In any sort of world travel, there are two things that tend to stick out when people imagine their destinations: terrain and architecture. Naturally there’s more to any destination than just these two factors. However, when we picture places, it’s the striking images those places are known for that tend to stand out. For this reason, a lot of people who have never travelled to the United States might imagine world famous landmarks — New York’s Empire State Building, Washington, D.C.’s gorgeous white monuments, etc. — when considering travel. These landmarks are all fairly spectacular and definitely famous for a reason! But if you’re looking to really tour the country and see some of its most interesting and ambitious buildings, here are five throughout the States that tend to be a bit under-appreciated.
1. Seattle Central Library, Washington
Mentioned in a countdown of 50 buildings on Strange Buildings online, the Seattle Central Library in Seattle, Washington is one of the most striking, modern designs in any prominent American city. Designed by Rem Koolhaas in 2004, the library was meant as an homage to, or simply support of, libraries and printed literature in the face of e-books and technology. This isn’t exactly clear from the ultra-modern design, but one interesting detail worth noting is that the building is absolutely covered in windows. This allows for natural light that’s beneficial to readers looking at real pages — but perhaps not screens.
Furthermore, Seattle is a wonderful city to visit if you’re making a first trip to the United States. It has a reputation for bad weather, and indeed it rains a lot, but the city has a vibrant, incredibly pleasant culture, and on nice days can be beautiful.
2. Air Force Academy Chapel, Colorado
To the north of Colorado Springs, Colorado, this chapel is absolutely striking in appearance. It was designed back in 1962 (despite a somewhat modern-looking touch) by Walter Netsch to imitate a few European chapels. Now, it looks like something out of a fantasy novel. Interestingly, the chapel was also meant to house multiple houses of worship (for Jewish, Catholic and Protestant worshipers).
Colorado, too, is a lovely state to visit in a tour of the U.S. From strong reputations for food and local craft beers, to the spectacular nature of the Rocky Mountains, there’s simply a lot to see around the state.
3. Ca d’Zan Mansion, Florida
Located in Sarasota, Florida, this is off the beaten path for the average Florida tourist aiming for Orlando or Miami. However, if Florida is on your list, the Sunday Times award-winning travel resource dialaflight has a few tips about car rentals and routes in the area. This isn’t to say you necessarily need to rent a car to get to Sarasota, but because other parts of Florida are more popular destinations, picking out a car might help you to see more of the state while also getting a glimpse of Ca d’Zan.
Ultimately, Ca d’Zan is well worth the short drive from other parts of the state. It’s essentially a mansion/museum that was commissioned and owned by John Ringling of the Ringling Bros. Circus. It was built in the image of a Venetian Palace right over Sarasota Bay, and it now houses an incredible variety of art owned by the Ringlings that was collected over the years.
4. Walt Disney Concert Hall, California
Designed by the infamous Frank Gehry and completed fairly recently (2003), this active concert hall is an incredible display of modern architecture. Designed with a distinctly metallic image, the building appears to be simultaneously fixed solid and rolling in motion. In other words, it is fairly spectacular to observe.
Located in Los Angeles, this is an easy stop in any tour of California or visit to L.A. specifically. There’s an incredible amount to see and do in this area, so this is one of the more accessible buildings on this list.
5. World Trade Center, New York
This may sound like a more conventional pick, and it’s certainly the most famous building (or group of buildings) on this list. However, there’s also an argument to be made that the rebuilt World Trade Center in New York City is, somehow, flying under the radar. More than a decade after the tragic attack on the original “twin towers,” the buildings, and specifically One World Trade Center, that have risen in their place are simply stunning.
Manhattan, for all the attention that the Statue of Liberty and Empire State Building receive, is teeming with architectural triumphs. That makes is another very significant destination for any traveller looking for unique and intriguing buildings. The U.S. is large enough to feature strange, interesting buildings and fantastic landmarks all over the country. But if you’re looking for a few particularly amazing destinations you haven’t seen before in thousands of images, these five are a great start!
This is a guest post by Edward Tucker. Casting aside the corporate world, he took his passion for travel and became a freelance writer. Different city every week: catch him if you can!