Like paintings and sculptures, buildings can be beautiful works of art.
We asked architects to tell us the one building that’s a design game-changer, that inspired them to become architects, or that they find stunning.
Here are 9 of the most breathtaking buildings in the world, according to people who build them for a living.
The MIT Chapel in Cambridge, Massachusetts
“I was introduced to the MIT Chapel early in my architectural education,” Laura Thomas said. “But it was in seeing it in person that I understood what architecture could be. The scale, the materials, the light — you just get the power of it. Then I began to understand what architecture was all about.”
Thomas is the president and principal of Melville Thomas Architects.
The Sheats Goldstein Residence in Los Angeles
“Known to many as ‘The Big Lebowski’ house, it’s one of those places that sits you down and makes you say ‘whoa’ because of its daring imagination,” Evan Troxel said.
Troxel is a senior project designer at HMC Architects and hosts the podcast “Archispeak.”
The Bibliotheque Sainte-Genevieve in Paris, France
“Completed in 1850, it is a magical jewel box of a building,” Jared Banks said. “The gray stone classical exterior hides a cavernous light-filled reading room composed of two wrought-iron barrel vaults.”
Banks is an architect for Shoegnome Architects.
Casa Mila in Barcelona, Spain
Casa Mila is “exuberant, context-rich, sensual, and imbued with a rich urban residential character,” Clark Manus said.
Manus is the CEO of Heller Manus Architects and a former president of the American Institute of Architects.
The Empire State Building in New York
“I wanted to become an architect since I was 6 years old in part because of this building,” William Martin said. “My parents would put us in the car and drive down River Road and Boulevard East with expansive views of Manhattan from the back seat of our car. The antenna enhanced the value of the building … by allowing for better reception for millions of people.”
Martin is the founder of WJM Architect.
The Forbidden City temple in Beijing, China
“It has amazing scale and longevity of the design, complex structure, yet simple forms,” Rosa Sheng said. “My grandfather … explained that architecture is meant to last beyond one’s lifetime. It is a living time capsule of the culture for an entire civilization.”
Sheng is a senior architect at the firm Bohlin Cywinski Jackson
Fallingwater in Mill Run, Pennsylvania
“The rigid planes of the cantilevered balconies are pure modernist forms inserted into the heart of the forest,” Bruce Turner said. “Most importantly, however, the thing that solidified this building as my favorite of all time doesn’t show up in any photos: the arrival sequence to the house. You arrive on a small country road, turn into the property, wind your way through the woods, and the house finally appears in the distance.”
Turner is a freelance architect based in New Jersey.
The Barnes Foundation Museum in Philadelphia
“It is highly publicized and perhaps getting too much play like a song on the radio, but when seen in person, I was truly inspired,” Lee Calisti said.
Calisti is the founder of Calisti Architecture and Design.
Notre Dame du Haut in Ronchamp, France
“The building stands boldly, innovatively, looking to the future, while also respective its place and the past,” says Jonathan Brown.
Brown is a senior associate at JHP Architecture/Urban Design.