Whether you’re a busy art director or an illustrator working from home, every creative needs some downtime. And there’s no better way to both relax and be inspired than jetting off somewhere you’ve never been before.
Whenever we travel to far-flung places, we’re attracted to the famous buildings. Much like a photograph, architectural designs record details of specific moments in time. But unlike an photograph, physical structures go on to have a life of their own, becoming a central and functional part of countless people’s lives for hundreds, if not thousands, of years after they were built.
Here we have picked 25 of the most famous building designs from around the world to inspire you.
Dome of the Rock, Jerusalem
The Dome of the Rock is a masterpiece of Islamic architecture A masterpiece of Islamic architecture, the Dome of the Rock is a 7th century building, located in Jerusalem. Built by Caliph Abd al-Malik between 687 and 691, the octagonal plan and the rotunda dome of wood are of Byzantine design. The Persian tiles on the exterior and the marble slabs that decorate the interior were added by Suleiman I in 1561. The oldest extant Islamic monument, the Dome of the Rock has served as a model for architecture and other artistic endeavors for over a millennium.
La Pedrera, Barcelona
Gaudi’s La Pedrera is one of the most imaginative houses in the history of architecture Nested among the urban streets of Barcelona are some unusual and beautiful buildings by infamous architect Antoni Gaudi. His unique approach to the Art Nouveau movement generated some of the most creative buildings the world have ever seen. And La Pedrera is no exception. One of the most imaginative houses in the history of architecture, this is more sculpture than building. The façade is a varied and harmonious mass of undulating stone that, along with its forged iron balconies, explores the irregularities of the natural world. The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) recognised this building as World Heritage in 1984.
British architect Sir Christopher Wren took 10 years to finalise his designs for St Paul’s London’s most iconic building, St Paul’s Cathedral, was designed by English architect Sir Christopher Wren. Sitting at the top of Ludgate Hill, the highest point in the City of London, its famous dome is one of the world’s largest, measuring nearly 112 metres high. The original church on the site was founded in the year 604AD. Work on the present English Baroque church began in the 17th Century by Christopher Wren as part of a major rebuilding program after the Great Fire of London. Wren started working on St Paul’s in 1668, his designs for the cathedral taking a decade to complete and the actual construction taking a further 40 years. St Paul’s has played an integral part of London life ever since – as a domineering element in the city’s skyline, as a centre for tourism and religious worship, and most recently as a focal point for anticapitalist protests.
Petronas Towers, Kuala Lumpur
The Petronas Towers are an iconic landmark in Malaysia’s capital city Kuala Lumpur Standing at 170 metres above ground, the Petronas Towers are twin skyscrapers in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. The buildings, which held the titled of tallest in the world between 1998-2004, are an iconic landmark of the capital city. The distinctive postmodern style was created by architects Cesar Pelli and Achmad Murdijat, engineer Deejay Cerico and designer Dominic Saibo under the consultancy of JC Guinto.
The Kabba is a most scared space in Islam The Kaaba, meaning cube in Arabic, is a square building located in Mecca, Saudi Arabia. A most scared place in Islam, the Kabba is elegantly draped in a silk and cotton veil. Every year millions of Muslims travel to the Kabba for the hajj, an annual Islamic pilgrimage to Mecca. The small square building is about 60 feet high and it’s walls a metre wide, with it’s total size occupying roughly 627 square feet.
The Shard, London
The Shard is an 87-storey skyscraper, which sits in the heart of London Also referred to as the shard of glass, The Shard is an 87-storey skyscraper, which sits in the heart of London. Construction began in 2009 and was completed three years later in 2012, making it Western Europe’s tallest building. Designed by architect Renzo Piano, The Shard is the second tallest free standing structure in the UK. It’s exterior boasts 11,000 glass panels – that’s equivalent in area to eight football pitches or two-and-a-half Trafalgar Squares. The building was developed to have multiple uses, described on the website as a ‘vertical city where people can live, work and relax’. This motto was clearly taken on board by a fox, nicknamed Romeo, that was found on the 72nd floor towards the end of construction.
St Basil’s Cathedral, Moscow
The unique St Basil’s Cathedral in Red Square, Moscow was designed by architect Postnik Yakolev No, we haven’t included a piece of Disneyland architecture on our list. This garish, candy coloured cathedral is in fact Moscow’s most visited tourist attraction. The famous landmark, shaped to resemble the flame of a bonfire rising into the sky, is located just outside the Kremlin gates and marks the geometric centre of the city. Built between 1554 and 1560, the cathedral was erected during the reign of Ivan IV (Ivan the Terrible). Little is known about the building’s architect Postnik Yakovlev, but he was clearly a fan of onion domes, sharp spikes and polygonal towers.
Empire State Building, NYC
Construction of the world-famous Empire State building was completed in just one year and 45 days We couldn’t put together a list of world-famous buildings without including this grand Art Deco skyscraper. Once the tallest building in the world, construction began on the Empire State building on St Patrick’s Day 1930 and was completed just 410 days later. The building was designed by William F Lamb of architectural firm Shreve, Lamb and Harmon. It was declared by the American Society of Civil Engineers to be one of the Seven Wonders of the Modern World and is known around the world as an icon of New York City.
The Chrysler building attained the title of world’s tallest in building in 1930 for just one year when the Empire State was erected. Image Joris Van Rooden In the early part of the 20th Century, people everywhere were in a race to build the tallest building. At the time, this gorgeous Art Deco skyscraper was almost outdone by the Bank of Manhattan but its spire (which was constructed in secret) enabled it to take the title of ‘tallest building in the world’ in 1930. It didn’t last long though. Just a year later the Empire State Building was erected. Designed by architect William Van Alen, the skyscraper was commissioned by car manufacturer Walter P Chrysler, hence its name.
Sydney Opera House
Sydney Opera House is the most famous Australian architectural icon Sydney Opera House is widely regarded as one of the greatest architectural works of the 20th century. The innovative design came from architect Jørn Utzon, who was relatively unknown until January 29, 1957 when his entry to the ‘International competition for a national opera house at Bennelong Point, Sydney’ was announced the winner. The beautiful building comprises of three groups of interlocking shells, which roof two main performance halls and a restaurant. A masterpiece of modern architecture, the opera house has become an iconic symbol of both Sydney and the Australian nation.
Now a museum, Hagia Sophia is located in Istanbul, Turkey Once a church, later a mosque, and now a museum, Hagia Sophia is a architectural masterpiece. A perfect example of Byzantine architecture, Hagia Sophia is located in Instanbul, Turkey. The building was built for the first time by the emperor Constantine the Great (306-337). However, due to many factors, including being burned down in riots and earthquakes, the ancient cathedral has been rebuilt many times since. Despite this, Hagia Sophia is widely recognised as one of the great buildings of the world. And if that wasn’t cool enough, the building also features in the opening scenes of the Bond film, Skyfall.
Built approximately 2000 years ago, the Pantheon continues to inspire architects all over the world Rome is home to many amazing buildings, and the Pantheon is no exception. And, like the city itself, it was not built in a day. Destroyed twice and rebuilt each time, the building started as a rectangular structure, which, over time, evolved into the gorgeous dome building seen today. An inspiration to architects all over the world over the last 2,000 years, the Pantheon roof remains the world’s largest unreinforced concrete dome. There is much debate between historians over which emperor and architects were responsible for the Pantheon’s design although it is known that this ‘Temple of the Gods’ was built around 126AD.
Guggenheim Museum, Bilbao
Architect Frank Gehry developed the unique concept for the museum after winning an architectural competition to design the building The Guggenheim museum Bilbao is one of the most admired works of contemporary architecture. California-based Canadian-American architect Frank Gehry created the unique concept after winning an architectural competition to design the building. Since the museum doors opened in 1997, it has been hailed one of the most important buildings of the 20th century. Now with over a decade of success, the museum has homed over a hundred exhibitions and has welcomed more than 10 million visitors.
Flatiron building, New York
Chicago architect Daniel Burnham designed the distinctive Flatiron building, which is instantly recognisable in New York’s skyline The eye-catching Flatiron building in Manhattan was designed by Chicago architect Daniel Burnham and built in 1902. The distinctive triangular shape allowed the building to fill the space located at the intersection of Fifth Avenue and Broadway. Another of New York’s skyscrapers, it was never the tallest but remains one of the most memorable and has been a source of inspiration for artists and architects for over a century now.
Villa Savoye, France
Villa Savoye was originally built as a country retreat for the Savoye family in 1928 Designed by Swiss architects Le Corbusier and his cousin, Pierre Jeanneret, Villa Savoye is an early and classic example of the International style – a major architectural style that emerged in the 1920s and ’30s. The property was built in 1928 and, after surviving several demolition plans, was designated as an official French historical monument in 1965.