Destination architecture – could this be the next big tourism experience?
On every holiday I try to make an interesting architectural journey. Over the years this has taken me from Frank Lloyd Wright’s American classics to the iconic Bauhaus in Germany to post-modern blockbusters by contemporary architects.
Here’s my virtual tour of the best architectural wonders of the modern world from dream homes and glittering galleries to cloud-piercing skyscrapers and flights of fancy.
Mies van Der Rohe’s pavilion is simplicity and style incarnate. There is nothing elaborate about this classic modernist building with its light spaces and high quality sculptural surfaces.
Mies wanted the pavilion to be an “ideal zone of tranquility”. It achieves that level of perfection 100% with its airy rooms and ‘floating’ roof projecting out over a pool and courtyard. Just don’t sit down in one of its rare Barcelona chairs which we did before being told off by a warden.
Where to find it: Avenue Francesc Ferrer i Guardia, Barcelona, Spain.
Frank Lloyd Wright’s amazing low-slung house on the edge of the Sonoran Desert is one of the architect’s masterpieces. Wright started the building in 1937 and intended it to be his winter home and studio – a merging of architecture and landscape. Its marriage of indoor and outdoor spaces is brilliantly realised. Take one of several daily tours (booking advised) around the house, studios and gardens. And on this trip, you can sit in one of the historic chairs designed by Wright himself.
Where to find it: Locted in Scottsdale on the outskirts of Phoenix, Arizona, USA.
Sydney Opera House
One of the world’s most instantly recognisable buildings the Sydney Opera House ressembles a giant sailing vessel billowing in the harbour wind. Designed by Danish architect Jorn Utzon it is as impressive inside as out – so don’t miss a backstage tour or concert in this iconic venue.
Where to find it: Sydney Cove, Sydney harbour front, Australia.
Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum
Another Frank Lloyd Wright ‘spectacular’ structure with its pure white exterior and internal staircase which reminds me of an uncoiled onion. The Guggenheim has temporary exhibitions in the giant rotunda plus a permanent art collection in the side galleries. But it is the architecture which is the star of this one-man show.
Where to find it: 5th Avenue, Upper East Side, New York, USA.
This holy grail of modernist architecture is still an amazing sight as its stark white buildings emerge out of the grey and rather drab Dessau landscape. Hated by Hitler and loved by style leaders, The Bauhaus remains an enduring symbol of modernism. Walter Gropius and then Mies van Der Rohe stamped their design ideals on the school of architecture and the nearby houses between 1919-1933.
Visitors can wander around the main building but you’ll need to buy a ticket for any temporary exhibitions or a self-guided tour of the masters’ houses nearby.
Where to find it: Gropius Allee, Dessau (town centre), Germany.
Richard B. Fisher Center for Performing Arts
Frank Gehry’s amazing armadillo-shaped building looks like a shiny glow worm emerging from the ground. Set in a landscaped park this stunning building recalls lunar images of a space ship landing in the Hudson valley.
Where to find it: Annandale-on-Hudson, New York State, USA. Ninety miles north of NY. The concert hall is a public building so wander in and take a look at the interior. Guided tours daily at 2pm.
Don’t miss Gehry’s stunning Guggenheim gallery at Bilbao in northern Spain too.
Frank Lloyd Wright’s smaller scale domestic gem located in the middle of a housing estate on the outskirts of Manchester is a remarkable 1950s building. The Zimmerman House was designed for a middle-class couple who wanted a moderately sized home with a touch of class and stylish design. Built in brick there are all the usual Wright touches from the spacious, open plan layout and large, glass windows to the landscaped gardens which make the house feel at one with nature.
Where to find it: Manchester, New Hampshire, USA. Tours start by a pre-booked tour and bus from the Currier Museum in Manchester. Guided tours only on Thursdays-Mondays at 11:30 and 14:00.
Jewish Museum, Berlin
Daniel Libeskind’s commemoration of the Jewish people and the Holocaust is more monument than museum with its clever interplay of spaces and light which incite emotions ranging from claustrophobia to anxiety and fear. Its angular, jagged exterior and maze-like interior provide a remarkable architectural journey which I have never encountered anywhere else.
Where to find it: Lindenstrasse (in city centre district), Berlin, Germany. Open daily 10:00 to late.
Amazing use of space and light welding together new and old within one of Berlin’s most important and symbolic buildings. The rooftop dome and terrace offer spectacular views over this part of the historic city.
Where to find it: Friedrich Ebert Strasse, central Berlin, Germany. Self-guided tours: book tickets or walk up and expect long queues. Open till late.
Over 125 years in the making, Gaudi’s cathedral is a flight of fancy made real and given concrete form. With its remarkable organic fruits and sculptures & free-flowing shapes and forms, this unique building has evolved over time as a creative catalyst for four generations of crafts people.
Where to find it: Calle Mallorca,Barcelona, Spain. Don’t miss other Gaudi masterpieces elsewhere in Barcelona including Casa Batllo and Casa Mila.
New York’s iconic Art Deco skyscraper shimmers like a crystal tower in the sky. Designed by architect William Van Alen the Chrysler is arguably the Big Apple’s most beautiful modern building with its terraced crown and chrome-style ornamentation.
Where to find it: 42 Street and Lexington Avenue, New York City. Visitors can only view the building’s lobby and exterior.
This controversial gallery building designed by Richard Rogers and Renzo Piano is the ultimate in 1970s hi-tech design. Playful and innovative, the Pompidou still has the power to shock, amuse, and engage with the thousands of visitors who pass through it every year.
Wearing what is generally a building’s hidden anatomy on its exterior, this is a big statement of a building… whilst the art gallery inside is amazing too. Head for the heights and look down on the street performers and cafe society below.
Where to find it: Place Georges Pompidou, Paris, France. Hotel de Ville Metro. Open daily except Tuesdays.
Rome’s awesome architectural art house was designed by Anglo-Iraqi architect Zaha Hadid as a centre for art and architecture. This striking building is as impressive inside as outside with its large exhibition spaces that demand big-scale art installations.
MAXXI Rome – maximus architecturus!
Where to find it: Via Guido Reni (Flaminio), Rome. Open daily till late.
Denver Museum of Modern Art
Daniel Libeskind’s fractured planes provide the right mix of crazy and conceptual as you walk around this dramatic contemporary art gallery.
Where to find it: Delgany Street (downtown), Denver, Colorado, USA. Open daily except Mondays
This surreal egg-shaped performance art centre by architect Wallace Hamilton is a child of the 1960s. At first glance you could almost mistake The Egg for a sculpture rather than a building with its oval shapes and lack of features. This strange-looking complex looks like the mothership from a sci-fi movie.
Below the surface the building goes down six stories and links to a massive series of corridors connecting various parts of downtown with the walkways passing paintings and art works by the likes of Rothko, Pollock and other leading American painters. The brainchild of idealist politician Nelson Rockefeller the complex was designed to help democratise the arts for everyday people.
Where to find it: Empire State Plaza, Albany (downtown), New York State
La Chapelle de Ronchamp
Looking for an emotionally charged architectural journey? Le Corbusier’s modernist church at Ronchamp in southern France is an authentic spiritual experience for the most jaded traveller. Stunning shapes and forms on the outside, beautiful solitude and splashes of perfect coloured light (from stained glass windows) interspersed with white light on the inside. Pure genius.
Where to find it: Rue Le Corbusier, Ronchamp, France.
There are so many more buildings I could list but this is a simply a beginners’ guide.
Expect a UK version of this guide coming soon on the Tammy Tour Guide blog.