If you were asked to draw a house, chances are you’d draw something pretty simple. Four walls, a door, some windows, and a pointed roof — what else does a person really need? But our homes and offices are so much more than just the places where we eat, sleep, work, and play. They’re expressions of who we really are (or at least, they should be)!
While some architects are content designing ordinary buildings with four walls and some windows, there are some who won’t settle for anything less than extraordinary. These 20 architectural masterpieces prove that, with the right visionary, buildings are so much more than shelters from the outdoors. If you do ’em right, they can be works of art!
1. The Lotus Building in Wujin, China, was designed and built by Australian architecture firm Studio 505. The building is home to departments of the city’s planning bureau, making it perhaps one of the most beautiful government institutions in the world.
2. Zaandam in the Netherlands is famous for preserving the original Dutch style houses. However, the Inntel hotel had another idea: use the old to create something new! The design made the hotel so famous that it’s ALWAYS fully booked. Get in line, people.
3. This isn’t the first building to move or rotate, but it is the first skyscraper to do so! Located in Dubai, each apartment can rotate independently at adjustable speeds, depending on which view or how much sunlight the inhabitants want. In other words, the look of the tower will be forever changing!
4. While we’re in Dubai, let’s take a look at this crescent moon-shaped building. Dubai already houses the world’s tallest skyscraper and the biggest mall, but it will soon also contain the only moon-shaped building. Containing 33 floors, the building includes a children’s library, a restaurant, a conference room, bars, and, of course, luxury homes.
5. This gallery of modern art is called the Kunsthaus in Graz, Austria, but has been nicknamed “Friendly Alien.” Some people see the heart of a whale or a zeppelin looking at this strange amoeba. Did we mention that it glows at night?
6. The Markthal in Rotterdam is sealed off with glass, so it’s always warm inside. The inner walls are made up of curved windows in between a mural by Arno Coenen, featuring fruits, vegetables, seeds, fish, flowers, and insects.
7. The Atomium in Brussels, Belgium, may look like a sculpture, but it is actually a building that holds a museum and a restaurant. The nine spheres represent an iron crystal magnified 165 billion times and symbolize the faith one had in the power of science.
8. La Muralla Roja in Calpe, Spain, literally translates to “the red wall,” although its insides range between blue and purple. It reminds people of an Escher painting with all of its stairs, nooks, and crannies. Top that with an ocean view, and who wouldn’t want to live here?
9. At 520 feet and 35 stories, The Capital Gate in Abu Dhabi, is one of the tallest buildings in the city. Guinness World Records certified Capital Gate as “the world’s furthest leaning man-made tower.” The tower leans 18 degrees (for comparison, Pisa’s Tower leans only 4 degrees). That’s pretty impressive!
10. This is the ArtScience Museum in Singapore. No, not that giant building in the back (although the Marina Bay Sands hotel is also quite a masterpiece of architecture), but the smaller, palm shape on the left. It may seem tiny in comparison, but its curves are what makes it so special.
11. In Da Lat, Vietnam lies a building called the Fairytale House. Its overall design resembles a giant tree, incorporating sculptured design elements representing natural forms such as animals, mushrooms, spider webs, and caves.
12. Architect James Law coined the term Cybertecture to identify the blend of architecture, environmental design, innovative engineering, and intelligent systems needed to meet people’s needs and draw up a new urban environment — that is how the Cybertecture egg in Mumbai was born.
13. These slightly confusing apartments called the Cubic Houses in Rotterdam were constructed by the architect Piet Blom, and all the walls and windows are angled at 45 degrees. Can you imagine opening a window in these homes?
14. The Heydar Aliyev Cultural Center in Baku, Azerbaijan was designed by Zaha Hadid (no relation to Bella or Gigi Hadid). She said that “its fluid form emerges from the folds of the natural topography of the landscape.”
15. This hotel was designed by Andrii Rozhko, who plans to build this glass facade into the mountain ridges of the Alps. “I like the connection between high peaks and mountain passes so I tried to design the same shape,” the Rhohzko explained.
16. The City of Arts and Sciences in Valencia, Spain, is situated at the end of the former riverbed of the river Turia and is considered one of the 12 Treasures of Spain. Designed by Santiago Calatrava and Félix Candela, the building reminds people of the skeleton of a fish.
17. This giant piano and violin built in 2007 in Huainan City, China, was dubbed “the most romantic building in China.” It was designed by architects at the Hefei University of Technology — and was built to scale.
18. The small town of Tirau, New Zealand, is home to some gargantuan animals. A big sheep and a big ram, herded by a big dog, house a visitor center and wool and crafts shop. You’ll find buildings in corrugated iron all over New Zealand, but in Tirau, the humble material is celebrated as a sculptural device.
19. Almost everyone has heard of Gaudí’s famous works like Parc Güell and the Sagrada Família, but not everyone is aware of Barcelonean treasures like Casa Mila and Casa Battlo (pictured below). The local name for the building is Casa dels ossos (House of Bones), as it has a visceral, skeletal organic quality.
20. This building is still in its design stages, but it would create quite an impact if this paperclip-shaped skyscraper in the middle of New York City were built. The hypothetical building — dubbed “Big Bend” — looks like two 432 Park Avenues joined together at the top in a curve. It would become the longest skyscraper in the world.