26 Gorgeous Buildings From the World's Most Iconic Architects

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The Louvre re-design, courtesy of I.M. Pei
©Marc Bertrand/Paris Tourism Office
Louvre re-design

Architect: I.M. Pei

Where to find it: Paris

Centenarian I.M. Pei is behind some of the world's greatest treasures; his pyramid design figures strong in the Louvre renovation; the main pyramid, which houses the Egyptian antiquities collection, is built to the exact proportions of the Pyramid of Giza. In all, Pei's design features five pyramids of varying degree.

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Rock & Roll Hall of Fame
©Tourism Ohio
Rock & Roll Hall of Fame

Architect: I.M. Pei

Where to find it: Cleveland

As with The Louvre, Pei's geometric designs fit perfectly into the urban landscape with Cleveland's Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. Here, a glass-enclosed double pyramid takes advantage of the museum's home on the shores of Lake Erie and floods the atrium with natural light. 

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Qatar's Museum of Islamic Art
©Dan/Flickr, Creative Commons
Museum of Islamic Art

Architect: I.M. Pei

Where to find it: Doha, Qatar

Pei paid homage to traditional Islamic patterns in Qatar's Museum of Islamic Art. The main building sits alone on a reclaimed piece of land, its five stories resembling boxes stacked atop each other. As the light of day changes so does the color palette on the building's cream-colored limestone.

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Frank Gehry's Biomuseo in Panama City

Architect:  Frank Gehry

Where to find it: Panama City, Panama

No conversation about jaw-dropping architecture is be complete without Frank Gehry. This innovative modern master's newest feast for the eyes is Panama City's Biomuseo, which sits near the entry to the Panama Canal. The building's bright and bold design references the story of how the isthmus of Panama rose from sea and the impact that event had on the world.

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

Architect:  Frank Gehry

Where to find it: Los Angeles

The Walt Disney Concert Hall is a seamless merger of form and function. Here, Gehry's striking stainless steel curves wrap themselves around a hardwood-paneled auditorium—home to the L.A. Phil—known for its superior acoustics. 

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Guggenheim Bilbao
©Guggenheim Bilbao
Guggenheim Bilbao

Architect: Frank Gehry

Where to find it: Bilbao, Spain

Gehry's most famous structure, the Guggenheim Bilbao was hailed as "the greatest building of our time" by architect Philip Johnson when it opened in 1997. Gehry's use of stainless steel and titanium represent the undulating waves and flowers seen along the Spanish countryside.

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St. Louis Gateway Arch
©Explore St. Louis
St. Louis Gateway Arch

Architect: Eero Saarinen

Where to find it: St. Louis

Although his buildings are known for their futuristic approach, Finnish-born architect Eero Saarinen is most famously known for an iconic American symbol: the St. Louis Gateway Arch. Built on the spot where Louis and Clark began their expeditions, this nod to westward expansion paid meticulous attention to detail in its size, shape and façade that had never before been seen in a monument.

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North Christian Church in Columbus, Indiana
©Danube66/Flickr, Creative Commons
North Christian Church

Architect: Eero Saarinen

Where to find it: Columbus, Indiana

Saarinen's eye-catching works showcase an artist's talent unwilling to be restrained. Such is the case in Columbus, Indiana's North Christian Church, a study in scale with its simple hexagon structure and massive spire.  

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David S. Ingalls Rink in New Haven, Connecticut
©Wikimedia Commons
David S. Ingalls Rink

Architect: Eero Saarinen

Where to find it: New Haven, Connecticut

The dramatic, sloping roof of Saarinen's David S. Ingalls Rink perfectly reflects what's going on inside: skaters flying across the ice. Home to Yale's hockey programs, the building is named after two hockey team captains from the Ingalls family.

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Christopher Wren's St. Paul's Cathedral
St. Paul's Cathedral

Architect: Sir Christopher Wren

Where to find it: London

Sir Christopher Wren—one of the most highly regarded British architects in history—rebuilt 52 churches alone after 1666's Great Fire of London. St. Paul's Cathedral is the seat of the Bishop of London that sits on Ludgate Hill, London's highest point: it is his crowning achievement. His epitaph there reads: "If you seek his memorial, look about you."

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Hampton Court Palace
©Giorgios~/Flickr, Creative Commons
Hampton Court Palace

Architect: Sir Christopher Wren

Where to find it: Surrey, United Kingdom

Wren transformed the Hampton Court Palace, once home to King Henry VIII, for King William III and Queen Mary II. He converted the eastern and southern facades, replacing Tudor towers and chimneys with French and Italian baroque influences that factored heavily in his work after discovering the styles in Paris during 1665.

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Guangzhou Opera House
©Christian Richters
Guangzhou Opera House

Architect: Zaha Hadid

Where to find it: Guangzhou, China

The most lauded woman in architecture, Zaha Hadid's designs were not only inspired by their surroundings (or intent), but combine her love of mathematics with fluid, spatial design. One such building is the Guangzhou Opera House, which Hadid described "like pebbles in a stream smoothed by erosion."

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Germany's Vitra Fire Station
Vitra Fire Station

Architect: Zaha Hadid

Where to find it: Vitra, Germany

Hadid's first building, Germany's Vitra Fire Station, redefined how concrete buildings could be constructed: with its intersecting geometric planes, it's a painting come to life.

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Evelyn Grace Academy in London
Evelyn Grace Academy

Architect: Zaha Hadid

Where to find it: London

The Iraqi-born Hadid, who moved to London in 1972, worked on a multitude of projects in her adopted homeland. One of her best is the z-shaped Evelyn Grace Academy that creates the continuous flow she's known for: the school's track runs through either entrance.

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NYC's AT&T Building (Sony Tower)
@Martin Dürrschnabel/Wikimedia Commons
AT&T Building

Architect:  Philip Johnson

Where to find it: New York City

Winner of the first Pritzker Prize, "architecture's Nobel," Johnson always pushed boundaries. In 1984, he made waves with the opening of the AT&T Building (now Sony Tower), which was criticized for ornamental flourishes such as its Chippendale top. It is now considered an icon of postmodern design.

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Rothko Chapel in Houston
©Ed Uthman/Flickr, Creative Commons
Rothko Chapel

Architect: Philip Johnson

Where to find it: Houston

In the non-denominational Rothko Chapel, Johnson's awe-inspiring work continued. The octogonal building has four wide principal walls and four alternating secondary walls—with a rectangular apse—recessed floor and a light-reflecting skylight.

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Philip Johnson's Glass House
©n e o g e j o/Flickr, Creative Commons)
Glass House

Architect: Philip Johnson

Where to find it: New Caanan, Connecticut

Johnson's most closely associated project was one of his first: his own Glass House in New Caanan, Connecticut. A National Trust Historic Site, the 1,815 square-foot house opens to the surrounding landscape from each of its four glass doors, effortlessly blending into that landscape. 

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S.R. Crown Hall
©Jan Uy/Flickr, Creative Commons
S.R. Crown Hall

Architect: Mies van der Rohe

Where to find it: Chicago

As director of the Bauhaus, the German school of experimental design, Mies van der Rohe championed progressive architecture. S.R. Crown Hall, at the Illinois Institute of Technology, is considered to be his masterwork. A fan of industrial architecture and open spaces, Mies' column-free plan supported these concepts. The roof of the National Historic Landmark is suspended from the underside of four steel-plate girders.

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NYC's Seagram building
©Alex Schwab/Flickr, Creative Commons
Seagram Building

Architect: Mies van der Rohe

Where to find it: New York City 

Named one of the "10 Buildings That Changed America," Mies collaborated with Philip Johnson on New York City's Seagram Building. The simplicity and minimalism of the building's geometry helped usher in a new age of skyscraper design. 

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Chapelle Notre Dame du Haut
Chapelle Notre Dame du Haut

Architect: Le Corbusier

Where to find it: Ronchamp, France

An avid painter and architect, Le Corbusier's love letter to the Cubist form can be seen in his iconic Chapelle Notre Dame du Haut.

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Heidi Weber Museum
©Philip Pilosian/Shutterstock
Heidi Weber Museum

Architect:  Le Corbusier

Where to find it: Zurich

Le Corbusier's most imaginative concepts are seen both on and inside Zurich's Heidi Weber Museum, the last structure he built. With its floating steel roof and glass color blocks, it's a testament to ingenuity and all the forms Le Corbusier held dear.

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Louis Sullivan's Wainwright Building
©Paul Sableman/Flickr, Creative Commons
Wainwright Building

Architect: Louis Sullivan

Where to find it: St. Louis

Louis Sullivan is known as the "father of skyscrapers" and pioneered the "First Chicago School" of architecture and the innovative use of ornamentation on tall buildings. Case in point, the Wainwright Building, which awed the public with its 10-floor, ornate design when it was unveiled in 1892, a prototype for office buildings to come.

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Louis Sullivan's Auditorium Theatre
©Nagel Photography/Shutterstock
Auditorium Theatre

Architect: Louis Sullivan

Where to find it: Chicago

Sullivan famously coined the term "form follows function." Discover its interpretation in the most dramatic of fashion at the architect's Auditorium Theatre; the building featured the world's most massive edifice upon its 1889 opening.

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Frederick C. Robie House
©Wikipedia Commons
Frederick C. Robie House

Architect: Frank Lloyd Wright

Where to find it: Chicago

Frank Lloyd Wright designed more than 1,100 concepts in his impressive 70-year career, 532 of which were built. The architect fought against society's penchant for European styles and pioneered an American approach: the Prairie style. This masterpiece of this form, the Frederick C. Robie House, is a National Historic Landmark. 

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SC Johnson Global Headquarters
Courtesy SC Johnson
SC Johnson Global Headquarters

Architect: Frank Lloyd Wright

Where to find it: Racine, Wisconsin

Wright left an indelible impression on Racine, Wisconsin, when he created dramatic spaces in bold new styles at the SC Johnson Global Headquarters in both the campus' administration and research buildings. These buildings are the first two stops on southern Wisconsin's Frank Lloyd Wright Trail.  

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Taliesin West
©Andrew Pielage/Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation
Taliesin West

Architect: Frank Lloyd Wright

Where to find it: Scottsdale, Arizona

Wright also left his mark on the southwest in Taliesin West, his winter home. Meant to be at one with the surrounding desert—Wright's prime example of organic architecture is built from the Sonoran Desert's rocks and sand—the masterpiece took 27 years to construct. 

By Jennifer McKee on 05/15/2017

Whether their styles are classic, modern or somewhere in between, the world's most groundbreaking architects are known for designs that have advanced the field and distinctive styles that stand out from the pack. So does form follow function or function follow form? And who actually coined that phrase? Something to ponder as you seek out the works of these masters on a world tour.