Despite a tight economy, a new generation of architects is giving the traveler reasons to jump on a plane to see modern masterpieces. Many of the new structures are public projects, designed to welcome the resident and tourist alike."There's been a lot of emphasis on public architecture, using it to really bring vitality to a place," says Justin Davidson, New York magazine's architecture and classical music critic. "Whether people are traveling a great distance to see one thing or it's creating a market for the regeneration of a place that really needs it, those things get merged."
Here are six great spots for ogling modern marvels:
For the architecture geek: Miami Beach is also attracting the world's architects to its parking structures. Noted architect Zaha Hadid was recently selected to design a municipal garage. She follows on the heels of New World Center architect Gehry, Mexican architect Enrique Norten and Swiss architecture firm Herzog & de Meuron, all with innovative parking garages in Miami Beach.
For the architecture geek: Tucked away in a Salt Lake City block behind homes and businesses, Gilgal Sculpture Garden is one of the city's best-kept secret treasures. Dating back to the late 1940s and designed by Thomas Battersby Child Jr., a contractor and former bishop of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, "it's a funky and relatively obscure public sculpture garden located in Salt Lake that has many fans among architects and University of Utah students," says Bob Herman, a local architect and past president of the Utah Center for Architecture.
After a walk through Times Square, head south to an innovative urban park built atop an unused elevated train line in Manhattan's Chelsea neighborhood. The High Line has been a hit since it opened in phases over the past three years. Unencumbered by moving vehicles or traffic lights, landscape architect James Corner Field Operations and the architecture firm of Diller Scofidio + Renfro designed a garden oasis above the hustle and bustle of the West Side.
For the architecture geek: Continue downtown to 8 Spruce St., where New York by Gehry (another Gehry design) is reportedly the tallest residential structure in the Western Hemisphere. "It has a rippling stainless steel façade, and it's near Brooklyn, so you can walk across the Brooklyn Bridge to see it," Russell says. "The other side is the Brooklyn Bridge Park, which is an absolutely stunning place to be in and from which to look at Manhattan." Landscape architect Michael Van Valkenburgh designed the park.
With a series of skylights designed to bring in natural light to illuminate the collection, "the quality of light in this museum is one of the best I've ever seen," Russell says.
For the architecture geek: If you think the outside of the Oslo Opera House would be an excellent skate park, it's no accident. Skateboarders were consulted about the exterior design and surfaces and have enjoyed the results, according to Wired magazine. The magazine lists some suggested moves.
Designed by architect Giancarlo Mazzanti of Bogota, Parque Biblioteca España, in the Medellín neighborhood of Santo Domingo, is the most famous of a half-dozen libraries designed with park space in the city. Along with improvements in roads and schools, the city has built a system of gondola-like public transit to transport residents of the poorest hillside communities down to the city's public rail system. Although Medellín is much safer than it was during the height of the drug wars, check with local officials and the U.S. State Department before heading to Santo Domingo.
The libraries are part of the city's commitment to its poorest residents."It represents an investment in the whole urban fabric, using culture, architecture and design to improve people's lives and connect them to transit, architecture and culture," says Davidson, the New York magazine critic. "It's a showy piece of new architecture that represents something broader that a place is trying to accomplish. One building does not do that in isolation."