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10 wonders of modern architecture that can (usually) be visited


From the expansion of SFMOMA in San Francisco to the alien building of the Kunsthaus in Graz, Austria, innovative design projects not to be missed when the Covid-19 pandemic passes

  • 1Hydar Aliyev Center (Baku, Azerbaijan) With the Baku Cultural Center, the Iraqi architect Zaha Hadid, who died in 2016, won the 2014 Design of the Year award from the Design Museum in London. Today it is one of the symbols of modern Baku, with its majestic white curves. The Heydar Aliyev Center ( houses a congress center, a museum, exhibition halls and offices, but above all it has become an icon of a city eager to show the world its modernity. In front of the building, an urban plaza expands the meeting space to the outside. Inside, the sinuosities, the wide shapes, the integration between interior and exterior and the surprising luminosity are the keys to the building. Lighting was precisely one of the most careful details, designed to create two very different buildings, by day and by night. During the day, the volume reflects natural light; when the sun goes down, it is gradually transformed thanks to the projection of the internal lighting onto the exterior surfaces, maintaining that fluid dialogue between the interior and exterior of the building. getty images

  • 2Cubic Houses (Rotterdam, The Netherlands) The Kubuswoningen (Cubic Houses) of Rotterdam form one of the most iconic complexes in this Dutch city with a reputation for being the most innovative and creative in the Netherlands. Designed by the Dutch architect Piet Blom, they respond to an original urbanization made up of houses that are literally cubes inclined at 45 degrees to make the most of the available space. Visitors can see what these peculiar homes look like inside the Kijk-Kubus house museum (Overblaak, 70), or even spend a night in one of them, converted years ago into a 'hostel' ( With three or four floors - entrance on the ground floor; open kitchen and living room on the first; bathroom and two bedrooms on the second and, in some cases, a small roof terrace on the upper floor - and sloping walls, the residential complex was built more than three decades ago, integrated into a pedestrian bridge that crosses one of the main roads to the city ​​center. Alamy

  • 3Emporia Shopping Center (Malmö, Sweden) Shopping complexes have also competed for architectural originality for decades, and in some cases have risen to the category of wonder. An example is the Emporia center (, in the city of Malmö, southern Sweden. It is one of the great architectural landmarks of the Scandinavian country and a tourist magnet (an estimated 25,000 visits a day). Close to the Malmö Arena, another of the icons of the city, Emporia is a complex of offices, houses and a shopping center in which its access stands out: concave, majestic, raised in glass that resembles the skin of a snake. Inside, it is played with brightly colored plastics and other diverse shapes and textures that give personality and charm to the space. In total, 93,000 square meters distributed over three floors, with a large roof terrace. Antony McAulay alamy

  • 4Center of Art and Science (Singapore) Among the spectacular urban profile of Singapore stands out the futuristic figure of the ArtScience Museum (, the city's Museum of Art and Science, at the foot of the brand new Marina Bay Sands building , one of the most visited areas. The center has become one of the local symbols, and is one of the first in the world to propose a dialogue between arts and sciences. The most striking is in the exterior: its design in the form of a lotus flower, designed by the architect Moshe Safdie. Inside, 21 galleries totaling some 6,000 square meters await, including ArtScience, a space that houses the museum's permanent collection in three galleries dedicated to expression, curiosity and inspiration, respectively. Visitors can view objects of historical relevance to the arts and sciences at the same time, such as Leonardo da Vinci's Flying Machine or a high-tech robotic fish. getty images

  • 5Kunsthaus Graz (Austria) The appointment of Graz as European Capital of Culture in 2003 brought about a complete renovation of the Austrian city. The most striking work was the Kunsthaus Graz (art museum of Graz), which the neighbors baptized as Frienly Allien for its spectacular and strange facade. Located in the western part of the city, it is a giant building –projected by the architects Peter Cook and Colin Fournier– with a bubble shape and a dozen tubes, like windows, that protrude from the curved ceiling and give it a alien creature aspect. The exterior cover is built with thousands of acrylic glass panels that generate energy thanks to the photovoltaic panels integrated into it, while the exterior structure of the building has around 900 fluorescent rings that can be individually programmed, composing a work of light art in herself. The installation also allows to display artistic images and videos on the building's own skin, which inform the exhibitions of the Kunsthaus (, a museum specialized in contemporary art of the last four decades with an extensive program of traveling exhibitions , since it lacks its own collection. Lucas Vallecillos alamy

  • 6 Seattle Central Library (United States) Projected in 1999 by Rem Koolhaas, the Seattle Central Library ( is one of the most visited buildings in the American city since it opened its doors, and its collection of millions of books and documents, in 2004. The building has about 34,000 square meters and is equipped with the latest technologies. On the outside, its glass and steel facade is striking, while the interior captivates its design in the form of overlapping boxes. One of the fundamental premises of the building is that it be as open to the public as possible, and for this the Dutch architect (awarded the Pritzker Prize in 2000) tried to ensure that the interior space, and its original distribution, could be seen from the exterior, both day and night. And, in turn, that the interior spaces receive as much natural light as possible. The result is an enormously bright building that has become an icon of Seattle. Dizzo getty images

  • 7Capital Gate (Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates) Located near the Abu Dhabi Exhibition Center, this is the steepest building in the world. This was certified by the Guiness World Records in 2010, with an inclination of 18º to the west, four times more than the Tower of Pisa (inclined four degrees) and the Torres Puerta de Europa in Madrid, known as Torres Kio (with three degrees of inclination). Capital Gate is a 35-story metal and glass tower designed by the RMJM studio (, built on 490 piles sunk up to 30 meters deep to protect the structure from seismic and wind movements. Turned into a tourist icon, it houses an office space, a spectacular business center (Abu Dhabi National Exhibition Center) and the five-star Capital Gate Hyatt hotel. And on the 19th floor you can enjoy an infinity pool with views of the city and the waters of the Persian Gulf. alamy

  • 8BMW Welt (Munich, Germany) Occupying a sleek, futuristic-looking building, next to BMW's world headquarters and across from Munich's Olympic Park, the BMW Welt ( is an impressive complex with extensive vehicle exhibition of the brand and in which conferences and cultural events are also organized. In addition to getting to know the most current automobile models of the German firm (cars, motorcycles and Formula 1 vehicles), visitors can get to know the Design and Technology Study (guided tours are scheduled), where the traction systems and new hybrid engines developed by the German company. But the center is even more: there is space for children, restaurants, bars and an auditorium. Alamy

  • 9Bird's Nest Stadium (Beijing) Officially dubbed the Beijing National Stadium (, but popularly known as the Bird's Nest, it was built to host the 2008 Olympics and demonstrate China's technological and creative might. With a capacity for 80,000 spectators, it is located in the Olympic Park, about eight kilometers from the center of the Chinese capital. Signed by Swiss architects Herzog & de Meuron, and Chinese architect Li Xinggang, it owes its nickname to the peculiar interlocking steel exterior, which looks like a latticework of branches. After the Olympic Games, the stadium has become a center where all citizens can participate in sports activities and shows. getty images

  • 10 SFMOMa Museum (San Francisco, USA) The San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, known as SFMOMA (, is an icon of the Californian city. This institution dates back to 1935, when it opened its doors as the first on the American West Coast dedicated exclusively to 20th century art. In 1995, coinciding with its 60th anniversary, it was decided to move the museum: from the building dedicated to war veterans that it occupied in the city's Civic Center, it moved to its current location, in the SoMA district, specifically to a building designed by Swiss architect Mario Botta, with a large skylight on its main facade. It is currently considered the best exhibition center in San Francisco and after the expansion inaugurated in 2016, with an annex of 10 floors projected by the Norwegian studio Snøhetta for a total of 16,000 square meters of exhibition rooms, it has become the second reference National Museum of Modern Art after MoMA in New York. Henrik Kam courtesy of SFMOMA

Source: elparis

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