World Famous Buildings, Contemporary Projects around the Globe, Links, Architecture, Images

Famous Buildings – Celebrated Designs

Global Architectural Designs – Built Environment Highlights from around the World

post updated 16 Feb 2020

World Famous Buildings

We’ve selected what we feel are the key examples of Famous Architecture. Buildings aren’t necessarily ‘architecturally important’ but have acquired global importance for a variety of reasons.

Alphabetical List of some of the key buildings and structures in the world:

Sagrada Familia Barcelona
photo © Adrian Welch

Famous 21st Century Buildings

Famous 21st Century Architecture, alphabetical:

Bilbao Guggenheim, Spain
Architect: Frank Gehry
Guggenheim Museum Bilbao
photo from architect
Bilbao Guggenheim
The Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao is not only one of the most famous 20th century buildings globally, but it is credited with the current phenomenon of so-called ‘iconic architecture’ [of course iconic architecture has existed long before the Bilbao Guggenheim]. City councils across the globe saw the effect the building had on the city – notably increased revenue via tourism – and decided they too wanted something similar.

Famous Architecture – the world’s highest skyscraper:

Burj Khalifa, Dubai, UAE : tallest building in world
SOM Architects
Burj Dubai Tower
photo from architect
Burj Khalifa Skyscraper
The world’s tallest building, Burj Khalifa (formerly known as Burj Dubai). More famous fior being high rather than for any architectural merit. Architect Adrian Smith, designed Burj Khalifa while at the Chicago office of Skidmore, Owings & Merrill. Burj Khalifa’s official height was announced at 828 meters, or 2,716.5 feet. Smith’s design of the form of the building is geometric in plan, starting with three branches and three pods. Setbacks occur at each program element, decreasing the tower’s mass as it rises toward the sky. At the tower’s top, the central core emerges and is sculpted to form a finishing spire.

Juedisches Museum Berlin, Germany
Daniel Libeskind Architect
Jewish Museum Berlin Building
picture © Guenter Schneider
Jewish Museum Berlin
This world-famous building is a “symbol of Berlin’s incredible cultural development in housing a museum which integrates, for the first time in post-war Germany, the history of the Jews in Germany and the repercussions of the Holocaust”.

Yokohama Ferry Terminal, Tokyo, Japan
Design: Foreign Office Architects
Yokohama Ferry Terminal Building
photo : Saturo Mashima
Yokohama Ferry Terminal Building
This is the kind of project many of us dream of. The architect said in a public lecture, ‘how far you can take a package to make a system’. I enjoyed her simple pursuit of simplicity, the rough wood outside, the smooth inside, also the inventiveness of it all, ‘the floor became a kind of bench…bodily contact with the buildings is…very effective’. Some of the ideas and geometries seemed a little contrived, and expensive, but the radical newness forces us to evaluate the potential of building anew.

Key 21st Century Architecture, alphabetical:

Burj al Arab Dubai, Dubai, UAE
Architects: Atkins
Burj al Arab Building
photograph from architect
This extraordinary 321m tower is unique in design, fulfiling the client’s brief for a landmark building in Dubai. The “Burj al Arab looks set to take its place amongst the likes of Sydney Opera House & the Eiffel Tower as symbols of their countries”. The building stands 300m out to sea on a man made island. Designed in the shape of a giant sail on a triangular plan the Burj al Arab Hotel is stunning in its clarity.

Getty Center Building, Los Angeles, USA
Richard Meier & Partners
Getty Center Building
image © Alice McRae

London Eye, UK
Architect: Marks Barfield Architects – David Marks + Julia Barfield
London Eye
photograph © Nick Weall

London Olympic Stadium, UK
London Olympic Stadium
photo © Morley von Sternberg

Palm Island Dubai, UAE
Design: various
Dubai Palm Island
picture : Palm Jumeirah

Reichstag Building redevelopment, Berlin, Germany
Design: Foster + Partners
Reichstag Building
photo © Adrian Welch

Seattle Library Building, USA
Rem Koolhaas Architects / OMA
Seattle Library Building
photo : Philippe Ruault

Smithsonian Institute Courtyard, Washington D.C., USA
Design: Foster + Partners
Smithsonian Institute Building
photo : Nigel Young / Foster + Partners

Swiss Re Building, London
Design: Foster + Partners
Swiss Re Building
photo © Adrian Welch
This building shook up the design of skyscrapers in the British capital, and influenced buildings further afield. Abandoning the standard rectilinear point blocks (normally with some kind of crown element) Norman Foster went for a curvaceous form that soon became dubbed ‘the gherkin’.

Tate Modern, London
Design: Herzog & de Meuron Architects
Tate Modern Building
photo © Isabelle Lomholt
Bold redevelopment of former power station building designed by Giles Gilbert Scott to echo the form of St. Paul’s Cathedral dome across the Thames. Key space: The Turbine Hall is both the circulation space and home to a programme of installations.

Walt Disney Concert Hall, Los Angeles, USA
Design: Gehry Partners
Los Angeles Concert Hall Building
photo © Andrew McRae
The Walt Disney Concert Hall is home to the Los Angeles Philharmonic and was started back in 1987, completing around 2003-04. The concert hall is a key part of the cultural hub in downtown Los Angeles and after Blibao became his next big thing. Gehry’s design of the auditorium – shaped like a convex box – is not simply designed for wow effect but is tailored to effectively convey orchestral sound.

Famous 20th Century Buildings

Famous 20th Century Architecture, alphabetical:

Sydney Opera House, Australia
Architect: Jørn Utzon
Sydney Opera House Building
photo © Derek McGavigan
Sydney Opera House
It could be argued that this has become the msot famous building in the world, partly due to its lovely waterfront setting in a key global city but mostly for its unforgettable external form. Utzon worked with Ove Arup on this seminal building. In 1966 Jorn Utzon left Sydney, never to return.

Barcelona Pavilion Building, Spain
Mies van der Rohe Architect
Barcelona Pavilion Building
picture © Adrian Welch
Barcelona Pavilion
This International Style building is for many architects their favourite building in the World. It’s architecture is pure poetry, simple honest planes of stone with slim, graceful polished steel cruciform columns. The integration of water through two shallow pools brings calmness and reflection to the pavilion. The architect was interested in developing free flowing space and this is done using walls as planes in isolation, joined by sliding elements or glass. Thus the wall is expressed as a single element with space flowing around it.

Casa Mila, Barcelona, Spain
Antoni Gaudi, Architect
Casa Mila
picture © Adrian Welch
Casa Mila

Ciudad de las Artes y de las Ciencias, Valencia, Spain
Santiago Calatrava Architects
City of Arts and Science Valencia
image © Paul Zanre
City of Arts and Science Valencia

Empire State, New York
Design: Shreve, Lamb & Harmon, Architects
Empire State Building
photo © Andrew McRae
The Empire State Building is a celebrated 20th Century skyscraper, designed in the Art Deco style. The building is a 381m high skyscraper, a world-famous New York landmark. It is a good example of Art Deco architecture – subtle on the exterior, more accentuated in the tower interior.

Farnsworth House, Plano, Illinois, USA
Mies van der Rohe architect
Farnsworth House
photo © gm+ad architects
Farnsworth House

Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York
Design: Frank Lloyd Wright Architects
Guggenheim Museum New York
photo : David M. Heald, © SRGF, New York
This famus building is Frank Lloyd Wright’s New York masterpiece with its famous internal spiral ramp – containing art – around the atrium.

Sagrada Familia
Antoni Gaudi, Architect
Sagrada Familia Building
picture © Adrian Welch
Sagrada Familia

Key 20th Century Architecture, alphabetical:

Canary Wharf Building, London, UK
Canary Wharf Building
photograph © Jason Baxter

Chek Lap Kok Airport, Hong Kong
Chep Lap Kok Airport Building

photo : Dennis Gilbert/VIEW

Chrysler Building, New York
New York Architecture
photo © Joe Lekas

CN Tower, Toronto

Emirates Stadium, London, UK
Emirates Stadium Building
photo © Hufton and Crow

Galeries Lafayette, Berlin
Galeries Lafayette Berlin
picture © Adrian Welch

Hong Kong & Shanghai Bank Building, Hong Kong
Hong Kong & Shanghai Bank Building
photo © Andrew McRae

John Hancock Center, Chicago
John Hancock Center Building
photo : Royce Douglas

Lloyds Building, London, UK
Lloyds Building
picture © Adrian Welch

Millennium Dome, London
Millennium Dome
photo © webbaviation

National Gallery Building Berlin, Germany
National Gallery Building Berlin
picture © Adrian Welch

Petronas Towers Buildings, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
Petronas Towers Buildings
picture © Tom Ravenscroft

Royal Festival Hall, London
Royal Festival Hall
photo © Dennis Gilbert

Sears Tower, Chicago
Chicago Skyscraper Buildings
photo courtesy of Jan Klerks

Waterloo Station Building, London
Design: Nicholas Grimshaw and Partners
Waterloo Station Building
image © Nick Weall
The International Terminal Waterloo is a multifaceted transport interchange, the busiest railway station in London. The International Terminal Waterloo was designed to be a monument to the new railway age heralded by the advent of cross-channel rail travel in Britain. To this end, it complements the neighbouring Waterloo Station, but retains its own distinct identity signified, primarily, by its 400m long roof.

Famous Historic Buildings

Famous Historic Architecture, alphabetical:

Brooklyn Bridge, New York

Buckingham Palace, London

The Capitol, Washington DC

Colosseum, Rome

Eiffel Tower, Paris

Forbidden Palace, Beijing

Hagia Sophia, Istanbul

Houses of Parliament, London

L’Arc de Triomphe, Paris

The Leaning Tower of Pisa, Italy

Mosque of Córdoba, Spain

Natural History Museum, London

Neues Museum, Berlin

The Pantheon, Rome

The Parthenon, Athens

Prado, Madrid

Pyramids, Giza, Egypt

Red Square, Moscow

Royal Albert Hall, London
Albert Hall Building
picture © Nick Weall

St Mark’s, Venice

St Pancras Station, London
St Pancras Station Building
photo © Nick Weall

St Paul’s Cathedral, London
St Paul's Cathedral Building
picture © AW

St Peter’s Basilica, Rome

Sphinx, Egypt

Statue of Liberty, New York

Taj Mahal, India

Tower Bridge, London

The Tower, London

Uffizi Palace, Florence

Victoria & Albert Museum, London

Washington Monument, Washington DC

Washington National Cathedral, Washington DC

White House, Washington DC

Windsor Castle, England

Suggestions for Famous Buildings welcome: info(at)

More World Famous Building Links online very soon

Global Architecture

Famous World Architects

Architects – Complete A-Z list

New York Architecture
Empire State Building
photo © Andrew McRae

London Architecture
Swiss Re Building
image © Adrian Welch

Global Buildings Architecture by City List

World Architect Portraits – Photos of key designers

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