Great heights and spectacular sights: The 16 coolest buildings on Earth
Since claiming dominion over this drifting space rock, we humans have peppered the planet with abodes and edifices both large and small. Over the past century, we scraped the sky with awe-inspiring stacks of steel — but sometimes “bigger” doesn’t always mean “better.” We’ve scoured atlas and encyclopedia alike — and of course the trusty internet — to find the most impressive buildings around the globe. From a flying saucer seemingly afloat in the Hollywood Hills to a Spanish cathedral more than a century in the making, here are our picks for the 16 coolest buildings on the planet.
Heydar Aliyev Centre (Baku, Azerbaijan)
Azerbaijan was previously part of the Soviet Union and much of the capital, Baku — as well as much of the rest of the country — remains dominated by the lingering architecture of the bygone era. Once Azerbaijan gained independence in 1991, the government made it a point to break with the Soviet Modernism style by investing heavily in urban architectural development. Following a design competition in 2007, Zaha Hadid Architects was chosen to oversee the design of the Heydar Aliyev Center. Today, the stunning Heydar Aliyev Centre exists as a true testament to this long-term city planning initiative.
Bosco Verticale (Milan, Italy)
The Bosco Verticale — or pair of so-called “vertical forests” — was completed in the Isola neighborhood of Milan in 2014. The Architecture firm Boeri Studio situated more than 600 tall trees, 500 smaller trees, and 2,500 plants and shrubs along terraces on all four sides of the two buildings. Based on estimates, these plants could remove about 25 tons of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere annually while adding roughly 130 pounds of oxygen each day. The Bosco Verticale incorporates the number of trees one would find in a 10,000-square meter section of forest, according to the studio.
Benedictine abbey/Mont Saint-Michel (Normandy, France)
Sure, the Norman Benedictine abbey atop the Le Mont-Saint-Michel is quaint, but it’s really the rocky islet itself, Mont Saint-Michel, that pushes this World Heritage site to near the top of our list. Mont Saint-Michel is set just off the coast of Normandy and has been one of the most popular tourist destinations in France for years. During low tide, the surrounding waters subside allowing visitors to wander around the surrounding bay. In 2014, a new bridge connecting Mont Saint-Michel to the mainland was constructed to replace the 135-year-old causeway.
CCTV Headquarters (Beijing, China)
The CCTV Headquarters can be seen from virtually any part of Beijing, seemingly twisting and turning as you move about the sprawling metropolis. The two towers rise from a single platform, gradually leaning toward one another, and eventually merging to form a 246-foot cantilever. Tower 1 serves as the editing team’s home base, Tower 2 is dedicated to broadcasting, and the administration offices are located in the midsection overhang.