10 Cities for Architecture Enthusiasts

10 Cities for Architecture Enthusiasts

Want to explore cutting-edge architecture alongside breathtaking ancient cityscapes? We’ve picked 10 cities that offer both, spanning Athens to Chandigarh

edifices of epic proportions to eco-friendly additions changing neighbourhoods
for the better, well-designed buildings characterise cities for
decades, or even centuries. We’ve picked 10 destinations that have
defied logic, driven change or just achieved long-lasting beauty
through their crowd-pleasing infrastructure.

Better by design: 10 cities with must-see architecture

Athens, Greece

Athens, Greece

Best for: ancient wonders

Obsessed with ancient Greece? Athens’ Acropolis was built in the
fifth century BC, so it’s no surprise that architectural
enthusiasts descend upon one of the world’s oldest cities
year-round to admire one of the best surviving examples of ancient
architecture. The Parthenon, dominating the hill of the Acropolis,
is a logical place to begin your pilgrimage. While you’re in the
area, pay a visit to the Acropolis

The city itself is, in effect, a living case study of myriad
architectural schools and styles. Greco-Roman? Check. Neoclassical?
Check. Modern? Check. If you’re more intrigued by contemporary
design, set aside a morning to visit the Stavros Niarchos
Foundation Cultural Centre (SNFCC)
, an impressive structure
highlighting Athens’ new groove through art, music and sport, with
not a Doric column in sight.


Marrakech, Morocco

Best for: elaborate elegance

It would take months and months to sift through all the geotags
associated with Marrakech, a visually impactful and undeniably
photogenic city. Composed of striking, contrasting buildings
presented predominately in russet hues, the Red City is a mecca for
design lovers. Ornamental detailing dominates interiors – colourful
mosaic floors and walls, impressive stucco and elaborate fountains
abound at palatial riads the city over.

Drop by Jardin Majorelle to lap up Moorish shapes and verdant
gardens, before heading next door to the Yves Saint
Laurent Museum
, designed by the French architecture firm Studio
KO. Meanwhile, El Badi Palace, which stands largely in ruins, is a
nod to bygone days, with its eroding structure offering hints of
its past splendour. Before departing, cast your eyes up to the
palace’s high walls, where regal-looking storks have engineered
elaborate nests.

Chicago, US
Photo credit: Page Light Studios / Shutterstock.com

Chicago, US

Best for: game-changing modern design

Frank Lloyd Wright, Jeanne Gang, Frank Gehry: some of the most
famous architects of the last century have contributed to Chicago’s skyline. Quick history lesson: the
Chicago School group of architects’ steel-framed constructions
paved the way for the world’s first skyscrapers, making it one of
the most influential schools of the 20th century.

Something of an architectural trendsetter, Chicago’s bold
structures have long defined its public face. Frank Gehry’s Jay
Pritzker Pavilion in Millennium Park and the Renzo Piano-designed
glass-and-light-filled addition to the Art Institute of Chicago are
just two examples of the city’s prowess.

Chandigarh, India

Best for: utopian visions

The broad boulevards, cuboid brutalist builds and well-planned
gridded streets of Chandigarh, in north-west India, are the result
of both post-colonial politics and the architectural vision of Le
Corbusier. This is India’s first planned city. Following partition
in 1947, Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru entrusted Swiss-French
architect Le Corbusier with designing an organised, progressive
settlement that broke from past traditions.

The result: a 6,070-hectare complex, referred to as a “planned
super-grid”, encompassing government buildings, housing, parks and
recreation facilities. Corbusier’s vision included exposed
stonework and characterful sculpture, and has since become a Unesco
World Heritage site. With plenty of open spaces, Chandigarh remains
one of the country’s greenest cities.

Miami, US
Photo credit: Andriy Blokhin / Shutterstock.com

Miami, US

Best for: kaleidoscopic colour

An in-vogue luxury tourist destination during the 1920s and
1930s, Miami’s South Beach still oozes with a certain elegance. In
an effort to bring well-heeled northerners to the Magic City,
architects of the day maximised on art deco’s symmetrical and
geometrical patterns to create low-rise, pastel-coloured buildings
with curved corners – et voilà!

Miami Beach’s Historic District claims the largest collection of
art deco architecture in the world, but there are many other
decorative styles that stand out here. Highlights among these
include the lavish Vizcaya Museum and Gardens, the Faena Forum in Mid-Beach and the Moore Building
in the Design District, which harbours Zaha Hadid’s
futuristic Elastika installation over four storeys.

Barcelona, Spain

Best for: creative inspiration

A roll call of notable names, including Mies van der Rohe, Jean
Nouvel and, of course, Antoni Gaudí, have contributed to the
creation and development of Barcelona’s cityscape. Three building
booms, centuries apart, are responsible for a diverse array of
riches. Spend a weekend wandering between gothic cathedrals
(constructed in the Middle Ages), modernist buildings and Gaudí’s
many creations peppered across town. His unfinished masterpiece, La
Sagrada Familia, and Nouvel’s bullet-shaped skyscraper, Torre
Agbar, are just two examples of Barcelona’s not-to-be-missed

Istanbul, Turkey

Best for: religious relics

Positioned at the terminus of the Silk Road, Istanbul has been a
hub of trade, power and culture for millennia. Straddling two
continents, the city is home to a kaleidoscope of styles. From
Byzantine to Ottoman, the influences are apparent across the city’s
many monuments, palaces and towers. Our favourite sites are the
domed Byzantine mosques, complete with intricate mosaic work.

The superlative sixth-century Hagia Sophia, the 17th-century
Blue Mosque and the exceptional Topkapi Palace all vie for the
crown of city’s greatest landmark. For a modern take on palatial
structures, pay a visit to the Sancaklar Mosque built by Emre
Arolat Architecture. The undecorated, cave-like space offers an
unconventional design in contrast to the heaven-hugging mosques of
the city centre.

Dubai Skyline

Dubai, UAE

Best for: all-out excess

It’s not for everyone, but the architectural prowess of this
sand-brushed city is impossible to ignore. Home to the 830m-high
Burj Khalifa, Dubai is a destination whose architectural style can
be summed up as “out to impress”. While the swelled sail of the
Burj Al Arab hotel is arguably the most famous silhouette on the
city’s skyline, exciting new constructions seem to permanently be
springing up everywhere you look. Since 2016, a swarm of major
architecture firms, including Zaha Hadid Architects, Santiago
Calatrava and Foster + Partners, have all set up offices here.
Constructed at pace, everything from underwater hotels to rotating
buildings are appearing. Notable designs include the man-made Palm
Jumeirah islands, which can be seen from space, and the Dubai


Best for: slick city solutions

Cutting-edge architects have created an ultra-modern cityscape
in Singapore, whose skyline is instantly recognisable. The
city-state (which is among the smallest countries in the world) has
always found innovative solutions to space limitations and
population size. In contrast to the city’s dense urban environment,
the Gardens by the Bay park was created as part of a governmental
plan to transform Singapore into a “city in a garden”. What’s more,
its steel-framed “supertrees” generate solar power and harvest
rainwater, thereby boosting Singapore’s status as a green city.

Other design firms to have taken inspiration from nature include
architect Moshe Safdie, who created the lotus-inspired ArtScience
complex in Singapore’s central area. Composed in a manner that
provides (sustainable) light inside the gallery space, the
building’s curved shape means that rainwater can be harvested at
its base, where it is collected in a pond.

Copenhagen, Denmark

Copenhagen, Denmark

Best for: Scandinavian chic

Home to renowned architects Bjarke Ingels, Finn Juhl, Arne
Jacobsen and Jørn Utzon, Danish architecture and urban planning are
perennial draws to Copenhagen. During the late 1990s, architect
Zaha Hadid designed the new extension of the Ordrupgaard museum, an
impressive black lava concrete-coated structure. The lines between
building and landscape blur, with its glass panels changing hue
according to the weather.

In recent years, the Scandinavian city has rejuvenated its
waterfront and breathed new life into less popular districts. Along
the transformed harbourfront is the Royal Danish Playhouse and
Henning Larsen’s Copenhagen Opera House – considered one of the
most modern such buildings in the world. A little further afield,
you’ll find Jean Nouvel’s blue cube of a concert hall, DR

This article was updated on 14 September 2022.

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