8 most beautiful buildings you have to see to believe in a post-pandemic future


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  • Saturday, 19 Jun 2021

Whether you’re an architect or just someone who appreciates well-designed spaces, it’s definitely worth visiting remarkable structures such as the St Basil’s Cathedral in Russia. Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Every building, no matter how small or big, has a story to tell. That’s the school of thought that Junaid Ibrahim subscribes to – and one that has led him to travel in pursuit of interesting architecture.

“Each architecture has its own set of stories that are worth telling. As someone who appreciates art and history, I am willing to travel to see beautiful architecture because I will be able to learn more about the local history, ” says Junaid, 25, who lives in Kuala Lumpur.

He describes himself as an “amateur architecture observer”, and is particularly fond of the brutalist architecture that is prevalent in Malaysia.

Brutalist architecture is typically defined by its confrontational style where raw concrete is the main showcase of the structure. The style emerged during the 1950s in Britain, as part of the reconstruction projects in the post-war era.

Junaid says the National Mosque, Stadium Merdeka and Muzium Negara are some of the notable buildings in KL. His favourite, however, is the grand hall of Universiti Malaya (also known as Dewan Tunku Canselor).

The National Mosque is one of the notable buildings in KL. - CHAN TAK KONG/The StarThe National Mosque is one of the notable buildings in KL. - CHAN TAK KONG/The Star

“To some people, they probably see it as a big cube of concrete which the builders forgot to paint. But to me, it’s a beautiful piece of art!” Junaid says of the university’s hall.

He is also interested in traditional architecture such as traditional Malay houses, Thai Buddhist temples (or “wat”) and Korean palaces.

“Buildings with traditional architectures were built in a very meticulous manner, where every section comes with important stories or principles.

“Some of the places that I have visited and found interesting are Wat Arun and Wat Phrae Kaew in Thailand, Gyeongbok-gung Palace in South Korea and Istana Seri Menanti in Negri Sembilan, ” Junaid shares.

Moving forward, he would love to travel to Spain and explore the unique range of architecture there. Junaid says Sagrada Família (also known as the Basílica de la Sagrada Família) is on his bucket list.For architecture enthusiasts like Junaid, iconic – or even bizarre – buildings are motivations for them to travel.

The old Istana of Seri Menanti has been well preserved and is now also a tourist attraction. - FilepicThe old Istana of Seri Menanti has been well preserved and is now also a tourist attraction. - Filepic

World Architecture Community country editor Pappal Suneja, in an editorial piece, says travelling to discover architecture opens up many possibilities – especially for professional and aspiring architects.

“Travelling opens doors to timeless architecture. There are monuments and buildings that have stood past the vagaries of time, and they were conceived back in the day when technology was minimal, ” he says.

Suneja adds that every architectural masterpiece has an innate essence that can only be appreciated in person.

“For aspiring architects, it is necessary that they understand what it means to observe the intricacies of a work, which might easily get overlooked if we try and explore the same through a video or some photographs.

“Travelling, for them, is much more than just an experience; it is more like understanding the transition of spaces, how one space segues into the other, ” he explains.

Whether you’re an architect or just someone who appreciates well-designed spaces, it’s definitely worth visiting remarkable structures.

There are many iconic buildings around the world to see. We’ve tracked some of them down for your future travel inspiration.

Leaning Tower of Pisa, Italy

The Leaning Tower of Pisa took 199 years to build. — JAINAM MEHTA/UnsplashThe Leaning Tower of Pisa took 199 years to build. — JAINAM MEHTA/UnsplashIt took 199 years to build this world-famous landmark. Given the almost two centuries of construction, some might joke that a better job should have been done to straighten the building.

But the tower’s tilted structure has also made it one of the most remarkable architectural stories in Europe. Due to soft ground on one side and inadequate foundation, the tower began to lean during construction. It was left in its tilted state even after completion.

The tower was stabilised during restoration works in 2001. Currently, it tilts just under 4°. But if you’d like to see the structure in person, better make plans to do so once we can travel again. Experts have estimated that the tower will collapse in the next 75 to 100 years.

Sagrada Família, Spain

Located in Barcelona, this largely unfinished Roman Catholic church has been under construction since 1882 (yes, it’s still not completed yet). There are plans to finish construction by 2026, during which 100 years would have passed since the architect Antoni Gaudi’s death.

The largely unfinished Sagrada Família combines Gothic and Art Nouveau elements. — PATRICE AUDET/PixabayThe largely unfinished Sagrada Família combines Gothic and Art Nouveau elements. — PATRICE AUDET/Pixabay

Gaudi combined Gothic and Art Nouveau elements in the building’s design. The duality of the architecture aside, what’s even more impressive is Gaudi’s original vision of the church. The man envisioned a structure that’s 95m long and 60m wide.

His original plan is a church that’s able to seat over 13, 000 people, with a central tower 170m high above the transept (said to represent Jesus Christ).

Despite being unfinished, Sagrada Família is the most visited monument in Spain.

Sydney Opera House, Australia

The Sydney Opera House is widely acknowledged by those in the architectural circle to be one of 20th century’s most important buildings. Opened in October 1973, it has today become an enduring icon of Sydney, and Australia.

The Sydney Opera House has today become an enduring icon of Sydney, and Australia. — C. VALDEZ/UnsplashThe Sydney Opera House has today become an enduring icon of Sydney, and Australia. — C. VALDEZ/Unsplash

The building is notable for its modern expressionist design, courtesy of Danish architect Jørn Utzon. The design features three groups of interlocking shells that visually reference a yacht’s sail.

Here’s an interesting fact: There are over one million Swedish roof tiles covering approximately 1.62ha sitting over the structure.

Most people usually wander outside to marvel at the facade. Being outdoors will grant you a scenic view of the Sydney Harbour Bridge, another important landmark in the city. The best way to enjoy the interior is to catch a performance.

Flatiron Building, United States

The Flatiron Building has a distinctive triangular shape that makes it popular among photographers and artists.St Basil’s Cathedral is the epitome of unique Russian architecture. — CHESTER CHIN/The StarWhile it’s not the biggest or tallest building in New York City (which is known for being a hub of many architectural splendours), the Flatiron Building is definitely the city’s most dramatic-looking.

The 22-storey building, originally called the Fuller Building, has a distinctive triangular shape that makes it popular among photographers and artists. Designed in the Beaux-Arts style, architecture enthusiasts have remarked that its facade – featuring limestone, terra cotta and steel – only gets more beautiful and complex the longer you look at it.

When the building first opened in 1902, it suffered the blunder of failing to incorporate any female restrooms. Its early years were also plagued by criticisms of its triangular shape, with detractors questioning its stability. But the Flatiron Building has stood the test of time and is one of New York’s enduring architectural legacies.

St Basil’s Cathedral, Russia

St Basil’s Cathedral is the epitome of unique Russian architecture. — CHESTER CHIN/The StarThe Taj Mahal is known for its architectural perfection. — SYLWIA BARTYZEL/UnsplashInstantly recognisable by its psychedelic combination of colours, patterns and shapes, St Basil’s Cathedral is the epitome of unique Russian architecture. The building’s explosion of colours is a stark contrast against the largely solemn weather in Moscow.

The bizarre shape of the cathedral is due to the fact that it actually holds nine main chapels within, with the tall tower in the centre belonging to the namesake Church Of The Intercession Of The Mother Of God.

The building has endured a difficult past. Former Soviet Union premier Joseph Stalin threatened to demolish it and during the Bolsheviks’ reign, the bells were melted. Some historians have also claimed that Ivan the Terrible blinded the St Basil’s Cathedral architects so that they can no longer build another comparable structure. This claim, however, is unsubstantiated.

St Basil’s Cathedral today stands tall as a symbol of the Russian Orthodox Church.

Taj Mahal, India

Located in the city of Agra, Taj Mahal has often been referred to as the “Jewel of India”. It is also arguably one of the most romantic structures in the world.

The mausoleum’s status as a symbol of love aside (it was built by the Mughal emperor Shah Jahan in memory of his favourite wife Mumtaz Mahal), it’s also known for its architectural perfection. No other tomb, palace and fortress in India come close to the perfect symmetry of the Taj Mahal.

The Taj Mahal is known for its architectural perfection. — SYLWIA BARTYZEL/UnsplashThe Great Wall of China is often compared to a dragon.— WILLIAM CHRISTEN/Unsplash

The monument – from its stunning domes to its glistening minarets and shiny marble screens – features impeccable bilateral symmetry along a central axis. The only break in symmetry is at the burial chamber, where Shah Jahan’s grave lies next to the grave of his beloved.

Great Wall of China, China

There’s this claim that the Great Wall of China can be seen from space, which has proven to be untrue. That myth, however, does play into the enormous scale of this famous structure.The Great Wall of China is often compared to a dragon.— WILLIAM CHRISTEN/UnsplashThe Burj Khalifa is the tallest free-standing structure in the world. — DENIS HARSCHI/Unsplash

The over 3, 000-year-old wall, due to its architecture, is often compared to a dragon. It stretches approximately 21, 196km from east to west of the country, making the wall one of the most amazing architectural engineering feat of human history.

Unfortunately, a third of the wall lies in ruins today due to centuries of neglect. The walls’ defensive systems, however, is still widely regarded to be impressive even until today.

Burj Khalifa, Dubai, United Arab Emirates

At 829.8m tall, Burj Khalifa is the world’s tallest building, a record it has held since it opened in 2010. That great scale and height also makes it one of modern architecture’s most impressive success stories.

The Burj Khalifa is the tallest free-standing structure in the world. — DENIS HARSCHI/Unsplash

Located in Dubai, the massive skyscraper also houses the highest outdoor observation deck (554.7m) and longest elevator (503.8m). The design for the 162-storey tower blends local cultural elements with technology to withstand extreme desert climate.

The tallest free-standing structure is built of reinforced concrete and clad in glass. The building was also inspired by patterning systems embodied in Islamic architecture.

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