6 Cities with Extraordinary Architecture

By Google Arts & Culture

Words by Jesse Aylen

Guggenheim Museum Bilbao (1994/1997) by Frank GehryGuggenheim Bilbao

A roof and four walls is dead. Today, urban architecture is a super-ambitious form of design, continuously pushing boundaries through innovative materials and shapes, reconceiving what a building can look like. These structures push what it means to see a building, not just as a place where people live or work, but as an art form itself. Together, these extraordinary buildings show us a new approach to architectural design. Strap in as we zip across the globe, unveiling some of the most surreally amazing structures from Asia, to Europe, and beyond.

Suzhou Museum View -34Suzhou Museum

Suzhou Museum, China
Ieoh Ming Pei


Ieoh Ming Pei’s bold geometric design for China’s Suzhou Museum is a remarkable mix of boxy shapes offset by triangular glass. Pei’s building bravely mixes traditional design and contemporary style in an innovative fusion of tradition and groundbreaking design; but one that doesn’t upset the careful balance of the museum against its calm, peaceful setting or longstanding cultural traditions. Against the curving hills and curlicue trees in Suzhou, it’s a striking, wonderful contrast.

Sydney Opera House during the Vivid Sydney festival* (1) (2011) by Kazuhisa TogoSydney Opera House

Sydney Opera House, Australia
Jørn Utzon


Jetting across the world to Australia, the Sydney Opera House shows how much of a statement inventively shaped buildings can make to a place. With its massive curves inspired by bird’s wings cutting into the skyline as well as other natural forms as shells, clouds and palm trees, the SOH shouts its mission proudly: according to the Australian Premier Joseph Cahill “to help mold a better and more enlightened community.” As a key attraction for global visitors, the Opera House shows how vital artistic creativity is to culture, and how it’s amplified by creative construction methods.

2013 (2015) by Sebastian HänelBerliner Philharmoniker

Berlin Philharmonie, Germany
Hans Scharoun


The Berlin Philharmonie is a beacon for both classical music and impressive design. Its design was initially met with great hesitation, and with good reason - it was innovative for the area to say the least, and even to the most seasoned of architects, the idea of the asymmetrical façade left doubts as to whether its stability would withstand the test of time and sound. Although it was initially somewhat controversial, the eye-catchingly Modernist architecture is now regarded as an unforgettable example of a building that makes a bold artistic statement against a more muted urban backdrop.

Serpentine Gallery Pavilion 2007 (24 August 2007 - 5 November 2007) by Olafur EliassonSerpentine Galleries

Serpentine Gallery Architecture Pavilions, London, UK
Varied Architects


Snaking across to London, slither into the Serpentine Gallery. This innovative gallery redesigns their exterior pavilion and façade every year, picking from architects from a different area of the world each time to give it a fresh vision. Mexican architect Frida Escobedo designed the 2018 Serpentine Pavilion where she showcases her blending of Mexican architecture with British materials and history, creating a layered visual effect. The ever-changing outside space reveals how innovative architecture can be both unusual and live in harmony with its serene background.

A Museum is a School (2009) by Luis CamnitzerSolomon R. Guggenheim Museum and Foundation

Guggenheim Museum, New York City, USA
Frank Lloyd Wright


The Guggenheim’s sweeping curves playfully refuse to follow order, bringing your feet along for the ride. Originally, the NYC Guggenheim was intended to have an entirely red exterior, but neither the idea nor the color stuck. Wright’s Modernist building took over 700 sketches and plenty of inspiration before the harmoniously organic flow was finally perfected. The circular design challenges our idea of what we are used to in a museum, with each internal detail designed by the architect as well, surprising you on the curved, undulating walk from the top floor down.

Fentress Architects, Mineta San Jose International Airport, 2010. by Photo: © Ken PaulTime Space Existence - Biennale Architettura 2016

Mineta San Jose Airport, California, USA
Gensler Team


Often called “the most technologically advanced airport”, the Mineta San Jose Airport is set amidst Silicon Valley’s hustle and bustle as one of the most cutting edge, tech-engaged communities. California’s Mineta Airport seamlessly marries design and industry. This one has its eye on the future, but its feet firmly in the now. Overall, it shows how function can meet with context – and dare we say it, it makes traveling ever so stylish.

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The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
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