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14 Museums of the World with Extravagant Architecture

Home > Everywhere > Travel | Museums | Lists
by Mihaela Schwartz (subscribe)
I am a freelance writer and an avid traveler.
Published March 16th 2013
Architectural Gems around the World
Futuristic, featuring UFO-shaped or other types of bizarre profiles, the following museums are proof of a lot of originality. While trying to draft a list of the top museums with the most extravagant architecture in the world, you will realize that Spain is a champion in this area. Whether you go to Barcelona, Bilbao, Valencia, Seville or Figueres, you will have lots to see. Other such landmarks can be encountered in the rest of the world as well, and some of the most fascinating you will find in the United States, Austria, France, Germany, Belgium and Brazil.

So, let's get down to our top of 14 museums with the most extravagant architecture in the world:

Dali Theatre Museum
Dali Theatre Museum - Wikimedia Commons/Luidger

Dali Theatre Museum, Figueres, Spain

The Spanish Dali Theatre Museum needs no introduction as it has become famous worldwide for its surrealistic architecture. Built in 1974 on the ruins of the ancient Municipal Theatre Figueres, it was designed entirely by the artist himself, except for the vault whose design bears the signature of a different architect - Emilio Pérez Piñero. The museum houses a wide range of exhibits that retrace Salvador's Dali artistic career up to his death.

Principe Felipe Science Museum
Principe Felipe Science Museum - Wikimedia Commons/Del Leone Aiolia

Principe Felipe Science Museum, Valencia, Spain

Conceived in 2000 by the Valencian architect Santiago Calatrava Valls, Príncipe Felipe Science Museum features a totally futuristic look. The building's shape makes us think of a huge whale skeleton. With an impressive number of exhibits displayed on a generous surface of 42,000 m², this natural science museum (a part of the architectural assembly City Arts and Science located in south-eastern part of Valence) holds the record of being the largest such institution in the country.

Kunsthaus Graz
Kunsthaus - Wikimedia Commons/Andreas Praefcke

Kunsthaus, Graz, Austria

A modern art museum located in Graz, Austria, Kunsthaus has been housing international exhibitions of contemporary art (design, new media, videos, etc.) since 1960. Also called Friendly Alien (a name for which the building's architects Peter Cook and Colin Fournier themselves are responsible) because of its extra-terrestrial form, Kunsthaus is part of the blob architectural trend, and sets a striking contrast with the Baroque surroundings.

Experience Music Project
Experience Music Project - Wikimedia Commons/EPM/ESF

Experience Music Project, Seattle, USA

Situated in Seattle's cultural activities park, Experience Music Project is home to a concert hall, a rock 'n' roll interactive museum and a science-fiction museum. It is said that in order to build this design landmark erected in Jimi Hendrix' memory and for whose construction more than 4000 stainless steel panels were used, the architect Frank Gehry reputedly found inspiration in an electrical guitar divided into several pieces.

Metropol Parasol
Metropol Parasol - Wikimedia Commons/Andrea Verdelli

The Metropol Parasol, Seville, Spain

This gigantic wooden building located in Seville's old quarter, The Metropol Parasol was designed by the German architect Jurgen Mayer-Hermann in 2011. With its huge dimensions (150 on 70 meters and 26 meters in height), The Metropol Parasol is the largest wooden structure in the world. The ground level is home to the Antiquarium – an archeological museum displaying exhibits of Roman and Moorish origin.

The Atomium, Brussels, Belgium

Originally built for the Universal Exhibition 1958, Brussels' Atomium is a 102 metres high monument whose design was signed by André Waterkeyn. One of Brussels' best known symbols, the Atomium is made up of 9 stainless steel spheres (18 meters of diameter each) connected in such a way that they imitate the structure of an iron crystal, only 165 times larger. The spheres (which are connected by escalators) are home to exhibition halls and other types of public spaces, while the upper one is popular observation spot as it gives a panoramic view over the city.

Casa Battló, Barcelona, Spain

One of the best known examples of Antoni Gaudi's genius, Casa Battló is actually the result of a renovation project that the Catalan modernist architect was in charge of between 1904 and 1906. Situated at no. 43, on Passeig de Gràcia, at the heart of Barcelona's Eixample quarter, it impresses visitors by the skeleton shape of its balconies, by its curved façade (an allegory of a legend – Saint George killing the dragon) made of glass and ceramics mosaic, as well as by the variety of its architectural details (Venetian masks, crane fragments, bones, etc.).

Guggenheim Museum
Guggenheim Museum - Wikimedia Commons/Tony Hisgett

Guggenheim Museum, Bilbao, Spain

Frank Gehry is the architect who designed Bilbao's Guggenheim Contemporary and Modern Art Museum. The result of a bizarre combination of stone, glass, water and titanium, the Guggenheim Museum displays some iconic exhibits of modern art like Richard Serra's impressive sculptures, Louise Bourgeois' Spider or Jeff Koons' gigantic dog.

Quai Branly, Paris, France

Displaying art collections from distant corners of the Earth (Africa, Asia, the Americas, etc.), Paris' Quai Branly Museum is an extravagant building designed by Jean Nouvel. The building's most interesting features are the variable geometry, the mixture of natural and modern materials, the style that is ethnic and futurist at the same time. The surrounding garden featuring different sections bears the signature of a French landscape artist Gilles Clément.

Niterói Contemporary Art Museum
Niterói Contemporary Art Museum - Wikimedia Commons/Phx de

Niterói Contemporary Art Museum, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

Opened to the public since 1996 and conceived by Oscar Niemeyer (a very famous Brazilian architect), Niterói Contemporary Art Museum is one of the Brazilian megalopolis' Rio de Janeiro main attractions. The 16 metre tall building ends in its upper part with a totally white three-leveled vault, whose image is nicely reflected in the pool the building is facing. Another interesting feature is that the museum's futurist UFO-shaped structure lies on a beautiful promenade.

Vitra Design Museum
Vitra Design Museum - Wikimedia Commons/Wladyslaw

The Vitra Design Museum, Berlin, Germany

Located in Weil am Rhein Germany and operated with private funds, the Vitra Design Museum is housed in another building signed by Frank Gehry. It is erected on the site of a former furniture factory bearing the same name. This establishment dedicated to design and architecture opened in 1989. Today it is a benchmark in its field and a major attraction in Germany.

Georges-Pompidou Center, Paris France

A poly-cultural establishment situated between two of Paris' best quarters (Halles and Marais), Georges-Pompidou Center is one of the French capital's top attractions. The 3rd most visited landmark in France, Georges-Pompidou Centre was built by Renzo Piano and Richard Rogers between 1970 and 1977, and today it houses some of the most important modern and contemporary art collections in the whole world. However, what makes it such a special attraction is its extravagant architecture. Seen from the outside, the tall building (7 levels) has a very original profile that reminds the design of an oil refinery. The exterior façade made of colorful tubes is actually the building's most interesting feature: the air pipes are blue, the water pipes are green, and the electrical lines are yellow.

Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, Cleveland, Ohio, USA

Cleveland's Rock and Roll Hall of Fame is a true pantheon of rock and roll as it is home to priceless archives embodying the most important moments of the rock music's history. Opened in 1995, this museum is an imposing building whose architecture bears the signature of the same artist who designed the Louvre's pyramid: the American of Chinese origin, Ieoh Ming Pei.

Soumaya Museum
Soumaya Museum - Wikimedia Commons/Freefr

Soumaya Museum, Mexico City, Mexico

Opened to the public on March 28, 2011, Soumaya Museum has replaced a former paper factory. With extravagant architecture bearing the signature of Mexican artist Fernando Romero, the Soumaya Museum has really impressive features: a surface of 6000 m² and a façade covered by 17 000 hexagons that reflect the sunlight. The museum's collection (half of which belongs to the Mexican businessman Carlos Slim) is made up of European and American masterpieces of the last 6 centuries, including Impressionist items, Mexican art and 20th century exhibits.
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You have found some beauties Mihaela! Well done.
by Dave Walsh (score: 4|11307) 2900 days ago
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