18 Must-See Architectural Wonders Of The World
Instead of the usual tourist sites, put these majestic structures on your travel bucket list!
Whether it’s the Parthenon and the Leaning Tower of Pisa or the Guggenheim or Empire State Building, it seems that in whatever part of the world we travel to, it is an architectural structure that defines the culture and identity of a city or place.
Lonely Planet recently released a book, Amazing Architecture: A Spotter’s Guide, which lists 120 must-see architectural marvels around the world. We list here some of those magnificent buildings, and a few suggestions of our own (don’t miss the building that’s shaped like a basket!).
Jordan: Petra (400BC)
With a façade cut right out of stone, Al Khazneh (The Treasury) is one of the most remarkable treasures from antiquity still standing today. With tombs cut right into the rock, caves, and beautifully colored sandstone, this man-made structure is straight out of a fairytale.
Goght, Armenia: Monastery of Geghard (4AD)
Known as the “Monastery of the Spear,’ this mind-blowing structure plays host to many relics, one of which is allegedly the spear which wounded Jesus at his Crucifixion. With chambers cut out of rock, majestic cupolas and wall carvings, the building set high up on a mountain has witnessed changes from its building in the middle ages all the way up to the 17th century.
Bangkok, Thailand: Bank of Asia Robot (Architect: Sumet Jumsai)
In an age when AI seems to be taking over, this 1986 building housing the Bank of Asia seems more relevant today than when it was constructed. A product of postmodern architecture with high-tech leanings, the building is said to symbolize the modernization of the banking industry.
Singapore: ParkRoyal on Pickering (Architects: WOHA)
The tiny nation-state is famous for the greenery that creates a fertile blanket all over its streets, and this hotel is no different. With walls laced with plants, floors and ceilings inspired by rock formations, and a multi-level urban forest that dominates its solar paneled facade, it is a pioneer in green architecture.
Dalat, Vietnam: Hang Nga Guesthouse (Architect: Dang Viet Nga)
More popularly known as the “Crazy House,” this completely organic, non-linear expressionist structure is the stuff fairytales are made of. Influenced heavily by Catalan architect Antoni Gaudi, holds twists and turns that were built—not from blueprints, but from paintings reinterpreted by local craftsmen into three-dimension.
Chicago: Marina Towers (Architect: Bertrand Goldberg)
The Windy City’s skyline is famous the world over for its riverside skyscrapers, and none are more distinct than the mid-century Marina City towers that loom over the water. Known for its semi-circular balconies and concrete brutalism, its landmark “city within a city” design sparked more mixed-use movements over the decades.
Pennsylvania: Fallingwater (Architect: Frank Lloyd Wright)
One of the 20th century’s iconic residential masterpieces, this home, built on a waterfall uses cantilevers and reinforced concrete to create lyrical layers that work with the surrounding landscape. One of Frank Lloyd Wright’s most famous buildings, it is known as the “best all-time work of American architecture.”
Ohio: Longaberger Medium Market Basket (Designer: The Longaberger Company)
This bizarre (and quite literal) use of architecture is more Disney kitsch than design-savvy, but is known to solicit the gaze of anyone who spots it. The basket-making company finds its old seven-storey headquarters in a building resembling its premiere product. Built in 1997, the construction cost a whopping 32 million US Dollars. Picnic, anyone?
Sedona, Arizona: Chapel of the Holy Cross (Architect: Marguerite Brunswig Staude)
Sedona has always been touted as a mystical, magical place for its red earth landscape and its proliferation of crystals. On the other end of the spectrum, however, it is equally as majestic with the mid-century modern Catholic Church rising out of its cliffs. The rectangular structure leans against Sedona’s famous rocks without disrupting the natural landscape. It is said that the chapel was built in only 18 months for US$300,000.
Montreal, Canada: Habitat 67 Housing Complex (Architect: Moshe Safdie)
Modeled out of prefabricated concrete forms, Habitat 67 piles on blocks one on top of each other, creating an almost floating brutalist complex. Surrounded by water and a bevy of trees (it is situated on an artificial peninsula), the Habitat 67’s blocks function in relation to each other through a network of connecting walkways and terraces.
Granada, Spain: Alhambra (AD 889)
What began as a small fortress, over the Middle Ages, became a palace that saw leaders shift and reign through centuries. Unparalleled in detail, its use of Islamic themes and Byzantine influences formed beautiful courts, gardens, and intricate interior work. The beautiful complex is said to have inspired the Westeros in “Game of Thrones.”
Istanbul, Turkey: Hagia Sophia (Designer: Isidore of Miletus, Anthemius of Tralles)
As the seat of the leader of the Greek Orthodox Church (537 AD) to its takeover by the Roman Catholic Crusaders (1204) to its conversion to an Ottoman Mosque (1453 to 1931), this UNESCO World Heritage Site has borne witness to the world’s shifts and changes for centuries. Known for its distinctly Islamic features—its dome and minarets—the present day museum is undergoing massive restoration works.
Rotterdam, Netherlands: Cube Houses (Architect: Piet Lom)
High-density housing is literally turned on its axis with this Dutch architect’s reimagining of the regular cube. The arresting array of yellow and gray cubes is easy to spot from a long distance off, and is based on the concept of a modern forest. The three-floor home consists of a ground floor entrance, living room and open kitchen, two bedrooms, one bathroom and a garden.
Sopot, Poland: Krzywy Domek (Designers: Szoty?scy & Zaleski)
If you think that Diagon Alley exists only in JK Rowling’s imagination, think again. With a name that literally translates to “the little crooked house,” this retail establishment is based off of fairytale illustrations and drawings. Get ready to have your head and your senses spun around upon entering this massively loopy structure.
Bath, Somerset: Bath Abbey (7AD)
What started as a spa town built by the Romans (their original baths still exist and function to this day) became the setting for a 7th century church that, over the centuries, bore witness to the many changes in the Church of England. The Abbey is still a central part of Bath today and provides a stark contrast to the culture brought to Bath’s shores by the Romans.
Niterói, Brazil: Museum of Contemporary Art (Architect: Oscar Niemeyer)
Niemeyer’s famous mid-century aesthetic goes directly modern in this sweeping, UFO-esque structure overlooking the water. The three-storey cylindrical art gallery is surrounded at its base by a reflecting pool. Completed in 1996, the structure is said to have inspired the look and feel of Pixar’s animated film The Incredibles.
Salvador, Brazil: District of Pelourinho (1550)
There is not one building that stands out in this neighborhood—what keeps it interesting is its entirety. Multi-colored facades in pastel shades juxtaposed against rolling streets and colonial architecture make for a positively interesting mix.
Colombia: Casa Terracota House in Villa de Leyva (Architect: Octavio Mendoza)
More pottery than architecture, this 500sqm house is built entirely out of clay. The warm-toned structure was built using exactly the same techniques utilized by potters, proving that you can scale up your process for vases, dishes and other décor to create pieces that are larger than life.
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