Exploring architecture is one of the best ways to get a sense of the places you’re travelling to. There are few better ways to delve into history and culture than experiencing amazing buildings. Plus, on a purely aesthetic level, they’re just cool to see.
It’s interesting to take stock of the variety of building materials and styles – and consider how they’ve evolved to become the innovative fittings used by architects today.
To whet your appetite, we’ve put together a highly select list of buildings that you should definitely make time to see in the course of your travels.
The iconic weekend house of the Kaufmann family was designed by famed architect Frank Lloyd Wright and completed in 1937. It sits atop the falls at Bear Run, Pennsylvania and is famous for its incredibly innovative architecture.
The house quite literally sits over the stream at the top of the falls and has a staircase that descends directly into the stream. One of the markers of Wright’s architectural genius was that he removed the need to implement drainage and grating by creating a cantilevered structure that was anchored to the hillside and floated over the water.
Why you should see it: The house is now open to the public and is without doubt one of the greatest and most beautiful pieces of home architecture ever.
Ta Prohm Temple, Cambodia
The famous (think Tomb Raider) and architecturally spectacular Ta Prohm temple was built by Jayavarman VII in 1186 AD. At its peak it was home to more than 12,500 people, with an additional 800,000 nearby to provide supplies and services when needed.
The temple is built almost entirely from stone and features ornate carvings that would have been completed with mallet and chisel – not unlike the tools we use today. The temple stood strong until the fall of the Khmer Empire in the 1400s, at which point it was abandoned for what would be almost 600 years.
Why you should see it: Being abandoned allowed the forest to take over the architecture and create the incredible sight of stone being strangled by tree roots. In fact the forest started to destroy some parts of the architecture, but the temple is now being preserved to ensure its longevity.
Sagrada Familia, Barcelona
The Sagrada Familia is an unfinished church in Barcelona, Spain. It was designed by Antonio Gaudi, who oversaw its construction from 1883 until his death in 1926. Construction was halted in the mid-20th century but restarted towards the end and is now on track to be completed by 2026.
The church is steeped in symbolism and includes entrances dedicated to the virtues of Faith, Hope and Love, and has a section with a Cyprus tree that symbolises the tree of life.
Why you should see it: It’s a truly world-class building – one that’s already historically significant, and it’s still being built! A great chance to see history in the making.
Matrimandir in Pondicherry, India
This incredible structure sits at the centre of the town of Auroville. Auroville was created in 1964 by the Sri Aurobindo Society and sits on 20 square kilometres of what was wasteland in Pondicherry. The town is an experimental society set up to promote human unity.
The spectacular Matrimandir sits in the middle of the town and is a place of meditation and peace. On the outside the enormous sphere is covered by gold discs that reflect the sunshine. Inside is a polished marble meditation hall that features the world’s largest optically-perfect glass globe.
Why you should see it: It was built specifically for the purpose of increasing harmony and peace, and is as much a sculpture as it is a building. It’s truly unique and if you’re travelling in India you’d be crazy not to go.