Through the lens: 20 of the world’s architectural masterpieces

The world is full of amazing architecture – from ancient monuments and historic buildings that tell a story about the era and culture in which they were built, to modern feats of architectural ingenuity that push the boundaries of design principles. You don’t have to be an architectural expert to be inspired by these masterpieces; they amaze even those who don’t know Gothic from Baroque. Take a look through the lens with us at 20 of these magnificent structures.

1. The Colosseum - Rome, Italy

The amphitheatre is located in the centre of Rome is a fabulous example of the architectural feats of the Ancient Romans. The Colosseum (Coliseum) was built in 72AD, and when it was completed in 80AD, it was used primarily for gladiatorial battles. It’s not hard to see why it’s one of Rome’s most popular tourist attractions.

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2. Guggenheim Museum Bilbao - Bilbao, Spain

The Guggenheim Museum Bilbao is was designed by American architect Frank Gehry, and is considered one of the most important buildings of the 20th century. The award-winning contemporary design includes a titanium clad exterior with curves that catch the light in a spectacular way. Drawing approximately 1 million tourists each year, the museum has significantly improved the economy of Bilbao.

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3. Taj Mahal - Agra, India

What’s not to love about India’s Taj Mahal? The UNESCO World Heritage Site is one of the most impressive examples of Mughal architecture and is an expression of love. It was built in the city of Agra as a tomb for Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan’s wife after she died giving birth. The white marble monument was completed in 1653 and is a perfect blend of Persian, Turkish and Indian architectural styles.

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4. Sydney Opera House - Sydney, Australia

The Sydney Opera House is an Australian icon and is comprised of shell-like forms that interlock to create performance halls and a restaurant. It was designed by Jørn Utzon, who was relatively unknown until he won a competition to design the opera house in 1957.

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5. Pyramids of Giza - Egypt

The famous pyramids and Sphinx are located just outside Cairo, at the Giza Necropolis archaeological site. The largest of the three pyramids is known as the Great Pyramid of Giza (Pyramid of Khufu), and is the only one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World that is still standing. These engineering masterpieces of the ancient world still fascinate millions of tourists today.

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6. Sagrada Familia - Barcelona, Spain

It may be unfinished, but the Sagrada Familia is still a masterpiece. Designed by the talented Antoni Gaudí, construction on this Roman Catholic cathedral began in 1882, and has an estimated completion date of 2026. In his design, Gaudí created a masterpiece which seamlessly blended his trademark Modernist style with Gothic and Art Nouveau styles.

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7. Pantheon - Rome, Italy

Rome is home to many amazing feats of engineering and architecture, and the Pantheon is no exception. The beautiful dome “Temple of the Gods” was built around 126AD, and has the world’s largest unreinforced concrete dome.

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8. Petronas Towers - Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

The twin skyscrapers known as Petronas Towers are an iconic Kuala Lumpur landmark and held the title of the world’s tallest building from 1998 to 2004. The 170m high towers were designed by Argentine American architect César Pelli, and include a skybridge that connects the two buildings.

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9. Leaning Tower of Pisa - Pisa, Italy

Although it’s most famous for its tilt, the Leaning Tower of Pisa is still a remarkable structure. The tower took a whopping 200 years to complete after construction first began in 1173. Located in the Italian city of Pisa, the tower has undergone a serious of stabilisation efforts and was reopened to the public in 2001.

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10. St Basil’s Cathedral - Moscow, Russia

It may be garishly coloured, but this famous landmark, located in the centre of Moscow, is one of the city’s most visited tourist attractions. The onion shaped domes, sharp spikes and polygonal towers designed by architect Postnik Yakovlev, form a unique masterpiece. The secularised cathedral was built between 1554 and 1560 and is part of the Moscow Kremlin and Red Square UNESCO World Heritage Site.

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11. Burj Khalifa - Dubai, United Arab Emirates

As the world’s tallest building Burj Khalifa is definitely an inspirational masterpiece. The immense skyscraper is located in Dubai and stands at 828.9 metres high. The 160-floor skyscraper was built between 2004 and 2010 and is comprised of apartments, offices, hotels, and the Dubai Mall. It was designed by Adrian Smith of Skidmore, Owings and Merrill.

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12. Golestan Palace - Tehran, Iran

If lavish palace interiors are your thing, then you’ll love Golestan Palace in Tehran. This architectural masterpiece of the Qajar era is a beautiful example of Islamic architecture. The palace complex includes museums and halls decorated with intricate mosaic patterns that are prevalent in Persian architecture.

13. Grand Palace - Bangkok, Thailand

The Grand Palace complex in Bangkok is a design masterpiece. While the exterior of the temples and palace buildings are typical of Thai architecture, the intricately decorated interiors are simply spectacular. The star attraction has to be the Grand Palace’s Temple of the Emerald Buddha.

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14. Harpa (Concert Hall and Conference Centre) - ReykjavÍk, Iceland

The Harpa (formerly known as the Reykjavik Concert Hall and Conference Centre) in Iceland’s capital city is a wonderful example of how art and engineering meet to create a masterpiece. The geometric structure was completed in 2011 and has steel framework covered in glass.

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15. The Alhambra - Granada, Spain

The Alhambra palace complex in Granada never fails to inspire with its Moorish architecture. The UNESCO World Heritage Site was constructed as a small fortress in 889 and converted to a palace in 1333. The arabesque decorative art in the interior is simply breathtaking.

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16. Gardens by the Bay - Singapore

Gardens by the Bay is a 101 hectare park in Singapore which includes magnificent glass conservatories known as The Flower Dome and the Cloud Forest, as well as a grove of “Supertrees”. These energy efficient constructions of Gardens by the Bay are a great example of sustainable building technologies.

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17. The Crooked House - Sopot, Poland

pictured: Gdańsk Old Harbour

It may look digitally distorted, but the Crooked House is just as crooked in real life. The building is located in Sopot, Poland, and was designed as an homage to the works of Polish children’s book illustrator Jan Marcin Szancer. The wacky building was cleverly designed by architects Szotyńscy & Zaleski.

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18. Cube Houses (Kubuswoningen) - Rotterdam, Netherlands

Architect Piet Blom designed these fascinating cube houses. Located on Overblaak Street in Rotterdam, the tilted cubes are set on hexagon-shaped pylons. Although it’s not my idea of a great home, it certainly is unique. It’s this out of the box thinking that inspires architects to push the limits of design.

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19. The Chrysler Building - New York City, USA

This Art Deco skyscraper in New York City held the title of the world’s tallest building for 11 months. Considered by many people to be one of the finest buildings in New York, the skyscraper was designed by architect William Van Alen. It is 282 m (925 ft) tall with a 38-meter (125 ft) spire and was completed in 1930.

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20. Duomo di Milano - Milan, Italy

This beautiful Gothic cathedral is dedicated to Santa Maria Nascente and took nearly six centuries to complete after construction first began in 1386. Oscar Wilde may not have been a fan, but Mark Twain described Duomo di Milano as grand, airy and graceful. The spectacular sculpture work along with the impressive spires and delicate looking flying buttresses make this cathedral a beautiful work of art.

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