Since claiming dominion over this drifting space rock, 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 17 coolest buildings on the planet.
W350 (Tokyo, Japan)
From Japanese construction company, Sumitomo Forestry, comes a 70-story skyscraper in Tokyo — made almost entirely out of wood. The planned structure, which is expected to be completed in 2041, will be made of 90 percent wooden materials. Known as the W350 Project, the skyscraper will tower nearly 1,200 feet in the air, and include both residential and public spaces. The eco-friendly building is projected to cost $5.6 billion, and is set to be completed on the company’s 350th anniversary. Buildings like this are part of a growing trend around the world, one that is looking to bring a more natural aesthetic to the glass-and-steel construction that proliferates modern architecture.
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 Centre. 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)
Auditorio de Tenerife (Santa Cruz de Tenerife, Spain)
It should really come as no surprise that Spanish architect, Santiago Calatrava, has multiple designs featured in this roundup. That said, the Auditorio de Tenerife — situated on the Tenerife Island just off the coast of Moroccan — is one of Calatrava’s most stunning works. The iconic half crescent seemingly jetting from the Atlantic ocean shields the amphitheater and adds an overall aesthetic balance to the structure.
Lotus Temple (Dehli, India)
Iranian architect Fariborz Sahba oversaw construction of the Lotus Temple, and once consecrated the facility opened in late 1986. The design itself is based on the significance of the number nine in the Bahá’í faith. In total, the lotus is made of 27 individual petals and each of these are designed in a series of three forming nine total sides and another group of nine form three rings in the center of the structure. A ceiling comprised of glass and steel allows natural daylight to illuminate the interior prayer hall.
Bodegas Ysios (Laguardia, Spain)
The Bodegas and Bebidas Group commissioned renown architect Santiago Calatrava to design the Bodegas Ysios as a “temple dedicated to wine.” The winding aluminum roof and cedar exterior seemingly undulate into the surrounding foothills along the Sierra de Cantabria.
Jungle House (Guarujá, Brazil)
While the bulk of these buildings exist as museums, temples, or commercial space, the Jungle House is one of the few actual homes to make our final cut. Nestled in Guarujá, Brazil, the Jungle House is the brainchild of design studio Studio MK27. Completed in 2015, the home features three floors, six bedrooms, an infinity swimming pool, and a series of verandas allowing for panoramic views of the lush Brazilian rainforest.