Look through these slide shows, “The World’s Most Amazing Buildings”, and they are human brilliance.
1. The Melbourne Recital Center and Theater Company complex opened earlier this year and is helping to revitalize Melbourne’s gritty Southbank neighborhood. The exterior features a combination of angles, two-dimensional textures and glowing tubes. The walls inside the main performance space are covered with famous theater quotes that are illuminated when the stage is dark. The complex won the 2009 Victorian Architecture medal for best new building in Australia.
2. Nicknamed the Gherkin for its unique round, tapered shape, the office tower at 30 St Mary Axe in London’s financial district opened in 2004. Despite its appearance, there is only one piece of curved glass on the entire building, a lens-shaped piece that caps the very top. The tower reaches nearly 600 feet high, and its 40 stories house insurance companies and other financial businesses.
3. Known for designing grand venues from Spain to California, renowned Canadian-born architect Frank Gehry transformed a neo-Renaissance house in Prague to a structure known as the “Dancing House” upon its completion in 1996. It was initially named the Astaire & Rogers Building since it resembles a dancing couple. Even though some initially referred to it derisively as the Drunk House, this tipsy, tilting modern edifice is now considered a highlight of Prague’s modern architecture.
4. Esplanade – Theatres on the Bay in Singapore, opened in 2002, houses a concert hall and a theater beneath its distinctive spiked shells. Some have likened its spiky glass domes to the durian fruit or the eyes of a fly.
5. The Oslo Opera House in Norway, opened in 2008, appears to emerge out of the neighboring Oslofjord like an iceberg. The sloping marble roof is an open plaza for the public to enjoy and covers the 1,350-seat auditorium below. In 2009, the Opera House received the Mies van der Rohe award for contemporary architecture.
6. Another Gehry design is the Ray & Maria Stata Center, opened in 2004 at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Boston. Although the building’s aesthetics have been hotly debated, its teetering walls and swooping curves certainly leave an impression on visitors. One reviewer suggested that the structure is “a metaphor for the freedom, daring, and creativity of the research that’s supposed to occur inside it.”
7. The Seattle Central Library, designed by Dutch architect Rem Koolhaas and opened in 2004, is a beacon for bookworms in a city said to be one of the most literate in the U.S. Its steel-and-glass exterior is modern and futuristic, yet the interior includes some intimate reading spaces. Visitors can also catch a glimpse of Puget Sound from inside the 11-story downtown building.
8. The Hearst Tower in New York City, designed by British architect Norman Foster and opened in 2006, is the headquarters of the Hearst Publishing Company. The 46-story structure extends above the six-story building that housed the original Hearst headquarters that was completed in 1928. The triangular pattern of the tower’s exterior provides a sharp contrast to the stone façade of the original building at its base. It was the first skyscraper to break ground in New York City after September 11, 2001, and was the first “green” high-rise office building completed in the city.
9. The City of the Arts and the Sciences complex in Valencia, Spain, houses a science museum, theaters, performance halls, an aquarium and more. Built in a dried-out riverbed, its space-age educational and recreational structures were designed and developed by Spanish architect Santiago Calatrava as a present to his home city. Shown above is “L’Hemisfèric,” a dome opened in 1998 that includes, among other features, an Imax cinema.
10. New York City’s New Museum of Contemporary Art, opened in 2007 and named one of the seven architectural wonders by Conde Nast Traveler the following year, rises out of the gritty Bowery neighborhood in lower Manhattan like a layered wedding cake. It’s an appropriate venue for the contemporary works exhibited inside its walls.
11. The Chicago Spire, another Calatrava-designed structure, is under construction in the Windy City but has not yet been completed. The rendering above shows what it will look like if the remaining financing can be secured. The Spire would be located near the shores of Lake Michigan near Navy Pier and if completed, would be one of the tallest skyscrapers in the world at 2,000 feet and 150 stories. About 350 of the residential units have been pre-sold, including the penthouse to Ty Warner, CEO of Ty, Inc., manufacturer of Beanie Babies.
I’ve been to three of them, New Museum of Contemporary Art, Hearst Tower by Norman Foster and Stata Center at MIT by Frank Gehry. Still have long way to go.