14 Modern Buildings That'll Make Your Jaw Drop

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Niterói Contemporary Art Museum, Rio de Janeiro
Niterói Contemporary Art Museum: Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

A futuristic-looking building that's stood watch from the mountains of Rio de Janeiro for 20 years, the four-story Niterói Contemporary Art Museum consumed enough concrete to build a 10-story building. As one would expect from its architecture, the museums hosts progressive exhibits.

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Elbphilharmonie, Hamburg
©Ralph Larmann/Elbphilharmonie
Elbphilharmonie: Hamburg, Germany

The spectacular Elbphilharmonie is home to the NDR Elbphilharmonie Orchester, a music education center, hotel and plaza with a 360-degree view of the city. It pays homage to the city's history as a trading center with glass-like waves set atop an historic brick warehouse. 

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Walt Disney Concert Hall in Los Angeles
©Music Center of Los Angeles County
Walt Disney Concert Hall: Los Angeles, California

Boasting a distinctively Frank Gehry design, the Walt Disney Concert Hall's striking stainless steel curves wrap themselves around a hardwood-paneled main auditorium known for its superior acoustics. It's a fitting tribute to the spirit of Walt Disney and its resident orchestra, the Los Angeles Philharmonic.

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City of Arts and Sciences, Valencia, Spain
©Diego Delso/Flickr, Creative Commons
City of Arts and Sciences: Valencia, Spain

One of the largest scientific and cultural complexes in the world, the City of Arts and Sciences encompasses an aquarium, 3-D movie theater, science museum, performance space, pedestrian bridge and gardens. The structure stands in a dry riverbed of the now-diverted River Turia. 

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Emporio shopping center, Malmö, Sweden
©Piotr Wawrrzyniuk/Shutterstock
Emporio shopping center: Malmö, Sweden

Embracing the use of strong color has made the Emporia shopping center one of the most successful in Scandanavia. The curving golden glass likens it to a jigsaw puzzle piece, but in actuality, the upward curve allows for a sun-drenched interior courtyard. 

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Louvre Pyramid: Paris, France
©Magali M/Flickr, Creative Commons
Louvre Pyramid: Paris, France

Built to the exact portions of the Pyramid of Giza, the Louvre Pyramid ushers visitors into the museum's main courtyard and the Egyptian antiquities collection. In actuality, there are five pyramids at the Louvre; the glass panes are made up of diamond and triangle shapes, meant to resemble a cut jewel.

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Riverside Museum, Glasgow
©nuklr.dave/Flickr, Creative Commons
Riverside Museum: Glasgow, Scotland

Detailing Glasgow's days as a marine powerhouse to life there in the early 20th century, the Riverside Museum's highlights include an Edwardian photo studio and vintage transportation pieces. The tunnel-like nature of the building is meant to conjure the flow of the adjacent River Clyde throughout the building's interior. 

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National Library of Korea, Sejong
©mariocan1/Flickr, Creative Commons
National Library of Korea: Sejong, Korea

Meant to evoke a book's page turning over, the National Library of Korea, Sejong creates a clean and simple outline which carries over into the interior space; reading areas on the first and second floors are open and easily accessible. Rooftop terraces afford panoramic views of Sejong.

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Guggenheim Museum, Bilbao
©Guggenheim Bilbao
Guggenheim Museum: Bilbao, Spain

If you don't know the Guggenheim Bilbao, you don't know Frank Gehry. When the museum opened in 1997, it was hailed as the most important building of its time. The structure, made of titanium, glass and limestone was designed on a cutting-edge computer program and stands on a 2.5-acre site.

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Bahá'í House of Worship, Delhi, India
Bahá'í House of Worship: Delhi, India

Affectionately referred to as the Lotus Temple, the Bahá'i House of Worship is considered a symbol of communal harmony in India. Inspired by a theme found in religious symbols, the temple evokes a half-open lotus flower, afloat, surrounded by its leaves. Its perfect symmetry came from the complex geometrical blueprints.  

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The Eden Project, Cornwall, UK
©The Eden Project
The Eden Project: Cornwall, UK

The Eden Project's biomes house the largest rainforest in captivity in addition to gardens and exhibitions. Inspired by the geodesic structures of Buckminster Fuller, it features eight interlinked domes; together with the armadillo-resembling Core, the compound covers the area of 35 football fields.

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Hamilton Building at the Denver Art Museum
©Jeff Wells/Denver Art Museum
Hamilton Building: Denver Art Museum, Colorado

Reflective of Colorado's mountain peaks and the geometric rock crystals found in the foothills of the Rockies, the Denver Art Museum's Hamilton Building doubled the museum's former size. It houses the modern and contemporary art collections in addition to the displays on oceanic and African art. 

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Notre Dame du Haut, France
©groucho/Flickr, Creative Commons
Notre Dame du Haut: Ronchamp, France

Considered one of Le Corbusier's most iconic designs, the Notre Dame du Haut is an important example of 20th century religious architecture and a UNESCO World Heritage site. Curved, thick masonry walls add support to the structure that was mostly destroyed in World War II.

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Nagoya Science Museum & Planetarium, Japan
©inefekt69/Flickr, Creative Commons
Nagoya Science Museum & Planetarium: Nagoya, Japan

The world's largest sphere, the Nagoya Science Museum & Planetarium is a sight to behold. The planetarium, inside the Guinness World Record-holding dome, is wedged between two additional buildings on either side; its exterior walls are covered with greenery. It's truly an exhibition in itself.

By Jennifer McKee

Nowhere does modern architecture come more alive than in public spaces: the aesthetic of libraries, museums, shopping malls and performing arts centers with eye-catching exterior designs carry over into interior spaces that allow for ease of flow, open courtyards and acoustically superior spots. 

From the masterful designs of Frank Gehry and Le Corbusier to buildings that look like a lotus, an armadillo and a spaceship, these must-visit structures will capture your imagination and beckon for further exploring.

Jennifer McKee
About the author

Jennifer is the Managing Editor of Morris Visitor Publications, where she has worked since 2005. She grew up in small...