There’s no shortage of incredible architecture around the world, but here are 10 cool buildings to add to your travel bucket list!
Photo by Ashleigh Nushawg, via Flickr.
1 | The Dancing House, Prague, Czech Republic.
The Dancing House in the Czech Republic’s capital city of Prague is one of the world’s most famous and playful architectural masterpieces. The unique building sits in front of Prague’s Vltava river. Croatian-Czech architect Vlado Milunić and Canadian-American architect Frank Gehry designed Dancing House in the 1990s. The building is also known as “Fred and Ginger” because it features a silhouette meant to mimic the movements of two famous dancers: Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers.
Unlike the rest of Prague’s Gothic and art nouveau style buildings, Dancing House is deconstructivist, new baroque, and modernist style. The building’s asymmetrical, heavily stylized exterior is seen as a masterpiece to some and out of place to others. However, Dancing house is undeniably popular. Not only do people from all over the world flock to Prague to see it, but it is now featured on a gold 2,000 Czech koruna coin issued by the Czech National Bank.
Photo by Travis Wise via Flickr.
2 | Lotus Temple, New Delhi, India.
The Lotus Temple, in New Delhi, India, is a Bahá’í House of Worship. The stunning building resembles a lotus flower thanks to 27 marble “petals” that cascade upwards in clusters of three. Keeping with the Bahá’í belief in the mystical properties of the number nine, the petals create a nine nine sided structure complete with nine doors. Designed by Iranian architect Fariborz Sahba, the temple first opened to the public in 1986. It can hold 2,500 people, and since its opening, has hosted over 100 million visitors. This makes it one of the most visited buildings in the world. The Lotus Temple has won numerous architectural awards and has made it into many renowned books, magazines, and newspapers. The temple is dedicated to public worship and is open to all, regardless of religious belief.
Photo by Tobias Sattler via Flickr.
3 | Burj Khalifa, Dubai, United Emirates.
The Burj Khalifa is a massive skyscraper located in Dubai, United Emirates. At nearly half a mile tall (2,722 feet), the Burj Khalifa is currently the world’s tallest building. It was designed by American architecture and engineering firm Skidmore, Owings and Merril LLP, and opened to the public in 2010. The Burj Khalifa is named after “the leader of the neighboring emirate of Abu Dhabi, Sheikh Khalifa ibn Zayed Al Nahyan” and was designed to resemble an abstract version of the local flower, the Spider Lily, or Hymenocallis. The Burj Khalfia is truly a feat of modern engineering with a Y-shaped plan, a hexagonal floor, and a spiraling internal column configuration. All of these elements work together to reduce impact from high winds. The skyscraper has multiple uses including a hotel, luxury condos, office spaces, restaurants and observation decks.
Photo by Guillaume Baviere, via Flickr.
4 | Ad Deir (“the Monastery”) at Petra, Jordan.
The Ad Deir, also commonly spelled ad-Dayr or el-Deir, is an ancient monument carved into a rock formation in modern day Jordan. The sturcture was probably created around 2,000 years ago in the mid first century AD, when the area was a part of the ancient city of Petra. To visit the Ad Deir, you’ll have to take a zig-zagging trek up age-old sandstone steps. As you go, you’ll see various rock formations, red rock cliffs, oleander flowers and ancient carvings. But, the most amazing part of your hike will be when you reach the high plateau over the incredible facade of the Ad Deir and the surrounding mountain views.
Believed to be a memorial to a king called Obodas I, the Ad-Deir is the most visited building in the historical Petra site. In ancient times, the Ad Deir (which literally means the Monastery in Arabic) probably served some kinda of ceremonial religious purpose, but was named after monks who inhabited it in the Byzantine period. The facade is 154 ft high, 157 fit wide, with columns leading up to a broken pediment, which borders a conical shaped roof. Like the rest of Petra, the Ad Deir is an incredible example of Nabatean (an ancient people who inhabited parts of Jordan) architecture.
Photo by Jeremy Nelson, via Flickr.
5 | Colosseum, Rome, Italy.
The Colosseum, an ancient amphitheater at the center of Rome, is the stuff of myths. The massive stone structure was commissioned in around 70-72 AD for Emperor Vespasian of the Flavian dynasty. However, it wasn’t opened until around 80 AD by Vespasian’s son who celebrated the occasion with 100 days of events. These brutal “games” involved animal fights, gladiator combat, chariot races, executions, and mock naval battles. The Colosseum was actively used for such purposes for four centuries until it began to turn to ruin. After that it was used for scrap pieces until the 18th century when people began to preserve it.
The ornate structure consists of a crumbling south side and a gloriously intact north side. At nearly 188 feet tall, the Colosseum is a complete wonder of ancient architecture. While you’re there, be sure to visit the second floor for a great view of the structure, explore the arena on the ground level, and pose for a photo at the iconic outer wall before you head out. The Colosseum is truly the most iconic piece we have of the ancient Roman world, and your visit won’t disappoint.
Photo by Hannes Flo, via Flickr.
6 | Parliament Building, Budapest, Hungary.
On the banks of the Danube river sits Hungary’s most iconic landmark – the imposing and impressive Hungarian Parliament Building (or the Országház) . Located in the heart of Budapest, the building is “one of the finest examples of Gothic Revival and Renaissance Revival architecture in the world today.” Architect Imre Steindl began work for the project in 1885 and it wasn’t fully finished until 1904. During that nearly 20 year period, Steindl sadly went blind and was never able to see his masterpiece fully finished.
Today, not only is the building a UNESCO World Heritage site, it is also a functioning lawmaking body. The Parliament building is a workplace for some 200 parliamentary members and 600 other staff members. The huge building (406 feet tall, 879 feet wide), is full of stone statues, baroque and gothic features, opulent renaissance style ceilings and walls, and a 300 foot dome in its center. While you’re there don’t miss the Holy Crown of Hungary, a precious 12th century crown displayed in the Central Dome hall, as well as hidden historical features like the bullet holes that remain from WWII on a wall on the Kossuth Lajos Square side.
Photo by JM, via Flickr.
7 | Great Mosque of Djenné, Djenné, Mali.
The Great Mosque of Djenné in present day Mali is not only one of the most unique religious buildings in the world, it is also the largest mud-built structure. This wonder of Africa and the world, is the most extravagant and revered Sudano-Sahelian architectural structure in existence. In fact, it is so important to Mali that it is featured on the country’s coat of arms. The building was probably first constructed in around 800 to 1250 C.E and was an important center of commerce, learning, Islam, and culture for centuries. The mosque has been rebuilt and renovated several times throughout the centuries, the most recent of which was in 1907.
The present mosque features a rectilinear design with monumental pillars and three decorative minarets with terracotta elements. The building is made out of sun-dried mud bricks and an exterior of mortar made out of sand and plaster to give it its smooth shapely look. Once a year during the annual festival of the Crepissage de la Grand Mosquée, the whole community gathers together to re-plaster and repair the exterior walls with a “mixture of butter and fine clay from the alluvial soil of the nearby Niger and Bani Rivers.”
Photo by a.canvas.of.light, via Flickr.
8 | The Gherkin, London, UK.
London’s impressive skyline wouldn’t be complete without the Gherkin building AKA 30 St. Mary Axe. The Gherkin building is named after its pickle/cucumber-like shape. British architect Sir Norman Foster designed the spiraling glass tower structure in the early 2000’s and the building was officially opened in 2004. The Gherkin, which is located in London’s financial district, is a whopping 591 feet tall, with 41 floors and 18 elevators. The Gherkin functions as private office spaces so you can’t tour the whole building, but it does have a restaurant and bar at the top, which has stunning panoramic views of London. Considered a modern-day architectural masterpiece, the Gherkin is truly a sight to behold.
Photo by Ed Menendez, via Flickr.
9 | Casa Milà/ La Pedrera, Barcelona, Spain.
Casa Milà or La Pedrera in Barcelona is world renowned Catalan architect Antoni Gaudi’s last civil work. The Catalan modernist style building began construction in 1906 and was completed in 1912. Built on one of the most exclusive and desired streets in Barcelona, Passeig de Gràcia, the building was designed to turn heads. At the time, Passeig de Gràcia was known for its bold and cutting edge architecture. So, Pere Milà and his wife Roser Segimon commissioned Gaudi to build them an extravagant home and apartments on their newly purchased 1,835 square meter lot. However, they may have gotten more than they bargained for as Gaudi and Milà were said to have bickered about the design and legality of certain aspects of the building. In the end, Gaudi’s extravagant project was met with much criticism and mockery including ridicule in newspapers and satirical cartoons.
Today, La Pedrera is a beloved and revered example of catalan modernist architecture. It was added to the UNESCO World Heritage list in 1984 and is visited by history and architecture lovers from around the world. The building features a sculptural, undulating stone facade, artful wrought iron balconies, and an iconic rooftop terrace with large twisting stone sculptural elements.
Photo by Jennifer Morrow, via Flickr.
10 | Seattle Public Library, Seattle, USA.
The Seattle Public library, formally known as the Central Library, is the main library for the city of Seattle, Washington. The dynamic building opened to a skeptical public in 2004. Designed by architects Rem Koolhaas and Joshua Prince-Ramus of OMA/LMN, the building is unconventional (for a library) to say the least. The building is oddly shaped, with a faceted diamond-like grid of glass and steel that looks like it would house modern art rather than books. Inside is as abstract as its exterior, with a cool, albeit somewhat confusing layout. Escalators shrouded in neon green lead you to several floors of books, communal seating areas, computers, and more.
Perhaps the most impressive thing about the building is the way the glass and steel exterior looks on the inside. There are many seating areas shrouded in natural light with beautiful city views from the extremely tall floor-to-ceiling glass windows. OMA/LMN’s intention for the library was to create a space where all forms of media- books, print, digital media, etc. could live together in a curated public realm. Their website reads: “In an age in which information can be accessed anywhere, it is the simultaneity of media and (more importantly) the curatorship of its contents that will make the library vital.” Although there has been mixed reactions to the building, the Seattle Central Library has given the city an iconic, functional, civically minded space that attracts visitors from around the world.
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