Maybe you’ve seen the ruins in Rome or explored the pyramids in Egypt, but have you ever based your vacation on a city’s design offerings alone? Nothing inspires and gets you out of your routine like seeing architectural masterpieces that provide a feast for the eyes and imagination. These five destinations may not be on your radar, but they should be, for they offer incredible examples of experimental design. Time capsules of a time and style, these cities are unique and impressive feats of human skill—must-sees for any design aficionado.
The Garden City
Chandigarh was erected as the dream city of Prime Minister J. Nehru in the late 1940s. Nestled in the picturesque Sivalik foothills, Swiss-French modernist architect Le Corbusier designed a progressive city that would ultimately become symbolic of the new independent India. Chandigarh feels like it’s set both in the future and the past, and is one of the world’s best examples of Mid-Century Modern architecture. We suggest you seek out Corbusier’s open hand sculpture that stands at over 85 feet high as a symbol peace and reconciliation.
A futuristic capital
While many flock to the Ipanema beaches of Rio de Janeiro, the architectural masterpiece that is Brazil’s capital city Brasília is often overlooked. Oscar Niemeyer was commissioned to build out the project in what was formerly the empty country center—a futuristic city built of concrete and glass defined by dynamic lines and sharp edges. Residential, commercial, and government buildings were all part of the redesign, including the National Congress, the Cathedral of Brasília, and the President’s residence. Niemeyer's buildings are whimsical and elegant, embracing the ideals of modernism while remaining true to Brazil. The Cathedrals in particular are a must-see when visiting.
Referred to as the “Grand Dame of the Danube,” Budapest is one of the best places in the world to see the Art Nouveau style of architecture popularized in the late 19th century. Curved lines, iron and glass accents, and vibrant colourful touches abound. Visit the Hungarian State Opera House for a taste of opulence, located on a World Heritage Site boulevard, or head towards the Széchenyi Chain Bridge when it’s spectacularly lit up at night. Don’t miss the Castle District which boasts the elegant Budapest History Museum, the Hungarian National Gallery, and the National Széchenyi Library.
Tel Aviv, Israel
Tel Aviv’s White City houses over 4,000 Bauhaus-style buildings constructed between 1920 and 1940 by German-Jewish architects who immigrated to the region following World War I. Recognized as a World Heritage Site, the modern style and colour palette is well suited to a Mediterranean climate. Bauhaus style is highly functional, characterized by a lack of ornamentation: awnings, rounded terraces, hanging concrete beams, and muted colours. Don’t miss the Bauhaus Museum and the Tel Aviv Museum of Art.
Dubai, United Arab Emirates
Arguably the most modern example of city design, Dubai has attracted top contemporary architects like Zaha Hadid and Rem Koolhaas to erect some of the world’s tallest and most impressive buildings. A focus on tech and futuristic design has endowed the city with a reputation for being extravagant and opulent. As one of the richest cities in the world, it’s no surprise Dubai is home to some of the tallest and largest buildings on the planet. Be sure to catch the views from the observation deck of the Burj Khalifa, the tallest building in the world.
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