Capital Gate, Abu Dhabi
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Leaning strikingly westward, the Capital Gate has a slope almost five times that of the Leaning Tower of Pisa. Of course, the difference here is that it was engineered to do so – it now claims the Guinness World Record as the “world’s furthest-leaning man-made tower”. The Capital Gate, opened in 2011, houses a cantilevered tea lounge, an open-air pool deck and a Hyatt hotel.
Metropol Parasol, Seville
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Unlike so many of its contemporaries, the Metropol Parasol isn’t made of glass and concrete – it’s entirely wooden. It consists of six mushroom-shaped parasols beneath which live various different enterprises, including a museum of Roman and Moorish artefacts, the Central Market, an open-air public plaza and a restaurant. The structure is located in the old town of Seville in the south of Spain and claims to be the largest wooden structure in the world.
Guggenheim Museum, Bilbao
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The Frank Gehry-designed modern art museum has been considered one of the great works of modern architecture since it opened in 1997. Gehry conceived the building around a central atrium he called The Flower and its seemingly random curves were designed to catch the light. Located in Bilbao’s disused port area, it was opened as part of the city’s attempt at revitalisation. The museum achieved its goal with about four million people visiting in its first three years.
CCTV Headquarters, Beijing
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CCTV stands for China Central Television (not closed-circuit television in this case!). The building, made up of six horizontal and vertical sections, was completed in 2012. Locals refer to it as “big pants” thanks to its apparent resemblance to a pair of boxer shorts.
Aldar Headquarters building, Abu Dhabi
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The first circular building in the Middle East, the Aldar was based on the mathematical idea of the golden ratio, something upon which other architects including Le Corbusier, have based their work. It was constructed in 2010, with the bottom of the circle buried in the ground as its base.
The Shard, London
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The Shard rises over London like an enormous shard of glass. The 309.6-metre-tall skyscraper is the tallest in the city and the fourth-tallest in all of Europe. This accolade has attracted base jumpers, urban explorers and authorised climbers, including Prince Andrew, who abseiled from the 87th floor. Inside, there are offices, retail and a Shangri-La Hotel.
Marina Bay Sands, Singapore
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The most recognisable building on the Singapore skyline, Marina Bay Sands is actually three buildings connected by the 340-metre SkyPark which has a 3900-person capacity and a stunning 150-metre infinity pool. The resort contains a skating rink, a mall, two theatres, restaurants and a casino and 2561 guest rooms.
Seattle Central Library, Seattle, United States
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This glass and steel building is a redefinition of the library for the modern world. The space is dedicated not just to books but all forms of media and information and designed to evolve with the library’s collection. Opened in 2004, the building consists of floating platforms surrounded by a net of glass and steel.
Sunrise Kempinski Hotel, Beijing
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Like a UFO forced to take an emergency landing, the Sunrise Kempinski Hotel, completed in 2014, rests on the edge of Yanqi Lake. Located an hour outside China’s hectic capital, the structure is inspired by the sun rising from the horizon and its scallop shape is considered good fortune in Chinese culture. The exterior is entirely made of glass but despite this, the building’s design is expected to withstand a level eight earthquake.
30 St Mary Axe, London
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This London skyscraper quickly became the Gherkin to Londoners after it was constructed in 2003. The 41-storey tower provides office space as well as shops and cafés in its piazza. It’s believed to be London’s first environmentally sustainable skyscraper.
Cayan Tower, Dubai
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Cayan Tower, also known as Infinity Tower is a 73-storey skyscraper that looks as if a giant gently twisted it from the top. The 90-degree twist means that each floor is set 1.2 degrees clockwise form the floor below. The apartment building was briefly the world’s tallest twisted tower after it was completed in 2013; Shanghai Tower has now taken the crown.
Riverside Museum, Glasgow, Scotland
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The bold line of Glasgow’s Museum of Transport on the River Clyde is reminiscent of the display on an ECG machine. It’s typical of the sculptural, dynamic work of the late Zaha Hadid, whose firm designed the building. The museum has 7000 square metres of exhibition space dedicated to ships, trains and automobiles.
Allianz Arena Bayern Munich Stadium, Bavaria
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The entire exterior of this football stadium changes colour, the first stadium in the world with this ability. The luminous panels are individually lit but Munich police have demanded the stadium stick to mono-colours because of car accidents that have occurred because of the distraction of multi-coloured designs. It opened in 2005 after a three-year construction and has a capacity of 75,000 people.
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The Burj Khalifa isn’t just tall – it’s mega-tall. Standing at 829.8 metres high, it’s the tallest structure in the world. The mixed-use tower has 57 elevators, eight escalators and 211 floors. It’s home to the world’s highest nightclub, the world’s highest restaurant but, embarrassingly, only the world’s second-highest swimming pool (Hong Kong’s Ritz-Carlton gets that honour). It was completed in 2009.
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Harpa is a concert hall opened in 2011 on the edge of the North Atlantic Ocean in the Icelandic capital. Building halted during the Icelandic financial crisis before the government took over its construction. Its striking LED-lit façade is made up of various types of glass bricks that reflect light differently, meaning the building’s appearance constantly changes.
Lotus Temple, New Delhi
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The beautiful flower-shaped Lotus Temple is a Bahá'í House of Worship – a monotheistic religion that teaches the spiritual unity of all people, regardless of religion. It’s made up of 27 marble “petals” with nine doors leading to the 40-metre central hall. The marble used comes from Penteli mountain in Greece – the same material used for other Bahá'í temples. There are nine pools surrounding the temple as well as extensive gardens – it’s become a major tourist attraction with more than 70 million visitors since it opened in 1986.
Niterói Contemporary Art Museum, Rio de Janeiro
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Jutting over Boa Viagem beach, the saucer-shaped Niterói Contemporary Art Museum rises from a dramatic cliff’s edge position. Surrounding its base is a reflective pool – it was architect Oscar Niemeyer’s intention that the Niterói emerge from the water like a flower. The museum, completed in 1996, is accessed by a dramatic red-carpeted walkway.
Sage Gateshead, Gateshead, England
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Sage Gateshead is a musical space dedicated to both performance and education. The curvy glass and stainless steel building located on the River Tyne is structurally three separate buildings, to prevent sound and vibration travelling between them. Like Sydney’s Opera House, it is a result of an architectural design competition.
Yas Viceroy Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates
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This futuristic LED-clad hotel undulates over the F1 Yas Marina Circuit in Abu Dhabi. The 217-metre expanse of glass and steel known as the Gird Shell that covers the building has video feeds that are transmitted over the 5389 pivoting LED panes.
Sheraton Huzhou Hot Spring Resort, China
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The Chinese love a nickname; this one, The Doughnut, is very fitting, though The Bagel would also work. The 27-storey semi-circular hotel straddles Taihu Lake and has 101 hot spring pools and spas. At night, 79 illuminated lines light up the building’s façade and reflect on the water.
Queen Sofia Palace of the Arts, Valencia
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The Palace of the Arts was opened in 2005, the final in an ambitious series of structures known as the City of Arts and Sciences, designed by Santiago Calatrava. The white concrete and mosaic-covered structure is the tallest opera house in the world at 75 metres, and it houses four performance auditoriums.
Bahrain World Trade Center, Manama
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This 50-floor twin-tower complex is the first to use wind turbines in its design. Its two towers are linked by three sky bridges that hold the wind turbines. The turbines generate 11 to 15 per cent of the building’s electricity, but according to Professor Bert Blocken, who says that if they faced the other way, they’d produce 14 per cent more wind energy. Still, they sure do look striking.
National Centre for the Performing Arts, Beijing
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Beijing locals refer to this building as the Giant Egg, which is better than Big Pants. The reason is clear – this enormous oval-shaped construction is almost 12,000 square metres. It’s completely surrounded by a man-made lake, and guests enter via a walkway that passes under the lake.
Bullring Shopping Centre, Birmingham
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Brummies have been trading in the commercial centre of Birmingham since the Middle Ages, but it’s unlikely anyone from centuries past would recognise this modern structure as a marketplace. The undulating mall contains fashion retailers including Selfridges, Top Shop, Zara and Forever 21, as well as restaurants and fast food outlets such as Jamie’s Italian, Pret A Manger and Wagamama. It’s considered an icon by some; others, according to a 2008 survey, believe it’s among the ugliest buildings in the UK.
Nagoya City Science Museum, Nagoya City
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A gigantic silver globe at Nagoya City Science Museum houses the world’s largest planetarium. It was opened in 2011 and has an internal diameter of 35 metres. On its huge spherical screen are projected more than 9000 stars and planets with accurate brightness and positions, but it’s just as impressive from the outside.
Up Next: The World’s Most Incredible Natural Wonders
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How many of these natural beauties are on your bucket list? From dramatic summits to powerful waterfalls, these splendid wonders are some of the most incredible destinations on earth.