From residences to gardens to installations, a look at the most compelling works of the year.

It would be strange to say that architecture had a good year in 2012. Architects, as a professional workforce, couldn’t have started the year off at a greater disadvantage, what with the continued stalling or entire cancellation of projects shrinking the job market. Naturally, these developments could only hurt architecture students, who, not being able to find proper, compensate work, have no recourse but to settle for grueling unpaid internships that offer little in the way of useful education or experience.

At the same time, the year’s several high-profile events like the London Olympics — those were Zaha’s sculptural diving boards billions of people saw while cheering on Michael Phelps —- and the Venice Biennale have extended architecture’s reach in the public sphere. Who would have thought that the architecture of the presidential debate would have been sure blog bait? This side-effect, however, has already begun to fade, and news media continue to remind architects-in-waiting of their poorly considered ambition and career plans.

But you’re here for the inevitable year-end list. Well, about that…

Because they take so long to construct, buildings don’t fit neatly into a year-by-year classification system the way music and movies do, which belong to a much more rapid production cycle. Despite recent technological advances in (pre-)fabrication, architecture, for the most part, likes to take its time. We’ve done our best to find the best buildings of the last 12 to 15 months; some of the projects were completed in late 2011, while others were only just opened.

The list is broken down into typologies, rather than ranked by number, another feature of the best-of list that doesn’t quite apply to architecture. After all, buildings come in several different shapes and sizes and never really subscribe to a single format or model. How, for example, to decide if Sou Fujimoto’ splendid House NA were "better" than Lyon’s recently-finished Swanston Academic Building? Both their scales and aims couldn’t be more different, yet they both are noted for their spatial innovations.

Now, that that’s covered, we hope you’ll enjoy our picks. Farewell, 2012. May 2013 bring more great buildings.

All images provided by the architects, unless otherwise noted. This post originally appeared on Architizer, an Atlantic partner site.

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