We all have bucket lists, some may have destinations where they can go and relax while some may have things they want to experience once in their lifetime, but this is not the case for architects we just want to explore the footprints of the great architects that have made an everlasting impact of the face of architecture today. Many stararchitects, like Frank Gehry, F. L Wright, Renzo Piano have created masterpieces all around the globe, and today, here is a list of 10 famous structures that are a must visit for all the architects.

1. Frank Gehry- Walt Disney Concert Hall | Famous structures

A tribute to Walt Disney and home to the LA Philharmonic, the hall is one of Gehry’s most acclaimed projects. In its context of largely rectangular skyscrapers, the hall definitely stands out. Although it can be hard to make sense of what seems like a bunch of metal sheets bent strangely and plunked down on a piece of land, upon further inspection its complexity and dramatic flair slowly reach the brain- a subtle throw at the intricacies of music. The metal cladding plays with light, reflecting sunlight by day and the city lights by night. The closer you get, the more overwhelming it becomes and you can’t help but stop and stare. Reminiscent more of ancient Greek theatres than the later European models of auditoriums with their exclusive boxes and balconies, it strives to break social hierarchical norms.

From its conception, a challenging dynamic to unravel was the relationship between the musicians, the sound, and the listeners. Acoustics, especially in such unprecedented forms, is an interesting problem- one that has been taken care of through material and spatial means in collaboration with Yasuhisa Toyota. What seems like haphazard curves are part of an intricate acoustical system with spatial-user- frequency relationships extensively tested on a 1:10 scale model.

As Gehry’s scribbles turned into a more deliberate design, it was apparent that some serious structural work would be required. From the massive steel roof structure -spanning the entire space and eliminating the need for interior columns- to the more intricate details of box columns tilted at precisely 17 degrees for the custom curvature, it is also a fascinating piece of engineering.

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Walt Disney Concert Hall ©Gehry Partners, LLP
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Famous structures-Walt Disney Concert Hall ©Dave Toussaint
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Walt Disney Concert Hall ©Gehry Partners, LLP

2. Santiago Calatrava- Oculus

Calatrava’s oculus or the World Trade Centre Transportation Hub is unlike any other transport hub. This famous structure invokes a feeling of wanderlust if only to see and experience the Oculus. Unlike the towering skyline of New York, defined by the likes of the Empire State or Chrysler building, the Oculus is relatively small and hidden. This is exactly what Calatrava wanted- to create an escape. To him, the beauty of New York is in the small niches of unexpectedness, allowing a structure like the Oculus to settle in quite nicely and humanize its imposing neighbors.

Built at the site of the 9/11 attacks on the World Trade Centre towers, sensitivity was imperative. It was important to honor the site, its past, and all that it encompassed. Rather than design a somber memorial, he hoped to embody the undying spirit of New York and create a living memorial. Physically connecting underground train networks, he floods the atrium with natural light, allowing it to become a place of progression and healing. Refusing to see it as a site of a tragedy that would forever remain so, it was to be a legacy for the generations to come, to show the world that the fallen can rise again and the lives lost would always be remembered.

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Oculus ©Hufton+Crow
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Famous structures-Oculus ©Hufton+Crow
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Oculus ©Alan Karchmer
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Oculus ©Alan Karchmer

3. Zaha Hadid- Heydar Aliyev Centre 

Whether or not one is a fan of exaggerated curves and Hadid’s philosophy of deconstructivism, her ideas were undoubtedly both radical and brilliant. In contrast to Gehry’s curves, Hadid’s were much simpler and organic- almost graceful in character. While a large majority of the world’s famous structures are scattered across the likes of the USA, UK, or Europe, the Heydar Aliyev Centre is located in Baku, the capital of Azerbaijan- a name that might not come up much in conversation.

Looking to make a clean break from the Soviet Modernism it was stuck in, the center was conceived to become a national cultural icon and feature some of the heavily suppressed local Azeri cultures. A soothing fluidic form, it is a homage to the free-flowing Islamic architecture of the region. The use of deconstructivism, as opposed to a more rigid interpretation of local forms, was done purposefully-Hadid had no intention of creating a copied historic relic that would have little to no connection with a quickly modernizing world and Azerbaijan. Breaking up the large, imposing curves with more nuanced “seams” helped create a better understanding of scale and geometry and addressed some of the more practical problems like manufacturing, handling, transportation, and assembly. Another excellent example of the strong dependency of good architecture with good engineering, it handled with ease even technical concerns like accommodating movement due to deflection, external loads, temperature change, seismic activity, and wind loading.

The cultural icon they wanted- Well, that’s exactly what they got- hard to miss and harder to ignore.

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Heydar Aliyev Centre ©Iwan Baan
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Famous structures-Heydar Aliyev Centre ©Hufton+Crow
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Heydar Aliyev Centre ©Helene Binet

4. Renzo Piano- Pompidou Centre

False ceilings carefully hide the ducting, piping, and the many other services essential to run a building- a clever solution isn’t it? After all, nobody really needs to see any of that. Or do they? Renzo Piano and Richard Roger’s Centre Georges Pompidou attained its star status for the very reason that they questioned that flawed logic. In a time when scaffolding was just temporary and all the parts of the building that we didn’t have to see were conveniently tucked away and hidden, this building did the exact opposite. It turned itself inside out.

The proposal not only shook its jurors- with its modern construction details like gerberettes and trusses- but also introduced the world to two unknown architects who would go on to change the world of architecture. Designed to be a cultural center, the building itself was conceptualized to represent movement. Each system or service was color-coded, not only creating an easy to identify and maintain the system but also crafting a novel visual appeal. While it hosts numerous cultural exhibitions and events, even housing the Musée National d’Art Moderne (Europe’s largest museum for modern art), the Pompidou Centre also encourages its visitors to take notice and appreciate everything it takes to run a building, especially one of this scale.

You can’t help but see it as a great piece of awareness- not only revealing things about architecture but also doing away with the societal habit of hiding away things, especially what is considered “ugly”. Why should we be ashamed of the things that keep us alive and running? The Pompidou Centre is a loud shout-out to the world that it loves itself, unsightly pipes and all.

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Pompidou Centre ©conservapedia.com
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Famous structures-Pompidou Centre ©Courtney Traub
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Pompidou Centre ©Francis Toussaint

5. F.L Wright- Solomon. R. Guggenheim Museum | Famous structures

An “inverted oatmeal dish” or a “hot cross bun”- not exactly the words any architect wants to hear being said about their buildings, least of all F.L. Wright. That, however, was simply how it was. Not everybody liked it and even today many consider it an eyesore.

Solomon. R. Guggenheim Museum has been widely criticized for being a little too interesting, significantly detracting from the art much to the annoyance of the museum’s artists and curators. However, to architects, it can provide useful lessons- in both the do’s and don’ts- when faced with similar design problems. While not the greatest museum ever built, Wright’s design captured things that were missing in many museums at the time and altered a lot that needed to change. The wrap around ramp- one of the structure’s hallmark features – broke the marked level differences accompanying a building of such a height, making it accessible to all and refreshing to experience. The central atrium allowed natural light to flood into the museum and offered an interlude between the many displays of art. While radical, it certainly had its pitfalls- the curved walls made it difficult to hang up predominantly rectangular works of art and required the construction of an adjacent exhibition building.

Overall, its quirky form continues to charm visitors and portrays the majesty and monumentalism Wright was trying to capture. It is one of the most interesting buildings Wright ever designed, both inside and out.

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Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum ©Archdaily
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Famous structures-Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum ©Archdaily
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Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum ©Creative Commons- Flickr

6. Jorn Utzon- Sydney Opera House

Ah, the old opera house. A design that was said to have found its way into the reject pile long before it became a symbol synonymous with Australia. As Pritzker Prize judge Frank Gehry said of the award-winning building, “[Jørn] Utzon made a building well ahead of its time, far ahead of available technology… a building that changed the image of an entire country.”

Built on a popular gathering ground sacred to the local Aboriginal Gadigal people, Utzon was not only tasked with designing a building worthy of standing upon that site but also had to find just the right balance of style to justify itself. Today, Sydney’s skyline is dotted with many beautiful, radical buildings. But, Jorn Utzon stood to bring Modernism to land unhindered by the confines of rigid architecture. Combining his modernist training with the smaller eccentricities he had picked up in his travels across the world, he created a building of sculptural elegance that remains as relevant today as it was when it first came to life.

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Competition drawing by Jørn Utzon, 1956.©www.sydneyoperahouse.com
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The Opera House shells under construction, 1965. ©www.sydneyoperahouse.com
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Sydney Opera House ©Archdaily

7. Daniel Leibskind- Jewish Museum

Architect or not, Daniel Libeskind’s Jewish Museum is one of the most powerful buildings designed in the contemporary world. Haunting and extremely compelling, the genius of it lies in the way it forces you to experience a small fragment of the Holocaust. To say that the museum allows one to experience a Holocaust victim’s horrendous experience is to undermine it- it merely allows one to touch upon the subject without the threat of danger looming nearby.

Put in his position, several architects may have chosen to construct a calmer, more peaceful memorial, a place of healing perhaps. But Libeskind wasn’t satisfied with just creating a beautiful memorial. He acknowledged the pain and fear accompanying one of history’s worst genocides and refused to allow anyone who visited his museum to brush it aside. Whether it was the use of cold, grey walls that always seemed to be closing in or the tiny, elusive shafts of light springing up, or the small courtyards that were nothing more than dead-ends- each element was carefully thought of and intentionally placed where it was. A zig-zagging extension to the original museum, the form is an abstracted Star of David, passing by a powerful 66’ tall void, through grounds paved with 10,000 haunting iron faces, eventually leading out into the Garden of Exile.

Leaving the museum evokes such a sense of relief among its users. No longer forced to confront the harsh truth of genocide, visitors are free to sigh and think about the power of the building itself.

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Jewish Museum © Denis Esakov
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Jewish Museum © Denis Esakov
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Jewish Museum © Denis Esakov

8. I.M.Pei- Louvre Pyramid

The Louvre Museum is an iconic Parisian monument, standing bold and strong. Built decades ago, it has long since represented and housed the best that art and culture have had to offer. Yet, today it is very difficult to imagine the Louvre without I.M. Pei’s addition.

Commissioned to tackle the issue of traffic, in the Louvre’s heavily congested Cour Napolean, Pei’s glass pyramid was quick to draw criticism from those who saw it as a threat to France’s traditional architecture. Le Monde’s architecture critic at the time called the structure “a house of the dead” and said Pei was treating the courtyard of the Louvre “like an annex of Disneyland or bringing Luna Park back from the dead”. Apart from serving as a new entry and focal point, the pyramid also took the opportunity to expand the museum, adding new underground galleries, labs, and storage.

As a foreign architect, Pei’s decision to put a stark glass pyramid amidst a traditionally French Renaissance context was a very bold thing to do. Despite all the flak it drew, it doesn’t detract from the original museum, but rather enhances it through its scale and transparency. Just as the Eiffel Tower, once considered a disgraceful monstrosity has now become an endearing local attraction, so has this famous structure of Pei- slowly altering a country resistant to change.

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Louvre Pyramid ©Archdaily
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Louvre Pyramid ©Archdaily

9. Eero Saarinen- Gateway Arch

Saarinen’s gateway arch pushed the boundaries of conventionality, really pushed it. In a world where soaring land prices for the smallest slivers of land are expected to be quantified back into a profitable building, the gateway arch blatantly ignores such a criterion, at least in the conventional sense. A giant steel-clad concrete arch forming a halo over the St. Louis’s old courthouse, it is very simple. Yet, it is this simplicity, magnified to a massive scale that makes it so captivating to look at. His source of inspiration was the catenary (a curve that assumes its weight when supported only at its ends) which was then distorted into its current form. Using various triangle sections, he achieves the stability of form.

Besides being a beautiful public attraction, it also acts as an observation deck, carrying visitors up to the top via a complex system of elevator cars. As the cars slowly inch up, diagonally, eventually coming to rest at a whopping height of 630 feet, one is left wondering if there isn’t another original idea left in the world.

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Gateway Arch ©Archdaily
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Gateway Arch ©Archdaily

10. Norman Foster- 30 St.Mary Axe | Famous structures

Lovingly dubbed “the gherkin”, 30 St. Mary Axe is one of Foster+Partners’ more environmentally conscious undertakings. Though by now oddly unconventional shapes are something we’ve grown to expect and see in the buildings around us, the Gherkin still stands out in London’s skyline. An award-winning famous structure that reinterprets the skyscraper, it combines innovation in steel, cladding, and technology to deal with the complexities of structure and environmental control. The Gherkin has also shrewdly dealt with the risks of climate change, terrorism, and financial globalization through environmentally sustainable design and technology and resilient design. The Gherkin might just be a single building but its presence has significantly increased the value and quality of its neighborhood and created scores of opportunities spatially and financially- an urban designer’s dream.

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Famous structures-30 St.Mary Axe ©Foster + Partners
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30 St.Mary Axe ©Foster + Partners

Nessa Philip is an aspiring architect. Forever frowned upon by professors for having too much text on her sheets, she is finally channelling some of that energy into something readable. She believes that architecture is more than just a series of spaces. It is a loud, colourful amalgamation of stories, ideas and lives intertwining, if one only knows where to look.