Triple Threat Design: Triangles Are Trending in Award-Winning Architecture

From statement ceilings and pavement patterns to folding façades and origami towers, these projects indicate that triangles are back in a big way.

Hannah Feniak Hannah Feniak

Should your firm be considered among the world’s best architecture firms? Find out more about Architizer’s 10th Annual A+Awards program, opening this fall: Sign up to receive key program updates and deadline reminders.

Compared with other shapes, triangles are the most resilient polygon. A triangle’s three-pointed geometry is a stable structural choice regardless of the type (equilateral, isosceles, scalene). For example, when met with force, a square will buckle and eventually warp into a rhombus. Meanwhile, a triangle remains rigid under pressure. Formed by three sides that mutually reinforce one another, a triangle is characterized by a strong base and its ability to provide immense support. Metaphorically and symbolically, these qualities make triangles the perfect shape to communicate strength.

Don’t believe me? Think about the proliferation of this three-pointed shape in historic examples of architecture. From the Great Pyramids of Giza and the Eiffel Tower, triangles underlie the world’s most beautiful and durable structures. As torchbearers for the architectural world to come, A+Awards winners are barometers for significant shifts in the discipline, and this year’s winners demonstrate an undeniable return to the discipline’s strongest shape. From statement ceilings and pavement patterns to folding façades and origami towers, these 9 A+Award-winning projects prove that triangles will be trending in the architecture of the 2020s.

architecture trianglesarchitecture trianglesSCION Innovation Hub – Te Whare Nui o Tuteata by RTA Studio + Irving Smith Architects, Rotorua, New Zealand
Jury & Popular Winner, 2021 A+Awards, Architecture +Wood

Designed as a cutting-edge showcase for engineered timber, SCION draws heavily on triangular motifs. A trio of ‘peaks’ made of gluelam timber form a grand entryway to the structure, representing the three sub-tribes (hapu) native to the region. The warm, interlocking triangles of the portal are unscored by the faint traces of a triangle structure beyond the glass façade.

Indeed, after passing through this proud portal, visitors emerge in a triple-height atrium dominated by an emphatic structural diagrid. Patterns of mirrored triangles are formed in high-performing Laminated Veneer Lumber, with dovetail node joints that slot and glue together to form the impressive structure.

architecture triangles architecture trianglesDysis Church of Poly Shallow Sea by Shanghai United Design Group, Sanya, China
Popular Winner, 2021 A+Awards, Religious Buildings & Memorials

Harnessing the power of geometry, the design of Dysis Church of Poly Shallow Sea uses triangle and circle motifs to captures some of the most important elements of nature: the sea, sky, and sunset. In particular the simplicity and strength of the triangle acts as a bridge from the sea and the sky; the shape suggest upwards toward the clouds with a strong sense of spiritual purpose. Meanwhile, the building’s triangular profile is positioned in such a way that the light of the setting sun passes directly through its center, materializing the perception of time.

architecture trianglesCardero by Henriquez Partners Architects, Vancouver, Canada
Popular Winner, 2021 A+Awards, Multi Unit Housing High Rise (16+ Floors)

Cardero is an origami obelisk standing at the intersection of Vancouver’s two city grids. The architectural sunshades on the residential tower’s south and west facades are an iconic feature. From the street level, the mixed-use project appears as if it were dominated by triangles; however, the striking white façade playfully challenges the perception of triangles as a powerful symbol of strength in design.

Indeed, the origami-like grid of folded triangular motifs; however, the discerning eye will notice that in each instance the distinctive screens stop just short of completing the three-pointed geometry. Referencing the powerful shape but refusing to fully execute appears to be precisely the point: inspired by seagulls and seaplanes, the building draws on the symbolic strength of the triangle but by remaining open-ended maintains aviary spirit of its flying friends.

architecture trianglesCradle Mountain Visitor Centre by Cumulus Studio, TAS, Australia
Jury Winner, 2021 A+Awards, Transportation Infrastructure
Jury Winner, 2021 A+Awards, Cultural & Expo Centers

Intrepid travelers are drawn to Australia’s Cradle Mountain for its distinctive geographical features: wild rainforest, rolling grasslands and roaming Tassie Devils. Year by year the number of visitors increases, and this building was recently designed to mediate between the growing crowds and the natural world.

To this end, the buildings were designed to feel grounded, “as if carved from a solid rock by a glacier.” Triangular folds around the entryway are key to this geological reference and the folds of the umbrella rain-screen serve as the perfect transition to the cave-like timber interior.

architecture trianglesSouth Haven Center for Remembrance by SHAPE Architecture, Edmonton, Canada
Popular Winner, 2021 A+Awards, Architecture +Light

This non-denominational facility in Alberta’s northern capital appears to emerge from the prairie landscape. The building references existing grave sites, monuments, and columbaria and meditates on the architecture of memory.

The key to achieving this aim is the striking tower from which the design unfolds. Reaching over forty feet into the air, the tower’s complicated geometry is not easily communicated in section or floor plan. Culminating in a tilted triangular skylight, this angular dimension of the design converts the tower from architectural element to memorial device; like a tombstone, the tower is a symbolic marker.

architecture trianglesShuifa Information Town Industrial Exhibition Center by Beijing Puri Lighting Design, Jinan, China
Jury Winner, 2021 A+Awards, Architecture +Light

Surrounded by farmland that was once overgrown with grass and weeds, a stone-like mass appears to emerge. The glow of yellow and white LED lighting demarcates the triangular entryways, which are formed by four tilted stone buildings volumes, so that they appear like luminescent cracks within the pure geometry. Inside, triangles proliferate on the ceilings of the expansive exhibition halls and atrium, adding a textural dimension to the otherwise smooth surfaces of the building’s interior.

architecture trianglesTaiyuan Binhe Sports Center Renovation by China Architecture Design & Research Group (CADG), Taiyuan, China
Jury Winner, 2021 A+Awards, Stadium / Arena

The old Taiyuan Binhe was a sprawling Sports Center built in 1998. Long neglected, within two decades it fell into disrepair and was badly in need of renovation. The recent redesign converts the complex into an eco-friendly, accessible and sustainable sports park. By removing the three-storey floor panels on the south side, the architects reveal an open and high entrance space formed by unfolding panels of silver-white metal curtain walls. This façade comprises triangular and parallelogram-shaped sections that can be adjusted based on whether it’s necessary to open the windows; their geometries are illuminated and emphasized at night. The triangular theme is carried echoes inside and on the surrounding pavement.

architecture triangles architecture trianglesChengdu Metro Line 18 by Jiang & Associates Creative Design, Chengdu, China
Popular Winner, 2021 A+Awards, Transport InteriorChengdu is a mega city where ancient civilization meets modern urbanism, and its new Metro Line 19 serves as the aorta between the central urban area and Tianfu International Airport C. The design seeks to integrate the ceiling, wall, column, and floor space as a brilliant and cohesive unit that marries technology and elegance. The complicated pattern on the ceiling is composed of an interlocking rhythm of hexagons and kites that can be viewed in myriad ways. For all its complexity, the backbone of the design is the grid of triangles whose simplity structures the dancing geometries.

architecture triangles architecture trianglesUniversity of Pittsburgh Medical Center Models by HDR
Popular Winner, 2021 A+Awards, Architecture +Models & Rendering

Over the course of three short weeks, this series of models were born including concepts, building/context, façade detail, floor layout and patient room details. The concept model site is deftly built from 3D printed resin with a hand-shaped layered plywood building design. A ¼” = 1’ scale façade crafted from basswood, tinted acrylic and a resin frame delicately reveals the intricate, layered details of the building skin. The model is dominated by the diagrid pattern of elongated triangles, formed by both the structure and façade panels.

Should your firm be considered among the world’s best architecture firms? Find out more about Architizer’s 10th Annual A+Awards program, opening this fall: Sign up to receive key program updates and deadline reminders.

© Johnston Architects

Gear Loft // Johnston Architects

Winthrop, WA, United States

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