The Most Important Design Moments of the Past 10 Years

by Cees Hom

When this December turns to January, we’ll be entering not only a new year but a new decade, leaving behind the 2010s, for better or worse. A lot has happened in the past 10 years—at the beginning of this decade, the iPhone had not yet reached ubiquity, President Obama was in the sophomore year of his first term, and most design news and inspiration still came largely from the printed page. A lot has come to pass in the design world since January 1, 2010, but we’ve narrowed down the most important moments that stood out among the rest.

Rebirth of Ground Zero

In the wake of 9/11, New Yorkers and the world wondered what was to become of the distressed downtown Manhattan site. Ground Zero sat patiently as a recovery and construction zone for years, slowly transforming into a fitting memorial. Since 2013, a plethora of projects have given new meaning to the area; among them are SOM’s World Trade Center, Snøhetta’s 9/11 museum pavilion, Santiago Calatrava’s Oculus, Michael Arad’s memorial pools, and Peter Walker’s landscape design. (2013—2016)

New Museums and Important Renovations

Countless new cultural institutions sprouted up across the globe and existing ones moved into new starchitect-designed homes, but there were a handful of projects that stood out against the rest. Of particular note are David Adjaye’s design for the new Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture (2016), the Frank Gehry-designed Louis Vuitton Foundation in Paris (2016), Renzo Piano’s design for the new Whitney Museum (2015), Diller Scofidio + Renfro’s MoMA expansion (2019), the George Washington University Museum and The Textile Museum (2015), the Rem Koolhaas-designed new space for Fondazione Prada in Milan (2015), and the reopening of the Cooper Hewitt following a three-year closure (2014). The new and polished-up structures are more than just dazzling buildings; the thoughtful designs allow the institutions to recontextualize their collections, and provide better space for both temporary and permanent exhibitions to shine.

High Line Transformation

Not only has Diller Scofidio + Renfro’s 1.5-mile-long abandoned elevated railroad-turned-public park radically transformed the West Chelsea neighborhood, but it has also served as a template for countless other public reuse projects around the globe.

English Castles and Manors

With the premier of shows like Downton Abbey (2010) and The Crown (2016), English castles and manors were at the center of the spotlight this past decade, their aesthetics inspiring furniture, wallpaper, and textile design. Onscreen and on the page (AssoulineRizzoli, and Vendome were just some of the publishing houses to release tomes dedicated to the English country aesthetic), they were everywhere, no doubt influenced by real-world royal festivities such as weddings, births, and more.

Inaugural Edition of Chicago Architecture Biennial

At long last, the design world was given a U.S.-based forum to discuss contemporary architecture, with the 2015 inauguration of the Chicago Architecture Biennial. Dreamt up by then mayor Rahm Emanuel, the biennial seeks to rival that of Venice’s, with an international roster of committee members that includes David Adjaye, Elizabeth Diller, Jeanne Gang, Frank Gehry, and Hans Ulrich Obrist, among others.

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