We have all heard about the architectural marvels of the ancient world. True, the designing of the Pyramids, the Taj Mahal or the Leaning Tower of Pisa must have taken some extraordinary minds and technology. However, people are often unaware of the brilliant building designed in the last hundred years. Here are ten examples of such marvelous buildings-
10- Yoyogi National Gymnasium, Tokyo, Japan
This famous gymnasium was designed by Japanese architect Kenzo Tange. It was built for the Olympic Games of 1964. This gymnasium is famous for its suspended roof, which is the largest in the world and still looks great even after five decades. The building is composed of two gyms- the great gym and the little gym. The roofs of the Great Gym and the Little Gym are suspended from hanging bridges. They seem to be borne by the park surrounding the structure. This gymnasium is constructed using glass, aluminum, steel and concrete. Its structure seems to resemble a snail shell. It has become famous for its blend of traditional Japanese architecture with Western modernist aesthetics, resulting in a distinctive and easily recognizable design.
9- National Centre for the Performing Arts, Beijing, China
This building is also described as ‘The Giant Egg.’ It was designed by French architect Paul Andreu and constructed in less than seven years, inaugurated in 2007. The exterior of the building is designed from titanium and glass. It is surrounded completely by an artificial lake. The dome shape of the centre makes it look like a giant egg floating on water. It was conceptualized to resemble the rising sun or a pearl. The ellipsoid dome is 46 meters high and houses an opera house, a concert hall and two theatres along with other public spaces. There is an underwater corridor which leads to the centre’s grand hall. The glass ceiling allows sunlight to shimmer on the water, creating a sparkling effect. The National Centre for the Performing Arts was constructed for the 2008 Beijing Olympics.
8- BMW Welt, Munich, Germany
BMW Welt translates as BMW World in English. It is designed as a place to exhibit and sell BMWs along with having an event forum and a conference centre. It was designed by the architects of Coop Himmelb(l)au and constructed in over four years- from 2003 to 2007. It is located in the Olympic Park in Munich. The building has five thematic blocks- Hall, Premiers, Forum, Gastronomy and Museum. The styling of the irregular-structured exterior is futuristic in design with walls covered in steel plates and glass. The interior seems to be composed of curving staircases, suspended bridges and balconies that seem to be supported only by thin air. The floating roof of the building houses a 800kW solar plant that takes care of the energy needs of the building. This building thus has everything- cutting edge design, practical working and environment friendly resource utilization.
7- California Academy of Sciences, San Francisco, United States of America
Like most other buildings of modern architecture, this one too is famous for its green planning. The renovated Academy took almost ten years to complete. It is a single structure with many venues like lecture halls, a four story rainforest, 3-D theatre, planetarium, museum etc. This building has won a Platinum rating in Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design. It was designed by architect Renzo Piano, winner of the prestigious Pritzker Prize.
6- 30 St Mary Axe, London, Britain
This 591 feet tall skyscraper in London has become one of the most easily recognized symbols of modern architecture. It is often called the ‘gherkin’ because of its unusual designing. It is designed like a rocket or a cucumber, with varying diameters at the top and at the bottom. The building was designed by Norman Foster along with Arup engineers. It is the headquarters of the Swiss Reinsurance Company. The building has many energy saving designs incorporated in its architecture, like facilities for natural ventilation and double glazing for insulation. The topmost floor, i.e., the 40th floor of the building has a bar that offers a 360 degrees view of London. The building can easily be seen from faraway places.
5- Ericsson Globe, Stockholm, Sweden
The Ericsson Globe was known as the Stockholm Globe Arena before the naming rights were acquired by the telecom company Ericsson in 2009. It is the largest hemispherical building in the world and is meant to represent the Sun in the world’s largest solar system model. It is used for ice hockey and was opened in 1989. In 2010, a funicular railway called Skyview was opened on top of the globe. It takes visitors for an unimpeded view of Stockholm from a very high point (130 meters at the top) The diameter of the globe is 361 feet and the inner height is 279 feet. The architects of this amazing building were Svante Berg and Lars Vretblad.
4- Seattle Central Library, Washington
Possibly my favorite building on this list, and not just because it is a library. Or maybe just that. The 11 storied, 185 feet high building was inaugurated in 2004. The building’s main architects were Rem Koolhaas and Joshua Prince-Ramus. The most famous feature of this library is the ‘book spiral’ which displays the library’s nonfiction collection. The book spiral continues over four stories and allows people to sift through the collection without moving or climbing the stairs. The ‘living room’ on the third floor is designed for book lovers who want to read their books in comfort and peace. The library functions and amenities include automatic book sorting, four hundred computer terminals, a reading room that overlooks the Elliott Bay, self check-out and more. The architects designed it to be open and well-lit, as opposed to the general perception of libraries as stuffy and dark. Genius, right?
3- Burj Khalifa, Dubai
The Burj Khalifa in Dubai is famous all over the world for being the tallest man-made skyscraper on earth. It is 2,722 feet high! This tower was officially inaugurated in 2010. It houses nine hotels, malls, offices, night clubs, swimming pools, gardens, residential homes, observation decks, a lake and more. The Burj Khalifa was designed by the architectural firm Skidmore, Owings and Merrill. To support the great height of the building, the architects came up with a new support structure called buttressed core. The exterior is composed of reflective glazing that provides relief from the scorching heat of Dubai. The design is influenced by traditional Islamic architecture.
2- Sydney Opera House, Sydney, Australia
Inaugurated in 1973, the Sydney Opera House is one of the best examples of modern architectural marvels. It was designed by Danish architect Jorn Utzon. The building consists of three groups of interlocked ‘shells’, with each shell being a part of a huge sphere. Its setting in the Sydney harbor makes it looks gorgeous, especially when viewed from the sky. The style of architecture is widely described as Expressionist in nature. The building was constructed with the help of engineers from Ove Arup and Partners. Sydney Opera House is one of the busiest performing houses in the world today, with around 1.5 million visitors annually. The UNESCO World Heritage Committee described it as a ‘one of the indisputable masterpieces of human creativity’ in 2007.
1- Guggenheim Museum, Bilbao, Spain
The Guggenheim Museum was inaugurated in 1997 and belongs to the Solomon R Guggenheim Foundation. It is admired by architects all over the world for its modern, contemporary architecture. In 1991, three architects were invited to put forward their conceptualization of the museum. These were Arata Isozaki, Coop Himmelbau and Frank O Gehry. The Canadian-American architect Frank Gehry’s design was chosen and work on the museum began soon after. The museum, which houses paintings from renowned artists in Spain and other countries as well, is constructed in an innovative manner with random curves on the outer walls designed to catch the light. The atrium of the museum is shaped like a flower. The materials used for construction were titanium, stone and glass, moving away from the traditional brick and mortar. The galleries in the museum are either shaped irregularly or have an orthogonal plan. This museum has been counted amongst some of the most important works of contemporary architectures by the World Architecture Survey.