Ever since humankind could forge homes out of caves, we have been obsessed with designing and building the world’s most unique structures. From houses straight out of a dystopian future to buildings inspired by science, these buildings have managed to rack up awards and stir awe in equal measure.
Before we begin, if you would like to know more about me, then my name is James McPhail, and I am a chartered surveyor based in London. I love to travel and I love architecture – this is why I love to write about these amazing places.
1. Sagrada Familia, Barcelona, Spain
One of the world’s most magnificent structures is not even complete. This marvel’s construction began in 1882. Its architect, Antoni Gaudi made the church his life’s work until his death in 1926. It has withstood major historical times, including wars. Among the surprising facts about this building is that it was mainly funded by private donations.
Currently, the visitor fees to the site finance the monumental project. As of 2015, it was 70% complete, with about 10 of its planned 18 spires yet to be finished.
Set to be complete in 2026, Gaudi once said, “My client is not in a hurry” Though unfinished, it still serves as a church every Sunday.
2. The Ascent at Roebling’s Bridge
Daniel Libeskind is one of the world’s leading architects. The Ascent is among his works, and it was feted as 2008’s best high rise development by CNBC. Situated in Covington, Kentucky in the United States, it covers 300,000 square feet.
The Ascent plays host to 70 residential areas, complete with swimming pools and a restaurant. Designed to mirror the Cincinnati bridge, The Ascent’s pinnacle sticks out like a horn at 300ft.
3. The Great Mosque of Djenne (Djenne, Mali)
In the western part of Mali, sits one of Africa’s most unique structures still in use today. The Mosque of Djenne was built in 1907. Apart from its breathtaking design, the building is made entirely of sun-dried mud. The architectural ingenuity is not only seen in its construction. It is also evident in the steps the designers took to ensure the Great Mosque withstood the flood waters of the Bani River.
Its architect, Ismaila Traoré used palm materials for the construction. It is designed to redirect rainwater to minimize damage on the walls. Residents repair the mosque’s wear and tear periodically, never straying from the architect’s idea of using toron as decoration and mud for the main walls. Every minaret at the top is decorated using ostrich eggs.
4. Manta Resort, Pemba Island
Still in Africa, in a relatively quiet, yet enchanting island named Pemba, is a little gem in the water, the Manta Resort. On the surface, this destination looks like your ordinary floating house. However, there is a reason guests spend up to $700 a night here.
Its bedroom is underwater! The resort sits on a live coral reef, and you can see the diverse marine life right outside the bedroom. The topmost area is made for sun basking, and the middle area is designed as a sitting and shade area. The Manta Resort puts a whole new meaning to sleep with the fishes.
5. The Atomium
The Atomium looks like it is straight out of science fantasy. This structure, which is situated in Brussels, Belgium, was designed for show purposes for the 1958 World Fair. Although it was not supposed to be a permanent structure, the population wanted to keep it after seeing its sheer magnificence.
The Atomium was designed by André Waterkeyn and takes the shape of an iron crystal magnified by 165 billion times. And how do you use one of the country’s most impressive building works? Close it for three years and renovate it to house exhibition stalls, restaurants and a fun little stainless steel sleepover house for Belgian school children, of course.
6. Habitat 67, Montréal, Canada
Canada is no stranger to architectural wonders. Israeli-borne architect Moshe Safdie is responsible for this new age housing design. Theoretically, it is 354 houses built atop each other. Made for modern single-family housing, the building’s brilliance lies in its ability to provide its residents with outdoor space, and privacy.
While the premise is simple, its other surprise is that it is made entirely of prefabricated units. Hopefully, the concept can be used in other crowded cities to solve urban population density and the housing problem.
7. Guggenheim Museum, Bilbao
The Museo Guggenheim is Canadian–American architect Frank Gehry’s brainchild. It was part of a government plan to boost the economy of Bilbao. Gehry used computer-aided design software to flesh out the poetic concept into a 20th-century masterpiece. The museum opened its doors to the public, and it immediately paid off.
The curvy titanium and glass beauty sits on 32,500-square-meters former industrial site along the Nervión River. Currently, it houses world-class art forms, and it has even hosted ‘The Matter of Time,’ the world’s largest commissioned sculpture.
8. Crooked Little House-Poland
Go home, house. You’re drunk.
This is one of Poland’s most photographed buildings. While the surrounding houses are normal, the Crooked Little House was designed by Szotynscy and Zalecki, and all 43,000 square feet of it was completed in 2004.
9. Capital Gate in Abu Dhabi
You can’t talk about world-class architecture without mentioning Abu Dhabi. Already home to dozens of high tech housing, Abu Dhabi is the home of the world’s most leaning building.
You thought the tower of Pisa was impressive? The 571,564square foot Capital Gate has a 18 degree lean, while Pisa only has a 4 degree lean.
10. National Stadium, Beijing and National Centre for the Performing Arts, Beijing, China
Beijing is home to some wonder-works. The National stadium named the Bird’s Nest is a geometric marvel made from 36 kilometers of unwrapped steel. It has hosted Summer Olympics and is still expected to host the 2022 Winter Olympics.
Still in Beijing, the Performing Arts Center is a giant egg-shaped music house that sits on a waterfront. It was made to host the 2008 Summer Olympics. After the initial use, it now hosts an opera house.
Although there is a myriad of architecturally impressive buildings in the World, the above are quite picturesque and worth visiting if they happen to be on your travels – or in your bucket-list.