Buildings You Have to See Before You Die

Hergé Museum; YannGar Photography, flickr

Completed at the end of the last millennium, Frank Gehry's Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao is often quoted as being the 20th century's greatest building. Over a decade later, its familiar titanium ribbons have lost none of their luster, and its ship-like form has defined this once unheard of northern Spanish city forever, coining the term the "Guggenheim effect". The building set high standards for the museums that have followed, with renowned architects being brought in to create bold structures that draw crowds. The latest museums to open range from the staggeringly precise new Acropolis Museum in Athens by Bernard Tschumi to the multi-layered MAXXI Museum in Rome, a work of the visionary architectural conceptualist Zaha Hadid.

"A few major projects are still on site that proudly declare their 'icon' status," says Jonathan Bell, Architecture Editor with the influential design and architecture magazine Wallpaper*. But Bell also sees a shift in style in many new museums and a move away from the big-impact buildings to "a more refined, low-key approach," such as the Iberê Camargo Museum in Brazil, built to fit into the local topography.

Here we feature the newly unveiled museums from round the globe, as well as the galleries set to open soon. All inspiring, and all worth a visit.

Steve Nesius, AP

Salvador Dalí Museum, St. Petersburg, Florida

In 1971, when Salvador Dalí suggested to American industrialist couple Reynolds and Eleanor Morse that they build a museum with "walls that breathe and pulse imperceptibly, moved by a pneumatic apparatus" for their mushrooming collection of his work, he got a room adjacent to their Injection Molders Supply Company in Ohio. It's a far cry from the collection's new home in St. Petersburg, Florida. The veteran architect Yann Weymouth of the Tampa-based HOK studio, who worked alongside I.M Pei in the overhaul of the Louvre in Paris), designed the Dalí Museum, a huge, hurricane-proof, monolith featuring a glass slug-like element that appears to crawl through the building and around the façade, a metaphor for Dalí's signature juxtaposition of the classical and fantastical.

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National Museums Liverpool

Museum of Liverpool, Liverpool, U.K.

The gritty British port city of Liverpool is about to acquire the largest, and certainly most striking, purpose-built national museum in the U.K. in over a century. Danish architecture studio 3XN -- the high-caliber creative brains behind the Muziekgebouw Concert Hall in Amsterdam -- has created a bold structure that's elevated to allow the Merseyside promenade to flow through it. The building is perched on the water's edge next to The Three Graces, a trio of early 20th-century buildings, which visitors can view from the museum's gigantic picture window. The building makes a big statement in Liverpool's Docklands, while inside the city's popular and social history will be exhibited against a white foam, futurist backdrop. The museum will be open to visitors in 2011.

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Nicolas Borel, Atelier de Portzamparc

Hergé Museum, Louvain-la-Neuve, Brussels, Belgium

The French architect Christian de Portzamparc has described Louvain-la-Neuve, a provincial Belgium town 20 miles southeast of Brussels, as "a straight-edged concrete slab with a car park underneath." So in order to separate a new museum dedicated to Hergé (the pen name of Tintin creator Georges Rémi), from the town, he located it outside the town in the woods. Opened to the public in May 2009, the white, ocean liner-shaped structure is accessed via a footbridge, creating a sense of child-like intrepidity in keeping with Tintin's famous adventures. Inside, the Pritzker Prize-winning de Portzamparc has captured the playful spirit of Hergé's legacy, with large comic-strip-shaped windows, vibrant and colorful supporting elements and curving, elevated footbridges connecting four galleries.

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Yael Pincus

Design Museum Holon, Tel Aviv, Israel

It seems fitting that the commission of creating Holon's new Design Museum went to Ron Arad. The architect was born in Tel Aviv (Holon forms part of the greater Tel Aviv district), and he is considered a key figure in contemporary design culture, not only in Israel but also across the world. Displaying Arad's signature love of bold color, sculptural, curvilinear form and technical invention, the Holon Design Museum has an external spiral ramp providing views over the building's interior courtyard (there are alternate entrance routes for rare rainy days). An arrangement of oxidized steel bands loop in and out of the building, which enclose some of the interior spaces, providing structural support. Like Bilbao's Guggenheim, the museum was conceived as a catalyst for the city to reinvent itself culturally. Opened in March 2010, it's too early to tell if it'll make the same impact as Gehry's creation, but Arad's design is certainly the most significant of his architectural oeuvre to date.

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lisa rastl, querkraft

Museum Liaunig, Neuhaus, Austria

Museum Liaunig, which opened in August 2008 in the southern, Carinthia region of Austria, is as avant-garde as the collection of contemporary Austrian art inside. The industrialist Herbert W. Liaunig commissioned the small Viennese architectural practice querkraft to design a cutting-edge gallery on a slice of Austrian countryside between the River Drau and a major highway. The main body of the museum, which resembles a mammoth rectangular tube, cuts through the upper plateau of a hillside. A semi-subterranean hall opens out to the gallery, a cantilevered light box with majestic views over this picturesque pocket of Austria.

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Nikos Daniilidis

Acropolis Museum, Athens, Greece

The award-winning French architect Bernard Tschumi, whose groundbreaking works include the iridescent BLUE residential tower in Manhattan and the avant-garde Parc de la Villette in Paris, opted for a simple, three-story composition to house the most treasured collection of sculptures and other artifacts of ancient Greece. The new Acropolis Museum, opened in 2009, sits at the base of the Parthenon on Acropolis hill. Visitors enter a suspended ground floor where they can look down upon the archaeological site of Makrygianni from a glass ramp. From here a spiral pathway takes them through the collection, which has been organized to show the history of the Acropolis, from the archaic to the Roman period. At the top is an enclosed glass floor which exacts the dimensions of the Parthenon, housing some of the famous Parthenon Marbles, along with stark white replicas highlighting the sculptures taken by Lord Elgin in the early 19th century and currently on display in the British Museum.

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Elvira T. Fortuna, Fundação Iberê Camargo

Iberê Camargo Foundation, Porto Alegre, Brazil

Porto Alegre in Brazil is defining itself as a budding arts and design community, and now, in an effort to reinforce this reputation internationally, it has brought in the much-lauded Portuguese architect Álvaro Siza. The Iberê Camargo Foundation building, which opened in June 2008, houses a collection of work from the eponymous artist, one of Brazil's greatest. Given the building's narrow plot, wedged between a highway and river, Siza used his trademark pragmatic approach -- much of his work is known for its sensitivity to local topography and modernist detailing -- by designing the structure vertically and letting it flow through its topographical constraints. The exhibition spaces are arranged on three floors around a central atrium, connected by a series of circular ramps.

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Simone Cecchetti, Courtesy Maxxi Foundation

MAXXI Museum, Rome, Italy

Over the past decade, the Baghdad-born architect Zaha Hadid has attained starchitect status for out-there projects seemingly at odds with the rules of structural logic, such as the soon-to-be-completed Guangzhou Opera House in China (which resembles two diamond cut boulders). She was a logical choice then to take on Rome's new MAXXI Museum, which opened in May 2010 as the first public gallery in Italy devoted to contemporary creativity. Breaking away from the idea of museum as object, Hadid conceived the MAXXI as an interactive "field of buildings" and designed a composition of elongated structures that snake and intertwine through a difficult L-shaped plot. The monochrome interior walls, staircases and other elements feature Hadid's trademark fluidity and drama -- wholly fitting for the cutting edge, cross-media exhibits the museum plans to show.

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Tate Photography

Tate Modern Annex, London, U.K.

If Gehry's Guggenheim set the standard for purpose-built museums, then the Swiss architects Herzog & de Meuron did so for converting an existing building into one of the world's great cultural palaces. Miraculously (yet subtly) transformed from a disused power station on the Thames, the Tate Modern is now ten years old and has outgrown itself. (It receives five million visitors a year, double the initial estimate.) New exhibitions spaces and social areas are needed, so a new annex, also by Herzog & de Meuron, is currently under construction, with a deadline to open on the same date as the 2012 London Olympic Games. The annex will again make use of an existing structure, this time an electrical switch station to the south of the main building, and will take shape in the form of a stand-alone, cut-away pyramid. In keeping with the Tate's creed of stimulating regeneration in its surrounding neighborhoods, the annex will feature a walkway that connects the immediate boroughs on each side of the river, new public plazas, terraces and a garden area for the local community.

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Architekt Daniel Libeskind AG

Dresden Military Museum, Dresden, Germany

Renowned architect Daniel Libeskind took up the challenge of remodeling the military museum in Dresden -- a German city firebombed by the Allies in February 1945 -- despite the enormous social and emotional weight of the project. Libeskind, a Polish architect of Jewish descent who has lived in the U.S. since 1959, is no novice to military museums (he designed the Imperial War Museum in the U.K.) Nor is he a stranger to architecture laden with the memory of loss, such as the Jewish Museum in Berlin and his most celebrated project, overseeing the rebuilding of the World Trade Center in New York. For Dresden Military Museum, expected to open later in 2010, he has constructed a giant glass, concrete and steel arrowhead that protrudes from the original 19th-century building. At nearly 100 feet, the highest peak has a viewing platform that overlooks the city. Pointing in the exact direction from which the Allied bombers attacked, the extension speaks strongly to the horror of the event, but the modern structure's sheer volume and power also announces a break away from the past.

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