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Many museums are real must-sees because of the collections they display or the art exhibitions they host. Others are celebrated worldwide because of their architectural quality. Many brand-new museum apparatuses with boldly shaped, experimental and innovative edifices have been built over the last few years, designed by famous archistars and studios led by brilliantly creative minds. Huge glass spirals coiling around themselves, concrete walls apparently floating in the air, plays of light and shade, perspective tricks, volumes that seem to defy the laws of gravity. Architects have indulged in designing increasingly peculiar buildings, and today in the world, there are now many museums that are worth to be visited, at least once, in order to admire the mere architecture of their edifices. Here follows a list of the 15 most stunning museums worldwide, ranging from Italy to Korea, Brazil and China.
The latest architectural feat in Rome is the MAXXI, designed by British-Iraqi architect Zaha Hadid. Located in the Flaminio district, it is a real masterpiece, made of reinforced concrete and glass walls, featuring curvilinear walls and big rooms, with constantly renewed paths that help visitors explore its wonderful architectural variety. Austrian studio Coop Himmelb(l)au, on the other hand, is the author of two extremely suggestive and spectacular museums. The Museum of Contemporary Art & Planning Exhibition (MOCAPE), located in Shenzhen, China, is a transparent, monolithic structure with up to 17m high ceilings and suspended gangways, while the Lyon Musée des Confluences features a huge, almost zoomorphic edifice made of reinforced concrete, with two protruding elements made of glass and stainless steel.
Born in Tel-Aviv, industrial designer, artist, and architect Ron Arad designed the first design museum in Israel: the Design Museum Holon. Its undulated shape, together with its unmistakable orange-red-ochre yellow façade, have made it the most tourist-attracting landmark in Holon. Located in different countries though both designed by Franck O. Gehry, the Vitra Design Museum in Weil am Rhein, Germany, and the Bilbao Guggenheim Museum embody two further, renowned top architectures. Undisputed destinations for all lovers of architecture, they are regarded as the two achievements that best represent the Canadian architect’s creativity.
The Design Museum Holon, Israel. All photo credits © Getty Images
In Brazil, you can admire two unmissable architecture masterpieces, both of them born from Oscar Niemeyer’s brilliant mind. Placed on a cliff overlooking the sea in front of Rio de Janeiro, the Niterói Contemporary Art Museum (Museu de Arte Contemporânea de Niterói — MAC) building is surmounted by a 50m diameter dome recalling the shape of a flying saucer. The MON - Museu Oscar Niemeyer in Curitiba, in the Brazilian state of Paraná, on the other hand, is Latin America’s biggest museum. Its symbol is the “torre no Olho” (“tower of the Eye”, editor’s Note), a characteristically eye-shaped structure supported by a smaller construction. With a far less scenographic approach, yet with the same planning depth, British architect John Pawson has designed the new headquarters of the London Design Museum, lending his own minimalist interpretation to the building, which dates back to 1962.
The MAC – Contemporary Art Museum in Niterói, Brazil
In Graz, Austria, we can find the museum with the funniest nickname ever: the “Friendly Alien”, as the Kunsthaus is commonly known. Designed by Peter Cook and Colin Fournier, the museum features an organic “blob” like shape with a skin made of iridescent blue acrylic panels. In the evening, the building lights up with beautiful light signals. In South Korea, we can find another museum, which really seems just come out of a sci-fi movie: the Dongdaemun Design Plaza designed by Zaha Hadid and Samoo in Seoul. At night, when it is completely illuminated, it truly resembles a huge space ship with a multitude of platforms and lighted gangways.
The Kunsthaus Museum, Graz, Austria
In the Far East, again, the Hanoi Museum by architects Meinhard von Gerkan and Nikolaus Goetze is certainly worth visiting. Located in Vietnam’s capital city, its exterior resembles an inverted pyramid while its interiors feature a series of spiraling floors, vaguely reminiscent of the NY Guggenheim Museum. An interesting preview in Hong Kong: the M+Pavilion is now open to the public as the first accomplished section of the M+ Museum designed by Herzog & de Meuron. Its completion is expected to occur in 2019.
Lastly, two further museums you cannot miss – if you love architecture, that is. One is the Royal Ontario Museum (ROM) in Toronto. Renovated in 2007 with a project by Daniel Libeskind in partnership with studio Bregman + Hamann Architects, it is a masterpiece of deconstructive architecture. Made of glass and aluminum, it features the shape of a raw diamond encased within a setting of old buildings. Let’s conclude with the latest one, newly opened on November 11: the Louvre Abu Dhabi. After a decade’s wait, this incredible achievement by Jean Nouvel is finally accessible. The museum features a characteristic web-patterned dome and a variety of ornamental water works, with water channeled from the Persian Gulf directly into the museum halls.
The Royal Ontario Museum (ROM), Toronto, Canada
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