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15 of the most influential works of 20th century architecture

Burj Al Arab

Designed by Tom Wright of Atkins to resemble the sail of a dhow (a type of Arab sailing vessel), the Burj Al Arab — or Tower of Arabs — is a luxury hotel in Dubai that sits on a man-made island. The hotel is often referred to as the world’s only seven star hotel, and has become emblematic of Dubai’s culture of luxury and grand living. The hotel’s Royal Suite is said to cost over $18,000 per night.

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Lloyd’s Building

Often referred to as the Inside-Out Building, the Lloyd’s building is home to Lloyd’s of London and a representative work of Bowellism architecture. Designed by Richard Rogers, the building was constructed between 1978 and 1986. The design of services components such as staircases, elevators, and water pipes were among the first of its kind in modern architecture. The nickname is derived from its design of placing ducts and pipes on the outside of the building so as to maximize interior space.

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Niterói Contemporary Art Museum

Designed by Oscar Niemeyer, the Niterói Contemporary Art Museum in Brazil’s spaceship-like exterior makes the building one of the most striking examples of Niemeyer’s 20th century aesthetic. The building is 16 meters high and it’s main building has a diameter of 50 meters.

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Second Goetheanum

The Second Goetheanum near Basel, Switzerland, was designed by Rudolf Steiner in 1924 and constructed between 1925 and 1928, after the first Goetheanum had been destroyed by a fire on New Year’s Eve in 1922/23. Because of the fire, the Second Goetheanum was then built entirely out of concrete, making the building one of the 20th century’s first and finest examples of concrete architecture.

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The Louvre Pyramid

Designed by renowned architect I.M. Pei, the Louvre Pyramid is a large glass and metal pyramid that sits in the main courtyard for the Louvre Palace in Paris. Commissioned by President François Miterrand in 1984, Pei’s design was controversial in the 1980s for its futuristic look, which many believed would be out of place in front of the classical look of the Louvre museum. The structure has since become a landmark of Paris.

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Daily Express Building

Completed in 1939, the Daily Express Building designed by Sir Owen Williams in Manchester is one of the world’s finest examples of timeless architectural beauty. The futuristic Art Deco look — and its streamline moderne lines and curves — makes this pre-WWII building look far younger than its actual age.

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Petronas Towers

The Petronas Twin Towers in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysaia were the tallest bulidings in the world from 1998 to 2004. Designed by Argentine architect César Pelli, the postmodern towers took seven years of construction. A popular subject featured in films and video games, the Petronas Towers features a double decker skybridge connecting the two buildings.

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Empire State Building

This 102-story skyscraper at the corner of Fifth Avenue and West 34th Street in Manhattan is not only one of the grandest Art Deco skyscrapers in the world, but also an American cultural icon. The Empire State Building was designed by William F. Lamb and drawings for the building were produced in just two weeks. Though the building surpassed the Chrysler Building as the tallest building in the world when it opened, the Empire State Building was also largely unrented as its opening coincided with the Great Depression. In 2012, the building’s metal halide lamps and floodlights were replaced with LED lights, making over 16 million different colors available.

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Chrysler Building

Standing at the corner of 42nd Street and Lexington Avenue on the east side of Manhattan, the famous Chrysler Building was the tallest building in the world for almost a year after it was first built. The Art Deco style skyscraper was designed by architect William Van Alen, whose original design proved to be too costly and advanced for the contractor. Eventually, Van Alen had to incorporate details like gargoyles that were modeled after the hood ornaments of Chrysler’s cars.

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Sydney Opera House

The world-famous performing arts center in Sydney, Australia was designed by Danish architect Jørn Utzon and opened in 1973, long after Utzon first won the competition for the Sydney Opera House’s design in 1957. The modern expressionist design of the Sydney Opera House features a series of concrete “shells” — precast concrete panels supported by precast concrete ribs. These panels are covered in Swedish-made tiles and from a distance, the “shells” appear to be a uniform white. The building sits on Bennelong Point in Sydney Harbour.

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Fallingwater

The Kaufmann Residence — more commonly known as Fallingwater — is a house designed by Frank Lloyd Wright in 1935. Located in rural southwestern Pennsylvania, the home was built partially over a waterfall and was hailed by Time magazine as Wright’s most beautiful work. Fallingwater was designated a National Historica Landmark in 1966. The design integrates the building’s natural surroundings and is listed among Smithsonian’s list of 28 places “to visit before you die”.

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Guggenheim Museum Bilbao

One of the most culturally significant and lauded works of contemporary architecture, the Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao, Spain, is also considered one of the best works by architect Frank Gehry. The curves of the building are intended to look random, but are actually designed to catch the light. In addition to being the architect behind the Bilbao Guggenheim and the Disney Concert Hall in downtown Los Angeles, Gehry is also a successful jewelry designer for Tiffany & Co.

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Villa Savoye

A modernist villa in Poissy, outside Paris, the Villa Savoye is considered a landmark and representative work of Charles-Edouard Jeanneret — more famously known as Le Corbusier. Built between 1928 and 1931, the Village Savoye is representative of Le Corbusier’s “five points” of modern architecture, embodying Le Corbusier’s signature architectural aesthetic. After a complete renovation from 1985 to 1997, the building is now open to visitors year-round.

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Taipei 101

From 2004 to 2010, the Taipei 101 reigned over contemporary architecture as the world’s tallest building. The building was designed by C.Y. Lee, a Chinese architect known primarily for skyscrapers in Taiwan and China. Since 2004, New Year’s Eve fireworks launched from the Taipei 101 have been featured prominently in international media. The building also boasts the world’s fastest ascending elevator, which was designed to reach over 1,000 meters per minute.

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Burj Khalifa

Designed by the firm Skidmore, Owings, and Merrill (the same firm that designed the former Sears Tower in Chicago and the new One World Trade Center in New York City), the Burj Khalifa — also known as the Khalifa tower — is the tallest man-made structure in the world at 829.8 meters tall (or 2,722 feet). Situated in Dubai, the skyscraper was completed on October 1, 2009 and boasts 163 floors of residential and office space.

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