100 Photos That Tell Powerful Stories About Architecture in 2021

Architizer is thrilled to reveal the 100 Finalists for the 2021 One Photo Challenge, architecture’s biggest photography competition!

Architizer Editors Architizer Editors

The wait is finally over — Architizer is thrilled to reveal the 100 Finalists for the 2021 One Photo Challenge, architecture’s biggest photography competition! Below, you’ll find every amazing photograph that made the Top 100, each of which remains in the running for 2 Grand Prizes of $2,500, a Fujifilm camera and worldwide recognition.

The final judging process is officially underway, with our stellar line up of expert jurors reviewing each image in minute detail and reading the stories behind them. They will be judging the photographs based on the competition criteria to come up with their top entries. The jurors’ rankings will be converted into scores, which will then give us our two Top Winners and 10 Runners-up.

Without further ado, explore the 100 Finalists below (published across 4 posts and in no particular order), accompanied by their stories, written by the entrants. Tell us which is your favorite on Instagram and Twitter with the hashtag #OnePhotoChallenge! Below, “Part 1” presents the first 25 architectural photographs — you can jump to part 2, 3 and 4 using these buttons:

Part 2     Part 3     Part 4

“NYS Museum 4D” by Alex Nye

“This image depicts the complex relationship between humans and our creations. This enormous 1.5 million square foot civic building in Albany NY houses the New York State Archives, Library, and Museum. This structure’s purpose is to safely contain a plethora of important artifacts, art, books, and information with cultural significance. The dense and monumental brutalist design makes a statement about functionalism and its historical context.

The building itself has become an artifact, an iconic sculpture, a piece of art to experience. A man walks by seemingly unaware of the commanding concrete structure behind him. It leads the viewer to wonder about his purpose, his priorities, and why he walks away from the light and towards the darkness. Why does such a culturally significant building appear so isolated, almost intimidating? What human creations do we value most in society?”

Camera: Canon

“Quarantine dancing” by Ossip van Duivenbode

Ossip Architectuurfotografie

“The Musa at Katendrecht Rotterdam in the Netherlands is a multifunctional building with mainly housing for the elderly. It was designed by Diederendirrix architects. During the corona lockdown the residents danced together. Each from their own apartment.”

Camera: Fujifilm SLR

“Equal Justice Under Law” by Rahul Singh

“The Supreme Court of the United States stands tall as a symbol of “Equal Justice to All” that can be seen engraved above the main entrance to the building. The wheelchair in the foreground adds a creative tension and forces the viewer to think of equality as more than just a theoretical concept.”

Camera: Canon

“Way Home” by Feitong Du

University of Southern California

“The light would always lead you to your sweet home when you are tired of the world. I took this picture in an ancient district where buildings are representations of classical and traditional Shanghai architectural style. Two strangers were walking home under the lamps. The darkness can not take over the hope and the meaning of life away. Like these two men, I, as part of the youth in the world, would live to thrive and make a better future for the rest of the world.”

Camera: Sony

“Unité d’Cohabitation” by Rolando Ojeda Santacruz

“After a shower of gloves, a fraternal hug closes boxing time. The idea of ​​knocking down the opponent wears off on the lawn of Unite d’Habitation in Berlin. Two friends take advantage of the sunny summer Sunday to practice boxing, after exchanging blows they are exhausted and the strength reaches for a final hug. Le Corbusier’s idea of ​​enjoying nature and the sun is echoed in this image 60 years after its construction.”

Camera: Sony

“‘Lennon Wall’ at Legislative Council Complex in Hong Kong” by Mark Panckhurst

“The 2019 Hong Kong protests were triggered by the introduction of a bill by the Hong Kong government that would have allowed extradition to mainland China. This led to concerns that Hong Kong residents would be exposed to mainland China’s legal system, thereby undermining Hong Kong’s autonomy and infringing civil liberties. Protests in the early months were on a massive scale and peaceful.

This is a series of images which capture the entire Lennon Wall at the Legislative Council Complex. This was the first, and most famous Lennon Wall of the 2019 protest movement. It was partially destroyed several times before being dismantled altogether. At full resolution, the entire Lennon Wall is legible to read.”

Camera: Nikon

“Uplifting” by Ron Rocco

“The definition of a space can be containing, or uplifting. In the central stairwell of Tadao Ando’s He Art Museum in Foshan, China the troubles of a global pandemic evident from the prevelance of visitors wearing surgical masks is mitigated by the uplifting presence of the architecture.”

Camera: Xiaomi

“Light Up the Darkness” by Marc Johannknecht

British Columbia Institute of Technology

“Here in Vancouver, British Columbia, our winters are dark and wet. One evening I decided to take a walk to clear my head. Similarly to my mind, some fog had rolled in and visibility became very limited. In a matter of seconds a bright golden glow began to form in the distance. The setting sun was being reflected off the building and diffusing into the dark fog around me, lighting up the darkness, including my own.

As we approach the anniversary of a virus that stopped the world in its tracks, I reflect on the year and see two things. I see a darkness that has affected people both physically and mentally, myself included. But through all that, I’ve seen the world unite together and pick itself back up again. I see a light, a hope.”

Camera: Canon

“Double Empire” by sara agrest


“Over the last 20 years, the West Side of Manhattan has seen a complete metamorphosis, Hudson Yards is the latest of the new-New York. Futuristic glassy structures are juxtaposed with the original architecture – but the seams that were created when these typologies were joined are still visible if you look closely.

This photograph, taken from the historic 434 W 33rd Street building, constructed in 1913, shows the original Hudson Yards neighborhood, reflected in the curtainwall of the new 1 Manhattan West building. The past and the present exist in one photograph. At the end is the Empire State building – which exists in both the past and the present. The Double Empire represents the history and future of New York, and the iconic elements that bind them together.”

Camera: iPhone

“Passing by the Tianfu International conference” by shihao xiao


“The plane organization of traditional houses in Chengdu is open and free, and eaves and colonnades are often used to connect multiple spaces. The roof truss system of the eaves Gallery comes from the beam lifting structure of traditional Chinese dwellings, and it is further changed and abstracted. The super long building volume conveys a scale of modern architecture. In the middle part of the roof, there is a undulating, rippling halo, forming a special frame view of Qinhuang lake.

In the future, this area will become a new city center. Tianfu international center it is known as the largest Glulam single building in Asia. A group of gardeners passing by who are working day and night to make this area become the new center of the city in the future. It make me thinking of how fast the city can be changed.”

Camera: Canon

“Heydar Aliyev Centre, Baku” by Sharon Tzarfati

Sharon Tzarfati Photography

Heydar Aliyev Centre
Baku – Azerbaijan
Designed by Zaha Hadid Architects

“This is one of the most beautiful buildings I had ever photographed because from every angle the building can be described differently and interpreted in different directions. This angle is so special because it can resemble a wedding dress, and, quite by chance, this bride and groom chose to take their photos there, which made this particular photo very special.”

Camera: Canon

“Poor man’s canvas” by Kavin lasa

Anna University

“‘Two sisters’ smiling brightly, stare across the street, go closer and it’s merely a painting on a building facade. This is Kannagi nagar, resettlement home to fishermen communities of 3 slums across the city. Murals like these around here illustrate ideas of home, hope and livelihoods. This is an ignored part of the city fabric. Crimes, Violence, Grimy – are what people say about this area.

These paintings aren’t merely aesthetics but changes people’s perception of this area and a medium of expressing social issues to the limelight – An identity. The kid’s bright smile is a beacon calling to me. The vibrant place, people, trying to find home in their houses. Unchaining my previous prejudices, I smile too. And a question arises in me, Can art matter amidst poverty? Though the people here are unaware of its implications, People here say art matters, after all little things make life.”

Camera: Canon

“time travel” by Kai van Reenen

Wageningen University & Research

“Liège-Guillemins railway station; An imposing, futuristic looking, modern day monument for the working class (former mining) city of Liège (Belgium). Designed by Calatrava, and finished in 2009, the station is characterised by the immense white concrete arches that span 160 metres and reach a height of 32 metres. This concrete and steel skeleton is both functional and stylistic, as the structure has no façades, and the arched roof is self supporting. The station welcomes around 15.000 passengers a day, one of whom I photographed on a chilly winter afternoon; Her silhouette contrasting with the white concrete and Belgian bluestone as she studies the timetables.”

Camera: Canon

“Desire” by Fangzhou Ni

University of Southern California

“In Meijia Courtyard, the most famous hometown of overseas Chinese in Taishan, Guangdong, China, an indigenous Veranda boy was attracted by a drone that just took off. Since 1931, this community has witnessed the history of Chinese and Western cultural exchange and integration. As an essential historical and cultural heritage, the Meijia Courtyard seems to be eager to have a dialogue with the wider world in the modern era, just like its owner who laid the majestic Verandas’ foundation 90 years ago.”

Camera: iPhone

“The Oculus Sky” by Melissa Teo

“Capturing the oculus skylight represents me looking up to a positive, bright future and taking a step forward to explore various opportunities as a photographer. I reconceptualize the cone hat on a family trip to Phuket, Thailand where I was determined to marry architecture and self-protraiture. The cone hat was able to blend in elegantly into different contexts and backdrops without sticking out like a sore thumb.I have developed a project #riceconehat that documents my travels and uncovering places such as South-East Asia, a treasure-trove of rich artistry.”

Camera: Other

“Pastel Blue” by Jonathan Sage

Jonathan Sage Photography

“Colour is a hallmark characteristic of Rajasthan. Jaipur is the pink city; Jodhpur is the blue city; and Jaisalmer the gold city. The golden sandstone of Jaisalmer may be a distinctive material of the region-wide architectural vernacular. However, the decorative pastel blue markings on the doorway convey this inhabitant’s unique identity on a local scale within their dense urban surroundings. The coordinating colours of the women’s sari and sandals also add to her individuality.”

Camera: Other

“Empty seats” by György Palkó

Location/building: Puskás Aréna, Budapest (HUN)
Architect: György Skardelli, KÖZTI
Date: 2020.11.12.
European Qualifiers Hungary vs. Iceland 2:1

“I’ve photographed the arena after the completion two times, and I was really looking forward to the moment when I could take photos in a sold-out match. I haven’t had the opportunity to do that yet, but I have been able to capture a match of extraordinary significance in a way that I hope will never be possible again. (Due to the pandemic, spectators could not come to the match, so photographers, video colleagues, and members of the press could be present in the stands.)

The image was taken during the Hungarian national hymn, from the very center of the main tribune. Emotionally, it adds a lot to the picture for me that the Hungarian national team finally won 2: 1 and thus made it to the European Championship.”

Camera: Nikon

“Order within Density” by IAN LEUNG

University of Southern California

“In Order within Density, I question stereotypes of Hong Kong’s claustrophobic nature and provide another point of view as I aspire to demonstrate the existence of geometric order within this chaotic city. My perspective rests on seeing beyond boundaries and binaries, allowing new outlooks to shape my vision of Hong Kong.

Hong Kong’s public housing estates are characterized by uniform tower blocks, representing stagnation and decay. Through Order with Density, I work to reveal a hidden organic beauty from above, allowing people to see the isolated elements of humanity concealed by the concrete and glass as part of a more intricate social network. On closer inspection, each car, air-conditioning unit, and laundry line reminds us that Hong Kong is composed of individuals with specific desires and dreams. What appears as isolated and decaying remnants of life instead reveals itself as an organic system offering endless possibilities to thrive.”

Camera: Other

“The Heart of Indy” by Ian DeFelice


“Being at the crossroads of America, the Indianapolis community is diverse and rapidly expanding. The “Circle City” is home to hundreds of small, unique businesses but also has held a super bowl and will hold one of the largest spectacles in US sports, March Madness. With all the hustle and growth happening we can often forget the importance of meaningful relationships with one another, especially during this difficult period of time. It is essential that we show each other love and understanding, kindness and compassion, and that we always remember, Love Conquers All.”

Camera: Canon

“Enough House” by James Brittain

James Brittain

“This photograph showing ‘Enough House’ at Shobac, Nova Scotia, was made on commission for a book about the work of Canada’s MacKay-Lyons Sweetapple Architects. I’m cautious about making images of architecture at dusk, but here the purpose was to help explain the project’s motivating idea: One main living volume constructed with robust materials locally sourced, a cosy shelter, a fire inside and out. A suggestion of what might be “enough” for human habitation.”

Camera: Other

“The White pearl of the Indian Ocean” by omar degan sharif

DO Architecture and Design

“Mogadishu , the capital city of Somalia was once known as the White Pearl of the Indian Ocean, for it’s white beautiful buildings, the green palm trees and the blue of the ocean. Sadly in 1991 the civil war broke up destroying lives, families and infrastructures. For more than 25 years Somalia faced destabilization and internal conflict, but now the country is moving forward leaving behind it not only the dark past but also the beautiful buildings of the past that are now only a skeleton of what they used to be. The photo shows one of the most famous landmark of the nation , the Mogadishu lighthouse and a group of people standing on the ruins of the once called Palazzo Mediterraneo.
They are looking ahead , leaving behind a dark past of destruction and war.”

Camera: iPhone

“Waiting” by Jim Stephenson

Jim Stephenson Architectural Photography & Films

“At Horris Hill school in the UK, the architecture practice Jonathan Tuckey Design have finished a new theatre for the pupils. In this photo, the first group of pupils to use the new space queue up in anticipation – there is a buzz of excitement in the air while they wait to be let inside. The teacher asks the students to be a littler quieter as their excitement starts to bubble over, waiting for the bell to ring so they can start the lesson…”

Camera: Nikon

“Komazawa Park Olympic Memorial Tower” by Yu Heng Lim

“Designed as a commemorative tower towards the 1964 Tokyo Olympics, the tower draws a resemblance to the Japanese vernacular. Situated in the main plaza of Komazawa Olympic Park, it remains a popular leisure spot for people of all generations. The tower is a symbol towards the Japanese post-war pride towards rebuilding their nation and it remains as a timeless piece of architecture that inspires the generations to come. This photo was captured to portray the youth’s genuine curiosity towards the tower.”

Camera: Sony

“Yoga” by Edmund Sumner

Edmund Sumner Photographer

“Yoga was shot in Bangkok Thailand in January 2020 designed by Enter Projects.
The form was a result of low-tech traditional materials (Rattan) and high-tech Computer modeling (Rhino). The space was difficult to communicate visually until I asked the owner, master Yogi Konstantin Miachin, to model for me. The juxtaposition of the human form and the structure immediately worked and offered both scale and for me poetry, form follows function and this image for me has both”

Camera: Canon

“Corrupted Patterns” by Karim Nasser

“Corrupted Patterns frames the governmental building of EDL (Electricité Du Liban). Inaccessible however very visible to the public, an architectural landmark stands in the urban fabric of Beirut, Lebanon. A landmark, but also a symbol and pioneer of Lebanon’s political corruption consolidated in one building.

Framed in this image, is a façade that portrays the destruction caused by the Beirut Port Explosion, the largest non-nuclear bomb in the history of our modern civilisation, moments after the blast that occurred on August 4th of 2020 at 06:07 PM. Corruption also corrupted itself.”

Camera: Canon

Next 25 Photographs →

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