World's Top New Buildings
This year, for the first time, Travel + Leisure asked readers to rank 60 landmarks, including skyscrapers, stadiums, museums, and opera houses. While they all had to have opened within the last 15 years, many of the top-ranking buildings are more recent arrivals, such as the 2008 I. M. Pei–designed Museum of Islamic Art in Doha, Qatar.
Why are these buildings so captivating? According to Bill Worthen, resource architect at the American Institute of Architects, “places of public assembly allow us to share cultural values, such as art or history.” These buildings can help to revitalize a destination or put a neighborhood on the radar—sparking the curiosity of travelers on the lookout for new experiences.
These gathering places also set the stage—quite literally—for major world events. Two shining examples: Beijing’s National Stadium (No. 2), affectionately known as the Bird’s Nest, which Herzog & de Meuron created for the 2008 Summer Olympics, and London’s Wembley Stadium (No. 12), poised to draw raucous crowds for the 2012 Olympic Games.
Beyond cultural value, new buildings can thrill us with their sheer scale—in many cases, the kind that makes you crane your neck, drop your jaw, and perhaps, hold on for dear life. “Skyscrapers challenge the imagination,” says Worthen. “And as a result of people living and working in them, cities feel vibrant.”
So which of this year’s top new buildings soar high into the sky? There’s Dubai’s mixed-use Burj Khalifa (No. 4), which surges 2,717 feet, and the No. 1–ranked building, New York’s 8 Spruce Street: designed by Frank Gehry, the Western Hemisphere’s tallest residential tower reaches 870 feet, with an undulating frame that catches the sun.
Want to see more? Check out our complete slideshow of the top new buildings—T+L’s Rolodex of man-made architectural wonders.
No. 1 New York by Gehry, New York City
Frank Gehry designed the Western world’s tallest residential tower (it soars 870 feet), and gave it an undulating frame to catch and reflect the sun as it changes throughout the day.
No. 2 National Stadium, Beijing
The world’s largest steel structure—designed by Swiss architects Herzog and de Meuron and known affectionately as the Bird’s Nest—premiered at the 2008 Beijing Olympics.
No. 3 Walt Disney Concert Hall, Los Angeles
Home to the Los Angeles Philharmonic since 2003, Frank Gehry’s impeccably executed performance space is said to have some of the world’s best acoustics.
No. 4 Burj Khalifa, Dubai
At 2,717 feet, the world’s tallest building has commanded the Dubai skyline since January 2010. It contains residences, offices, and the Armani Hotel.
No. 5 Turning Torso, Malmš, Sweden
Santiago Calatrava’s 2005 twisting steel structure—consisting of nine cubes that rotate 90 degrees as they rise from bottom to top—is the second highest residential building in Europe.
No. 6 Museo Soumaya, Mexico City
Fernando Romero’s amorphous, aluminum-clad modern art museum, opened in 2011, rises like a glistening 64,583-square-foot sculpture out of Mexico City’s Polanco district.
No. 7 Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth, Texas
Tadao Ando’s minimalist structure, opened in 2002, features five pavilions of 40-foot glass walls framed in simple steel and surrounding a 1.5-acre reflective pond.
No. 8 Institute of Contemporary Art, Boston
When it opened in 2006 overlooking Boston Harbor, this 65,000-square-foot gallery of transparent glass, translucent glass, and cool opaque steel was the city’s first new museum in 100 years.
No. 9 Modern Wing, Art Institute of Chicago
Renzo Piano’s limestone, glass, and steel 2009 addition to Chicago’s Beaux-Arts landmark was built to house the museum’s modern European artworks.
No. 10 National Aquatic Center, Beijing
At the 2008 Summer Olympics, 25 world records were broken at this seven-acre, $1.6 billion glowing plastic cube, whose walls and roof contain more than 3,000 oversize air bubbles.
No. 11 De Young Museum, San Francisco
Swiss architects Herzog and de Meuron sculpted 950,000 pounds of natural copper into a form that complements the landscape of Golden Gate Park. The fine arts museum opened in 2005.
No. 12 Wembley Stadium, London
After a massive $1.3 billion reconstruction, England’s national arena with its distinctive arch reopened in 2007 as the second largest sports structure in Europe.
No. 13 Swiss Re Building, London
Nicknamed The Gherkin, the 2004 glass-paneled, rocket-shaped office tower in London’s financial center was designed by Norman Foster using 10,000 tons of structural steel.
No. 14 MAXXI, Rome
The intersecting walls, confluent lines, and louvered roof beams of Zaha Hadid’s 2009 contemporary art museum, in the Flaminia neighborhood, are intended to erase boundaries and create a fluid, sinuous space.
No. 15 Winspear Opera House, Dallas
The 60-foot glass façade at this two-year-old, Norman Foster–designed venue allows its 2,200 patrons to peer onto downtown Dallas.
No. 16 Bloch Building, Nelson Atkins Museum, Kansas City
Architect Steven Holl’s five Modernist, frosted-glass boxes seem to shoot up from the museum’s manicured sculpture garden, drenching natural light over their underground gallery spaces.
No. 17 Allianz Arena, Munich
Herzog and de Meuron’s steel and concrete arena was the crown jewel of the 2006 FIFA World Cup. Today it packs in 69,000 fans for Bayern München and 1860 Munich soccer matches.
No. 18 Neues Museum, Berlin
London-based architect David Chipperfield was careful to honor the original 1859 Neoclassical structure of this museum in central Berlin, famous for housing the bust of Nefertiti.
No. 19 Museum of Islamic Art, Doha, Qatar
Architect I. M. Pei spent months traveling the Middle East before designing this Cubist sand-colored stone structure, opened on its own isle off the Qatar coast in 2008.
No. 20 CCTV Building, Beijing
Thanks to Rem Koolhaas’s innovative $1.2 billion broadcast headquarters, China now airs 200 state-run channels, as opposed to just 16 before its 2009 opening.
No. 21 Guthrie Theater, Minneapolis
Jean Nouvel redesigned Minnesota’s premier playhouse in 2001, turning the 275,000-square-foot, tri-space performance hall into one of the country’s top cultural spots.
No. 22 Agbar Tower, Barcelona
Barcelona’s tallest landmark often draws comparisons to London’s Swiss Re building, which opened a year earlier, in 2004. But designer Jean Nouvel insists his inspiration was Gaudí’s Sagrada Familia.
No. 23 Taipei 101, Taiwan
The eight stacked steel sections that shoot 1,669 feet up from Taipei’s Xin-Yi district are based on a traditional Chinese belief that the number eight is associated with prosperity and fortune.
No. 24 Oslo Opera House
The sleek, sharp slabs of Italian marble shaping Norway’s largest cultural space were designed by homegrown firm Snøhetta to appear as if rising straight from the Oslo Fjord.
No. 25 Canton Tower, Guangzhou, China
Dutch architects IBA gently twisted the latticed skin of China’s tallest tower, giving it a graceful edge as it stretches 1,968 feet into the air.
No. 26 Shanghai World Financial Center
When it was finished in 2008, Shanghai’s 1,614-foot-tall World Financial Center—with its distinctive aperture at the top—became the skyline’s most recognizable feature.
No. 27 Guangzhou Opera House, Guangzhou, China
When Zaha Hadid’s luminous 17-acre glass-and-granite building premiered earlier this year, it quickly became a symbol of modern China’s cultural development.