Italy is the ideal place to appreciate the legacy of Renaissance architecture. The Renaissance is said to have begun in Florence around the 15th century, and the Renaissance marks an intense period of experimentation and breakthroughs in painting, sculpture, and architecture. Magnificent cathedrals, bridges, and basilicas can be found here, many of which have become iconic landmarks. Visitors to Italy today can still see and marvel at the Medici palaces, the Palazzo Vecchio, the Pantheon, and other magnificent examples of Renaissance architecture in Rome. The Academia di San Luca in Rome, the Teatro Olimpico in Vicenza, and the Palazzo dei Diamanti in Ferrara are just some of the spectacular examples of Renaissance architecture still found in Italy.
In Spain, one can admire some of the most remarkable examples of Gothic architecture. The intricate filigree stonework, vaulting, and staggering height of many of the abbeys, churches and palaces built in the gothic style represent a highpoint of medieval architectural achievement. In addition to the overhanging balconies of Granada, Asturias and Cadiz, the otherworldly beauty of the Cathedral of Seville, Leon’s city walls, and Alcazar Palace in Toledo will be sure to leave you mesmerized.
When it comes to Muslim architecture, Turkey is undoubtedly an Oz. Turkey has some of the most breathtaking and iconic Islamic monuments in the world, such as the Blue Mosque of Istanbul, the stunning mosques of Edirne, and the immense Hagia Sophia. From palace complexes to ancient fortifications and caravanserais, the Ottoman architecture has been highly influential for centuries. While there are sights to explore in dozens of cities, visitors should not miss the incredible Topkapi Palace and Bursa’s Great Mosque, both masterpieces of Muslim architecture.
In the category of modern architecture, Taipei arguably has the most impressive concentration of extraordinary architectural specimens. The Taipei 101 Tower was the highest building in the world until the completion of the Shanghai Tower in 2015, and it still stands as a symbol of modern Taiwan today. Other noteworthy examples of modern architecture include the Presidential Office Building with its distinctive red bricks, the National Palace Museum with its impressive collection of Chinese artifacts, the National Taiwan Museum, and the National Theater and Concert Hall with its unique blend of traditional and modern design.
On the Indian subcontinent is a wealth of ancient architectural wonders representing all kinds of religious faiths, from Hindu, Buddhist and Jain temples to Islamic mausoleums and mosques. Some of the world’s most sacred sites are located here, such as the Golden Temple of Amritsar, the Taj Mahal and the Ajanta and Ellora Caves. The beauty and artistry of Kailash Temple in Ellora, the architectural genius of the Badami Cave Temples and the surreal splendour of the Sun Temple in Konark make India a must-visit for architecture aficionados.
Architecture lovers today are undoubtedly drawn to Japan, which is home to some of the most cutting-edge design in the world. Tokyo is a living laboratory of contemporary architecture, with projects by Japan’s most influential architects, such as Kisho Kurokawa and Toyo Ito, as well as figures from abroad, including Zaha Hadid and Santiago Calatrava. From the elegant spiral of the Roppongi Hills Mori Tower to the eclectic shopping facility La Foret Harajuku, Tokyo is truly a paradise for architecture enthusiasts.
Southeast Asian Architecture
In Southeast Asia, the influence of Chinese, Indian, Arabic and European cultures can be seen in the many architectural landmarks throughout the region. In Thailand, Bangkok and Ayutthaya are home to some of the most beautiful temples and palaces in the world. Other noteworthy sites include Cambodia’s Angkor Wat and Siem Reap, Indonesia’s Borobudur, Laos’ That Luang stupa and Myanmar’s Shwedagon Pagoda. For a more avant-garde up and coming destination due to it being featured in the Marvel movies; one shouldn’t miss Vietnam’s imperial tombs and the Thien Mu Pagoda in Hue.
Throughout the years, architectural movements have come and gone, from High Modernism to Deconstructivism and Parametricism. One of the most captivating, however, is conceptual architecture, which is often playful and unexpected, and in some cases almost surreal. Exploring conceptual architecture can be a wild ride; from The Crystal in Copenhagen to the Tokyo Skytree, to The Box in Athens, there are many innovative structures that must be seen first-hand in order to be fully appreciated.
From the Renaissance in Italy to the futuristic structures of Tokyo, architecture has a way of both captivating and grounding us in the present. Each country has its own unique brand of architecture—from the onion domes of Russia to the pagodas of China—and exploring each can be deeply enriching. Whether it’s the feats of engineering, the historical context, or simply the aesthetics, visitors around the world can find something beautiful and inspiring in the local architectural achievements.