Mondo’s picks: 6 gems of modern architecture

Where can you find the most fascinating buildings in the world? Mondo’s editorial staff selected six locations ranging from a Chinese metropolis to a less well-known Aalto attraction in Finland.

Mirador del Río, Lanzarote
Mirador del Río offers a panoramic view over the strait between Lanzarote and La Graciosa.

1. Lanzarote, Spain

The most interesting architectural attractions in the Canary Islands are located in Lanzarote. This is owing to César Manrique (1919–1992), who designed several exceptional buildings for his home island.

These include the Mirador del Río viewpoint (pictured) and the Jameos del Agua art, culture, and tourism center. All of Manrique’s buildings are connected by the fact that they blend harmoniously into the volcanic nature of the island. For example, rooms have been built in lava tubes. Manrique was also an artist, sculptor, and activist who was concerned about the effects of tourism. Partly as a result of his campaigning, no skyscraper hotels have been built in Lanzarote.

1933, Shanghai
As its name suggests, Shanghai's Brutalist-style abattoir was built in 1933.

2. Shanghai, China

Shanghai is a startling experience: endless, shiny skyscrapers and shopping malls make the metropolis feel unreal. There is only little traditional Chinese architecture, although some residential areas still host ascetic houses and atmospheric alleys.

The Bund at the city center is often referred to as the most impressive place in Shanghai: the Shanghai Riverside Promenade provides a view over European Art Deco buildings from the 1920s as well as massive, modern skyscrapers. A less well-known architectural gem is the 1933 (pictured). Today, this Brutalist industrial complex is a cultural and restaurant hub. There are so many interesting, modern museum buildings in Shanghai that you could spend a month touring them.

North Christian Church, Columbus, Indiana
Designed by Eero Saarinen, the North Christian Church in Columbus rises to a total height of 192 feet.

Columbus hosts dozens of buildings by the best architects in the world.

3. Columbus, Indiana, USA

Even though a small town of less than 50,000 inhabitants may seem an unlikely location for architectural attractions, Columbus hosts dozens of buildings by the best architects in the world. This is thanks to Joseph Irwin Miller (1909–2004). Miller was the CEO of a local family business and a lover of architecture, and the foundation he established paid the architects’ fees when they designed buildings for Columbus.

There were also Finns among the architects. In the city, you can admire, for example, Eliel Saarinen's First Christian Church, which is one of the first modern church buildings in the United States. Eliel’s son, Eero Saarinen, designed the North Christian Church (pictured), the Irwin Union Bank (now Irwin Conference Center), and the Miller's home, which is now open to the public.

White City, Tel Aviv
The White City of Tel Aviv became a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2003.

4. Tel Aviv, Israel

One of the most fascinating urban environments in the world was born of great sorrow. When the Nazis came to power in Germany in the 1930s, thousands of German Jews fled the country to what is now Israel. They needed houses, and architects who had studied at the famous Bauhaus school created the “White City”.

There are thousands of Bauhaus-style buildings in Tel Aviv. Their streamlined, white exterior and large balconies are suitable for the hot climate. Their futuristic design reflected the Jews’ dream of a new age and society. The Bauhaus blocks in the center of Tel Aviv are easy to explore independently or on a guided tour. The city also hosts the Bauhaus Center, a small Bauhaus museum, and numerous other good museums.

Brasília, Brazil
The futuristic capital of Brazil is the work of Pritzker Prize-winning architect Oscar Niemeyer.

Brasília looks like a true 1960s vision of the future with its wide highways and monumental public buildings.

5. Brasília, Brazil

One of the most peculiar urban attractions in South America is the capital of Brazil, which was founded in 1960 in the middle of nowhere. The place looks like a true 1960s vision of the future with its wide highways and monumental public buildings designed by Oscar Niemeyer, one of the greatest modern architects.

Even though Brasília’s urban planning has been criticized as a failure, Niemeyer’s buildings are still impressive. One of the main architectural attractions is the Palace of the National Congress (pictured), which looks like a UFO had landed on the roof of the building. Niemeyer’s style was characterized by the use of such playful shapes.

Seinäjoki library by Alvar Aalto
The library designed by Alvar Aalto functioned as Seinäjoki's main library from 1965 until 2012.

6. Seinäjoki, Finland

In Finland, buildings designed by Alvar Aalto can be admired in various locations, but Seinäjoki may still be an unknown architectural destination to many. Seinäjoki has surprisingly much to offer; the city center houses a complex of cultural and administrative buildings designed by Aalto. The architectural gems in the city include the Lakeuden Risti church and Seinäjoki Library (pictured), which was renovated a few years ago.

Aalto had a special relationship with Southern Ostrobothnia, as he was born in Kuortane, a short distance away from Seinäjoki. While in the city, it is also worth visiting the magnificent main library Apila, designed by JKMM Architects, which was opened in 2012.

Text: Mondo Photos: Veikko Kähkönen, Petri Lyytikäinen, Katja Lösönen, All Over Press and Getty Images

This story was first published in Mondo’s issue 10/20.

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