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52 buildings to see near the New York Times’s Places to Go, part 2

Grandiose palaces, modern buildings, and historic sites

The Climatron (rear) at the Missouri Botanical Gardens in St. Louis, Missouri, one of the New York Times’s Places to Go in 2016.
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After rounding up 26 architectural sights worth considering for your 2016 travel plans last week, Curbed has compiled the second half of our companion piece to The New York Times’s ”52 Place to Go in 2016” feature.

For the final part of our architectural addendum, we scouted out grandiose palaces, modern buildings, and historic sites worth seeing if you end up at one of the year’s buzzed-about travel destinations. From the palace of empires (Spain’s Alcazaba) to the resting places of emperors (Longwood Home on Saint Helena), it’s a diverse trip through styles and continents.

Brno, Czech Republic

Any visitors to the Czech Republic are guaranteed to hear about the beauty of Prague, its fairytale residences, castles, and charming Stare Mesto (Old Town). But for modern architecture fans, the country’s second city, Brno, should be on top of their itinerary.

A wealth of functionalist and modernist buildings from the early 20th century make the Moravian capital a hotbed of minimalism, including Mies van der Rohe’s breakthrough Villa Tugendhat from 1930, a UNESCO listed, newly renovated masterpiece. Pre-planned tours allow the curious to spy lesser-known Modernist and Functionalist beauties, such as Bohuslav Fuchs’s Avion hotel and the Novy Dum homes.

Saint Helena

One of the most remote places on Earth, this British-controlled Atlantic island off the African coast will be getting a new airport, opening up a spot once accessible mostly by mail boat.

But no matter what new tourists make the trek, the island will always be known for one famous visitor: Napoleon Bonaparte, who died here after being exiled in 1815. In addition to exploring the island’s unique landscape, the Longwood Home, where the former emperor spent his final days, is a must-see.

Barcelona, Spain

If you skip over Anton Gaudi’s incredible body of work, during a trip to this Spanish metropolis, you’re doing something wrong. That said, after seeing the architect’s incredible organic architecture, make sure slot in some quality time with Mies’s Barcelona Pavilion.

This marble, steel, and glass marvel helped popularize the open plan and made such an impression that, a century after it was built in 1929, we’ll still be using the iconic chairs specifically designed for the interior. Thankfully rebuilt and restored in the ‘80s, the building’s walls of rich marble and floating roof still seem elegant and contemporary today.

Dalat, Vietnam

Called the City of Eternal Spring, Dalat sits on a plateau in the southeastern region of Vietnam, offering a temperate, pine-scented escape from tropical coastal areas. French colonists imported an almost Alpine architectural style that, when mixed with Art Deco elements from the early 20th century, give this small town a unique appearance.

Highlights include the Cremaillere Rail Station train station, “hill station” villas built for prominent citizens in the intra-war period, and Bao Dai’s summer palace, a faded former home of the last emperor of Vietnam.

Turin, Italy

In a country renowned for its aesthetic and architectural beauty, the former capital and current industrial town may seem like an also-ran when compared with the grandeur of Rome or style of Venice. But don’t count Turin out; the city’s collection of Baroque buildings is second to none.

The Palazzo Madama, the masterpiece of local designer Filippo Juvarra, features a seemingly jumbled exterior that makes way for a perfectly executed interior (the grand staircase off the entrance is magnificent).

Isla Holbox, Mexico

In Mayan, Holbox means “black hole,” and on this idyllic Caribbean island, separated from the mainland by a lagoon, tourists often attain that degree of detachment during their stay. The sights animating beach-happy visitors are the massive whale sharks swimming in the shallow seas nearby, not the buildings on the mainland. But there is plenty to see in this corner of Mexico, from the colonial architecture in Merida and Valladolid to the Mayan city of Calakmul.

One of the more offbeat sights, Casa Del Pastel, looks like an Art Deco wedding cake stacked up on the boardwalk of Progreso Beach. Layered with intricate detailing and built from materials imported from Italy, it’s a feat of architectural fancy located on the northwest part of the Yucatan peninsula.

Providence, Rhode Island

A beach escape for turn-of-the-century Industrialists, Providence boasts many of America’s grandest private residences. But the progressive current of this New England town, home to RISD and Brown, made sure modernism didn’t pass the city by.

In addition to works by Philip Johnson (Center for Computing and the List Art Center) and Paul Rudolph (Beneficent House), the area also boasts the muscular, curved facade of the Community College of Rhode Island’s Knight Campus in nearby Warwick, a 1972 design by Perkins & Will. Occasionally described as a “megastructure,” the oversized oval (shown in the vintage photo above) captures the then-populist drive toward concrete classrooms.

Mosel Wine Country, Germany

Well-aged takes on a whole different meaning in Germany’s most famed wine region, home to historic structures ancient viniculture. One of the signature sights for anybody traveling the trail is the Porta Negra a black Roman gate in the city of Trier composed of centuries-old stone and iron clamps. Built out of sandstone in the second century, it’s so old, the last significant renovation was commissioned by Napoleon Bonaparte.

Pyeongchang, South Korea

Much of the recent news about Pyeongchang, the site of the 2018 Winter Olympics and numerous incredible hotel developments, focused on what’s coming. But the mountainous region offer plenty of sights and activities already, including extensive skiing and Woljeongsa, a Buddhist temple that’s been wrecked and rebuilt numerous times over its long history. The complex contains a 9-story stone pagoda that’s listed as one of the country’s National Treasures.

Tyrol, Austria

With sightlines sweeping across the top of the Alps, it’s no surprise much of the architecture in this part of Austria focuses on singular views. Recently, Snøhetta designed a play tower extension at Swarovski’s Kristallwelten site that lets kids and adults alike jump around amid views of the snow-covered landscape, and a sleek new restaurant accessible by gondola, IceQ, opened a few years ago.

The Bergisel Ski Jump in Innsbruck, a streamlined tower designed by Zaha Hadid that peeks out like a periscope above the pine trees, offers a futuristic interpretation of a traditional part of Alpine architecture.

Colmar, France

A fairytale town in the Alsace region near the German border, Colmar just saw a massive modern update in the form of the reopened Unterlinden, a museum re-designed by the famed firm of Herzog & de Meuron. The institution’s new look offers a contrast to the picturesque town’s historic architecture, including the beloved Maison Pfister, built in the 16th century.

Adorned with frescos and paintings of historic rulers and church figures, the quaint structure, capped with a slender turret, offers a history lesson near the town square.

Kansai, Japan

It’s difficult to overstate the importance of Kansai to Japanese culture, as a majority of the country’s cultural treasures and historic buildings, as well as the former imperial capital of Kyoto, are located in this south-central region. It’s near impossible to narrow things down, but a pair of buildings may provide both historical context and stylistic contrast. Start with the Himeji Castle, a stunning traditional design that miraculously escaped bombing during WWII (book early, since it has been swarmed since reopening after renovations in early 2015).

Then, make your way to the Kyoto International Conference Center, a concrete masterpiece designed by Sachio Otani in 1966. Surrounded by a landscaped garden on the shores of Lake Takaragaike, the remarkable building, winner of a contest to design a new symbol for Kyoto, boasts triangular forms, angular pillars, and a sci-fi take on traditional architecture.

East Bay, California

Oakland and the rest of the East Bay more than holds its own regionally in terms of architectural history and innovation. A prime example is the luminous Cathedral of Christ the Light by Skidmore, Owings & Merrill;a firm known foremost for its commercial skyscrapers created a towering for monument to spirituality.

A very modern take on a traditional form, the church takes the form of a pedestal of wooden slats, steel beams and glass, an artful arrangement of simple materials that results in a light-filled house of worship.

Île-de-Ré, France

A widely appreciated holiday escape for the French, this island off the country’s western coast offers a copasetic combination of cycling paths, beaches, and wine.

Not surprisingly, the idyllic island has been a contested piece of real estate, which explains why Louis XIV dispatched Vauban, a famed military engineer and architect, to devise fortifications. The resulting citadel and raised walls, built during the 17th century, offers plenty of local color along its bike paths.

East Coast, Sri Lanka

Sri Lanka dazzles with its own aesthetics and architecture, from the monumental Ruwanwelisaya stupa (a 338-foot-tall dome built in 140 B.C.) to modern structures such as the Nelum Pokuna Mahinda Rajapaksa Theatre in Colombo, a modernist theater that resembles a blooming steel lotus flower. But perhaps the local architect who has made the biggest imprint on the world is Geoffrey Bawa, known for a design aesthetic dubbed “tropical modernism.”

The Last House, a six-room beach house he designed in Mawella, exemplifies his residential style, but the island is filled with works by the late architect, whose courtyard and roof homes helped redefine tropical urban living.

Rosine, Kentucky

The architecture that most people who haven’t visited associate with Kentucky may be rack houses and race tracks, which is a shame, since the state offers plenty to see.

While it’s an afternoon’s drive away, Louisville offers exemplary buildings, especially the walking courts and historic district that includes the largest collection of Victorian homes in the United States. Filled with homes designed to mirror mansions found in London, parts of neighborhood are still lit by gas lamps.

Malaga, Spain

The ancient Spanish port, one of the world’s oldest cities, has seen countless architectural styles come and go, and a new raft of museums and cultural complexes surely won’t be the last. Along with other Spanish cities near the Mediterranean, Islamic and Moorish influence runs deep.

The Alcazaba, an 11th century palace next to a Roman amphitheater, can be thought of as Alhambra light, a small, though still impressive, display of Moorish flourishes and grand courtyards.

Guizhou, China

A remote province in south-central China that hasn’t witnessed the type of development boom that has transformed other regions, Guizhou still contains pristine examples of ethnic architecture.

Some of the most impressive examples include Wind and Rain Bridges, wooden spans that cross rivers and serve as the entrance to towns. Constructed by the Dong and Miao minorities without the use of nails, the structures, built to represent dragons, are exemplary monuments to traditional craft.

Phnom Penh, Cambodia

After Cambodia declared its independence in 1953, Norodom Sihanouk, who would serve as King, Prime Minister and Head of State over the next 17 years, pushed a radical program of modernization.

The crash course gave architects such as Vann Molyvann a free hand (and extensive resources) to develop a style that came to be known as New Khmer Architecture, a blend of modernist ideals and vernacular traditions and motifs that gave the nascent country its own signature buildings. Examples such as Molyvann’s Institute for Foreign Languages offer an original, airy take on southeast Asian style, going beyond simply Bauhaus-meets-Angkor descriptors.

St. Louis, Missouri

Built in 1960 with the then-contemporary moniker The Climatron, this geodesic domed greenhouse offers a flashback to a time when a city could sink millions into a Buckminster Fuller-inspired construction project. A longtime commercial capital on the Mississippi, St. Louis has its share of historical and modernist gems, including the Wainwright Building, an early Adler & Sullivan skyscraper and an airport terminal designed in part by Harry Bertoia. But there’s something about a year-round rainforest that was once encased in Plexiglass that will always get attention.

Thessaloniki, Greece

A cultural hub and longtime capital of northern Greece, this modern city is interwoven with ancient structure and archeological treasures, such as the White Tower, a Byzantine-era building that may as well be the city’s mascot. In addition to the classical structures that dot the landscape, more modern buildings, such as the Villa Mordoch, symbolize the more pluralistic history of Thessaloniki. Built by a Jewish merchant at the turn of the century, this mansion is celebrated for its diverse facade, and once served as an art gallery.

Marfa, Texas

There’s plenty of artsy sculptures, installations, and conversions to admire in the artistic capital of West Texas. But the El Paisano Hotel, a 1930 original that once served cattle ranchers and health enthusiasts drawn to the dry Texas air, has endured as a community centerpiece for decades.

Designed by the firm of Trost & Trost and named after a nearby mountain pass, it was built for an oil boom that never happened and had an early brush with fame when the film Giant was filmed nearby, making it the lodging of choice for James Dean and Elizabeth Taylor. After decades of decline and a failed condo conversion scheme, it was bought cheap at auction and resurrected.

Ubud, Indonesia

Known as an Indonesian spiritual center, Ubud experienced the Eat, Pray, Love bump, due to a section that takes places in the tropical retreat, and has experienced a marked uptick in tourists. But new crowds haven’t changed the area’s reputation or architecture.

The Ubud Palace, a town centerpiece and site of evening dance performances, is a great introduction to Balinese architecture. But if the itinerary permits it, driving east to the Taman Ujung Water Palace is worth the trip. The sprawling royal residence, with delicate pavilions set above interlocking series of ponds, offers a stunning backdrop.

The Southern Gulf Islands, British Columbia

A chain of islands near Vancouver known for rustic charm, hippie neighbors and unspoiled wilderness, these landings spread across the Pacific still over a relatively undeveloped escape, ringed with rugged coastlines.

The best bet for interesting buildings is Salt Spring Island, the most inhabited of the group. A variety of art galleries line the main streets and the Mahoi House, a historical site dedicated to the Hawaiian settlers on the island, offers information about the area’s unique history.

Sydney, Australia

While it forms an oddly shaped shadow, the Sydney Opera House definitely cast a large one when it comes to modern architecture in Australia. Which speak to how relatively unknown many of the pioneers of the country’s homegrown building styles, including the members of the Sydney School, are outside of their own country.

To appreciate modernism down under, you could do worse than start at the Rose Seidler House. Designed by Harry Seidler for his parents, Rose and Max, it’s a pioneering and head-turning example of International style construction that was a revelation in Australia.

Beaufort, South Carolina

As befits a Low Country charmer such as Beaufort, there are plenty of historic homes in the Carolina coastal city which one can stroll by and admire. The neighborhood of Old Point contains many of the biggest and most expensive, stately Queen Anne and Victorian palaces draped in live oak and Spanish moss.