12 arty architectural wonders

Dream-like buildings and gravity-defying glass cubes…

These mould-breaking art galleries and museums – some new, some old favourites – wear their beauty as much on the outside as in.

The Dali Museum
 Florida, US
The new museum in St Petersburg, Florida, which opened at 11.11am on 11.1.11 this year - the building is like a glass slug hoovering up a geometric angular box. Built with walls thick enough to withstand a category five hurricane, the museum houses a priceless collection of over 2,000 Dalí pieces.
The ambitious design team was led by Yann Weymouth of HOK, the man who worked closely with IM Pei for the Grand Louvre project. Inside, the concrete spiral staircase rising through the 22 metre-high glass atrium is inspired by Dalí's fascination with the double helix of DNA.

ArtScience Museum

A steel and glass lotus flower sits atop the impressive ArtScience Museum in Singapore. The complex has over 4,600 square metres of galleries set on a 4,000 square metre lily 'pond'. The structure has 10 fingers, the tallest of which is 60 metres high. Designed by internationally renowned architect Moshe Safdie, some have named the building "the welcoming hand of Singapore".

QUAD visual art gallery

 Derby, UK
This vividly lit-up steel and glass cube with spindly pillar legs beneath it is the brainchild of architects Feilden Clegg Bradley. Set in the heart of Derby, the gallery is part of an arts complex that includes a cinema, cafe and workshop space for anyone to come and engage in making art. It opened in 2008 and the design is modern architecture at its best, somehow making steel and glass look welcoming and accessible.

Museo Soumaya

Mexico City, Mexico
From some angles, this new art gallery in Mexico City looks like the hull of the Titanic as it soars above you with curved nautical lines. But frankly, its amorphous shape could be any number of things. Designed by Mexican architects Fernando Romero and Mauricio Ceballos with a team of collaborators, the building has only just opened, giving visitors a chance to admire the hexagonal aluminium modules on the outside of the building, which look like giant sequins on an evening gown.

City of Arts and Sciences

Valencia, Spain
Designed by Santiago Calatrava and Félix Candela, the City of Arts and Sciences in Valencia began construction in 1996 and the last component was finally finished in 2005. An alien cityscape, the complex is an ambitious series of buildings that houses an open-air oceanographic park and an Imax cinema, planetarium and laserium, to say nothing of the opera house, towers and plazas. The oceanographic aquarium is the largest in Europe at 110,000 square metres and contains 42 million litres of water (equivalent to 15 Olympic swimming pools).

Guggenheim Bilbao

Bilbao, Spain
The futuristic titanium shavings of the Guggenheim Bilbao building reflect light and rise up like a fantastical oasis. Designed by Frank O Gehry, at the building's heart is a central atrium threaded with suspended walkways that allow you access to the museum's three galleries. The impressive design was done using the aid of computer technology originally used in the aerospace industry.

Art gallery of Ontario

Ontario, Canada
Frank O Gehry is responsible for the redesign of the AGO, the key feature of which is a hulking glass and wood facade that runs for 182 metres along the street on which it sits and rises 21 metres high. The city's weather is reflected on that enormous glass ceiling. Check out the protruding curly pig's tail of a staircase in the south wing, set within a four-storey tinted glass and titanium front overlooking Grange Park.

Jewish Museum

Berlin, Germany
Even before the Jewish Museum opened in 2001, this crazy doodle of a building by Daniel Libeskind was drawing visitors. Coated in zinc, the building will change colour as the material oxidises over the years. The building itself has many symbolic features including The Voids; five cavernous spaces running vertically through the new building with walls of bare concrete.

The New Acropolis

Athens, Greece
The Greek gods have a spiffing new home in the New Acropolis Museum. The US and Greek architectural teams had clearly taken some of their inspiration from classical Greek architecture but with very modern sensibilities. Looking like an impossible-to-crack Rubix cube, the museum houses a vast permanent collection of artefacts found at the site of the Acropolis. Inside the glass-floored gallery is transparent in places so visitors can see excavations below.

MAXXI art gallery

Rome, Italy
This jaw-dropping Zaha Hadid building has been described as 'tyrannical' in the way it supersedes the art it contains (curators aren't even allowed to mount artwork to the walls, relying instead on suspended partitions). Indeed the white concrete and black walkways of the interior look like they'd be enough of a spectacle without all the 21st-century art the Romans intend to fill the labyrinthine space with.

Niterói Contemporary Art Museum

Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
This flying saucer-like building was ddesigned by Oscar Niemeyer, has a diameter of 50 metres and three floors within its main structure. Set atop a cliff with a beach below and a 817 square metre reflecting pool on its base, it really is like something out of a James Bond film. At the very least you'd expect the Thunderbirds to emerge from this quirky discus.


Glasgow, Scotland
When it opens in a couple of months, this Zaha Hadid-designed building on Glasgow's harbour will showcase its spectacular roof, which has no internal supports - it is held up by its own weight and complex zig-zag construction alone. From the air it looks like a sports logo, a masculine design befitting a transport museum - or are we being sexist in saying that most train-spotters are men? Either way, the building is set to make Glasgow a destination for transport geeks and architecture vultures.