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12 great places to discover US architecture

Most people are familiar with the extraordinary buildings that make up New York’s city skyline, including the Empire State Building, but there are amazing buildings to discover across the USA, from mid-century modern marvels to cutting edge contemporary buildings. Here’s our guide to some of best spots in the USA for architecture.

PPG Place, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

The city of Pittsburgh is famous for its steel industry and its industrial heritage - and skyscrapers. But did you know that Pittsburgh first known for its glass industry, with 80 percent of the glass made in the US coming from Pittsburgh. That heritage is celebrated in the six glass buildings at PPG Place, located next to Pittsburgh’s historic Market Square. The shimmering complex with 231 spires, was constructed using more than 1 million square feet of PPG Solarban 500 clear reflective glass.  The result is an architectural showstopper that’s at one with its surroundings, reflecting the skies, rivers and buildings. 

Ruby City arts centre in San Antonio, Texas

An extraordinary-looking new contemporary arts centre opens to the public in San Antonio, Texas. The russet-coloured Ruby City building designed by architect Sir David Adjaye OBE, is the brainchild of the late collector, philanthropist and artist Linda Pace and will show works from local and international artists as well as pieces from her collection of more than 900 artworks. The 14,000 square-foot building, inspired by the Spanish Missions of the 16th to 19th centuries, has rich red concrete exterior skin, polished and tactile for the first ten feet up, then rough and encrusted with varying shades of red glass above with two lanterns on the roofline, to cast light into the interior. 

Heritage at Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center in Colorado Springs

This grand Art Deco building, designed by acclaimed architect John Gaw Meem, was truly cutting-edge when it opened in 1936. In 1986 it was added to the National Register of Historic Places. The museum also boasts a modern, beautiful theatre venue with a dramatic proscenium arch. The mahogany veneer walls of the auditorium were designed to reflect sound, like the interior acoustics of a violin.

 

Making innovation fun at the MOXI Santa Barbara

The educational and fun MOXI, Wolf Museum of Exploration and Innovation is set in a striking Barry Berkus-designed building which is the first LEED Gold certified museum in Santa Barbara County. MOXI’s three floors are filled with interactive and hands-on exhibits and experiences for both kids and adults, organised around seven themes that all relate to science, technology, engineering, arts and maths. 

Greater Palm Springs, California: the mid-century modern must-visit 

Mid-century modern architect fans should make a pilgrimage to Greater Palm Springs, where the streets are peppered with gorgeous one-storey wonders. Go to Palm Springs city this weekend and you can catch the four-day long “mini-Modernism Week” to help you explore the city’s architectural heritage, with more than 50 events, including tours, talks, and parties in unique locations not regularly open to the public. It’s also home to the country's first free-standing architecture and design museum, the Palm Springs Art Museum Architecture and Design Center. Opened in 2014, the museum is housed in the historic 1961 Santa Fe Federal Savings & Loan building - designed by E. Stewart Williams, and a Class I Historic Site - in downtown Palm Springs.  

Unfettered space at the Whitney Museum, New York

Designed by architect Renzo Piano, the Whitney's new asymmetrical building in the Meatpacking District includes approximately 50,000 square feet of indoor galleries and 13,000 square feet of outdoor exhibition space and terraces facing the High Line. The museum’s expansive gallery for special exhibitions is about 18,000 square feet in area, making it the largest column-free museum gallery in New York City.

Historic getaways at Newport Mansions, Rhode Island

The state of Rhode Island is home to the famous coastal Newport Mansions, built in the late 19th century by entrepreneurs as their summer ‘cottages’. The Breakers is a 70-room Italian Renaissance-style palazzo, designed by prominent architect Richard Morris Hunt and is the grandest one, a symbol of the Vanderbilt family's social and financial pre-eminence in turn of the century America. Tours of the house tell the story of the lives of the people who lived and worked there, including family members, servants and guests. 

Modern masterpieces in San Diego

The city of San Diego is peppered with showstopping structures. UC San Diego’s brutalist Geisel Library - built in 1970, this eight-storey tree-shaped building is a tribute to Theodor Geisel—better known as Dr. Seuss—and his wife, Audrey. At the Salk Institute for Biological Studies, subtle water features separate concrete buildings accented with teak. Completed in 1965 and now designated a historical site, architect Louis Kahn was asked by institute founder Jonas Salk, creator of the first polio vaccine, to “create a facility worthy of a visit by Picasso.” Meanwhile, the concrete San Diego Central Library, designed by architect Rob Quigley and opened in 2013, has a steel-and-mesh lattice dome that makes it look like a hat or an umbrella. 

The Trans-Allegheny Lunatic Asylum, West Virginia

West Virginia is home to the Gothic stone structure of the old Trans-Allegheny Lunatic Asylum. Constructed during 1858 to 1881 to house patients with various mental illnesses, the building is the largest hand-cut stone masonry building in North America, and said to be the second largest in the world after The Kremlin. Designed by renowned architect Richard Andrews, it has long, rambling wings arranged in a staggered formation, opening up each of the connecting structures to plenty of therapeutic sunlight and fresh air. The facility closed to patients in 1994, but is now open to the public for tours.

 

Atlanta Center for Civil Human Rights, Atlanta, Georgia

This extraordinary, angular museum dedicated to telling the story of the fight for human rights - past and present - was opened in 2007. The groundbreaking 42,000-square-foot National Center for Civil and Human Rights draws on Atlanta’s civil rights legacy, telling the story of Atlanta’s leadership role in the American Civil Rights Movement, to strengthen the worldwide movement for human rights. Housed between two dramatic curved walls, this building is designed to celebrate human connections, clad with panels of different sizes and colour to reflect the diversity of humanity. 

 

Frank Lloyd Wright's work: UNESCO listed buildings

Head to Falling Water in Pennsylvania to explore the work of iconic 20th century architect, Frank Lloyd Wright - whose work was recently added to the UNESCO World Heritage List. Included in those seven listed sites are Falling Water, a staggering work of architecture set over a series of waterfalls in a stacked grouping of cantilevered concrete storeys, each anchored to a central stone chimney mass of locally quarried Pottsville sandstone. Take a tour and you can see how he was able to bring the outdoors inside, with nature in harmony with the building, but also the materials he used and even the bespoke furnishings, in this truly organic architecture. Six miles away you can visit the innovative and intriguing Kentuck Knob, another of Frank Lloyd Wright's gems.


River & Twine tiny house hotel, North Carolina

If you’ve been following the trend for tiny houses, you might want to stay at the new River & Twine tiny house hotel in Rocky Mount, North Carolina. This set of tiny homes is situated on the Rocky Mount Mills campus – a former cotton mill site. See how you could potentially live small with a stay - each house features the name of a different eastern North Carolina river and while the houses themselves are small, each are fully furnished and include a queen-sized bed and full showers and a little kitchenette. 

 

 
Posted on: 11/10/2019

 
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