be hosted in the South Dubai district. The Expo’s Sustainability Pavilion is a platform for showcasing the future of eco-design, and can harvest fresh water straight from the humid air. Shade from the large roof overhang will protect surrounding gardens, and solar “trees” line the pavilion, tracking and moving with the sun to provide electricity. More than 190 country pavilions will showcase during the Expo itself, offering visitors the chance to walk through a waterfall in the Brazil pavilion, or water the desert in the Czech Republic pavilion. Singapore boasts a walkable rainforest canopy, and the Netherlands shows off a vertical farm.
Stockholm and Helsingborg, Sweden: Street Moves
A prefabricated building kit is helping transform vehicle parking spaces into gathering spots in Swedish cities like Stockholm. These kits allow locals to quickly put up small, sustainable wooden builds, like park benches, bike and e-scooter parking, playgrounds, gyms, or gardens. The people-friendly projects are slowly integrating into the Swedish urban landscape, creating more lively and usable streets. While most cities tend to be planned around cars, these building kits are all about redesigning urban environments for increased meeting places or greenery. By using more public space for people, rather than traffic, Stockholm and Helsingborg, among other cities in Sweden, are engineering a more holistic and sustainable future for residents and tourists alike.
New York City, U.S.: Pier 26
Pier 26 is a new 2.5-acre pier in New York City, with an immersive and innovative approach to ecology. The Tide Deck is a fabricated salt marsh, created as an educational river experience. A walk along the pier leads visitors through five zones: forest, grassland, maritime scrub, rocky tidal zone, and finally, the Hudson River itself. This progression helps give shape to what the Manhattan coast might have looked like prior to urbanization. At high tide, you can watch from the viewing decks overhead as the wetland floods entirely. During low tide, school and tour groups can climb down a walkway into the marsh itself to explore.
Manchester, U.K.: Circle Square
Manchester’s newest, largest urban development project is the recently unveiled neighborhood Circle Square, which has added 1,000 homes, plus office space, shops, restaurants, and more to the city. The area is home to a new city park and is in the process of expanding three museums, while also opening Europe’s largest heritage gardening project, the RHS Garden Bridgewater. This 154-acre garden will celebrate surviving historic features in the former Worsley New Hall, an on-site Elizabethian mansion.