ICMC at Brandenburg Technical University,
A hundred years ago, naming the world's most beautiful buildings was easy: the Parthenon. Sure. The Taj Mahal. Absolutely. Hagia Sophia. No argument. But now, in part because the whole notion was chewed up and spit out by those troublemaking Modernists, we're just learning to think about architecture in terms of beauty again. It's open season.
Certain themes are evident in our choices of the world's most beautiful buildings. We love buildings surrounded by water; the interaction between water and daylight is always magical. (Why do you think the Lincoln Memorial has a reflecting pool at its doorstep?) And we are head over heels for flamboyant uses of pattern and color. The Netherlands Institute for Sound and Vision, for example, is positively psychedelic.
So are we consistent? Nope. But however capricious our choices may seem, we don't take beauty lightly. After all, the ongoing search for beauty is what travel is all about. It's certainly the best reason we know to leave the house.
ICMC at Brandenburg Technical University
While many architects prefer the smoothest, clearest glass, Swiss firm Herzog & de Meuron specializes in texture. This technologically sophisticated university library, in an obscure corner of Eastern Germany, is clad in frosted glass—and embossed with letters from the world's alphabets. Shaped like an amoeba, with its central spiral staircase in bright magenta and green, the seven-story building looks like a carnival ride.
Relativity Theory: The free-form building looks especially impressive because it's surrounded by long, dull, rectilinear buildings of the sort the East Germans were known for.
Visionary Catalan architect Antoni Gaudí spent more than 40 years of his life on this glorious, chaotically complex, and still unfinished Gothic-Art Nouveau cathedral. After his untimely death in 1926 (he was hit by a streetcar), his associates continued his sculptural masterwork, and despite the fact that the original drawings were destroyed during the Spanish Civil War, construction continues today. Completion is scheduled for sometime between 2017 and 2026.
Authenticity Alert: The east-facing Nativity façade was the only one completed by Gaudí himself.