15 Museums Famous For Their Unconventional Architecture

When designing museums, architects often explore their artistic side and come up with all sorts of unique, outside the box and extraordinary designs. Its a way of turning the museum itself into an art piece. As a result, the world is full of amazing museums with dramatic architecture. We’ll reveal some of the most interesting ones today.

The Denver Art Museum by Studio Libeskind

Denver Art Museum
Denver Art Museum from Daniel Libeskind
Architecture Denver Art Museum by Daniel Libeskind

In 2006 the Denver Art Museum got a new extension. This addition was a project by Daniel Libeskind. The team worked closely with the curators, exhibition team, director and a lot of other people to create a design that would allow the extension to naturally connect with the existing museum while also standing out from the rest of the buildings. The extension was constructed using an array of materials that include a few innovative elements such as titanium. The goal was not to simply create an interesting shell for an ordinary experience but to actually capture the essence of the museum, both inside and out.

The Royal Ontario Museum by Studio Libeskind

Royal Ontario Museum by Daniel Libeskind View
Denver Art Museum
Royal Ontario Museum by Daniel Libeskind

Studio Libeskind also designed the extension for the Royal Ontario Museum which is now names the Michael Lee-Chin Crystal. This is the largest museum in Canada and its new name is inspired by the shape created by the building’s five volumes which intersect to form a crystal-like structure. The new extension opened in June 2007 and uses sharp angles and geometric forms to stand out in a striking way. It contains a separate entrance, retail shop, three restaurants and 100,000 square feet of exhibition space.

The Louvre pyramid by I. M. Pei

Paris Louvre pyramid
Paris Louvre pyramid Closer

By now, the pyramid in front of the Louvre museum in France has become a landmark, known by everyone in the world. But let’s take a step back and analyze the context in which the pyramid was designed. It all started in 1981 when a campaign started in France, focusing on the renovation of cultural institutions throughout France. In 1983, architect I. M. Pei was commissioned to work on the Louvre museum and came up with the idea of creating a new grand entrance that would serve as a central lobby space, separate from the gallery in order to deal with the congestion caused by the large numbers of visitors. A new underground system of galleries was created as well as a series of three glass and steel pyramids. The central one is the largest and serves as a symbolic entry.

The Vancouver Art Gallery by Herzog & de Meuron

Vancouver Art Gallery
Vancouver Art Gallery Street

The new building of the Vancouver Art Gallery is a structure designed by Herzog & de Meuron with a total surface of 28,800 square meters. Its design resembles a series of stacked wooden boxes. The building’s upper levels are defined by carefully-placed windows framing city views and a large roof terrace which will serve as a sculpture gallery. The design requires the building to be clad in wood in order to better connect with the local surroundings.

The Messner Mountain Museum by Zaha Hadid

Messner Mountain Museum by Zaha Hadid
Messner Mountain Museum by Zaha Hadid View
Messner Mountain Museum by Zaha Hadid Front
Messner Mountain Museum by Zaha Hadid Angle

This building is the last in a series of six Alpine museums built by Reinhold Messner, a renowned climber. It features three large volumes that seem to pierce the mountain’s rocky top and which are built using glass-reinforced fiber concrete. The exhibition space is a series of underground libraries. There’s also a viewing platform that cantilevers over a valley, offering stunning views of the mountain range. The museum was a project by Zaha Hadid.

The Hanoi Museum by gmp Architekten

Hanoi Museum from gmp Architekten
Hanoi Museum from gmp Architekten night

The Hanoi Museum is located in Vietnam and is part of a complex park where artifacts from the city’s history and the culture and heritage of Vietnam are displayed. The building was conceived as an inverted pyramid and its topmost floor is the largest. In order to protect the building against wind and earthquakes, four symmetrically arranged cores were added at the corners of the ground floor. This is where the stairways and elevators are located. This unconventional design was created by gmp Architekten.

The Guggenheim Museum by Frank Gehry

The Guggenheim Museum Bilbao
The Guggenheim Museum Bilbao Large
The Guggenheim Museum Bilbao Architecture

This museum is a classic just like the Louvre. It’s located on the edge of the Nervion River in Bilbao, Spain and was designed by Frank Gehry. Completed in 1997, the museum is a fusion of complex and unusual forms and materials. The architecture of the museum is abstract, the building resembling a flower from above and a boat from the side. It was designed to catch the sunlight and to offer protection from the weather.

The Quadracci Pavilion by Santiago Calatrava

Quadracci Pavilion by Santiago Calatrava View
Quadracci Pavilion by Santiago Calatrava

The pavilion is an addition to the Milwaukee Art Museum and is located on the shores of lake Michigan. It was designed by Calatrava in 1994 and was completed in 2001. the inspiration for its design came from the location: the nearby lake, the sailboats and the birds. The building is constructed of white steel and concrete and is reminiscent of a large abstract ship, its most notable feature being the huge sun screen resembling a set of wings. The screen is made of steel and opens and closes twice a day.

The Quijing History Museum by Atelier Alter and Hordor Design Group

Quijing History Museum by Atelier Alter
Quijing History Museum by Atelier Alter Angle
Quijing History Museum by Atelier Alter View

The design of the Quijing History Museum features strong geometric lines and forms. The museum was a project by Atelier Alter in collaboration with Hordor Design Group. Its roof resembles an upside-down staircase. The museum houses an expansive collection of historical artifacts and the architects used this as inspiration for their design, trying to link the building itself to the objects displayed inside it. The form of the roof is mirrored by the landscape beneath it.

The Soumaya Museum by FR-EE

Museo Soumaya Mexico
Museo Soumaya Mexico Closer
Museo Soumaya Mexico View

Located in the Federal District of Mexico, the Soumaya Museum is a 150 ft tall structure with a distinct and abstract shape, designed by FR-EE. The building’s strong presence is emphasized by the 16 000 hexagonal tiles of mirrored steel which cover its exterior skin. In order to obtain the sculptural shape, the architects used 28 curved steel columns of various dimensions and shapes which have been integrated into the building’s shell.

The new entrance of the Van Gogh Museum by Hans van Heeswijk Architects

entrance of the Van Gogh Museum Amsterdam
entrance of the Van Gogh Museum
entrance of the Van Gogh Museum Corner

The Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam has a new entrance. This was completed in 2015 by Hans van Heeswijk Architects and responds to the need to link the museum’s two wings in order to form a cohesive whole. The new entrance hall is built of glass and is better organized in order to deal with all the visitors and to offer them a warm welcome. This is currently Netherlands’ largest glass structure.

The Broad Museum by Diller Scofidio + Renfro

The Broad Museum Architecture Closer
The Broad Museum Architecture

This is a contemporary art museum located in downtown Los Angeles and completed in 2015. It was a project by Diller Scofidio + Renfro for philanthropists Eli and Edythe Broad. The building offers two floors of gallery space and will offer its visitors electric car charging stations, bike parking spaces and a series of other features designed to make the building sustainable and eco-friendly.

The MAS Museum by Neutelings Riedijk

MAS Museum in Antwerp
MAS Museum in Antwerp Facade
MAS Museum in Antwerp Glass

Opened in May 2011, the MAS Museum takes the form of a sandstone and glass tower designed by Dutch architects Neutelings Riedijk. MAS stands for Museum aan de Stroom which translates as “museum on the river”. The tower features a checkered rusty red skin and the idea behind the design is to highlight the city’s history. The heavy stone panels are balanced out by the corrugated glass facade and the two elements complement each other beautifully.

The 1911 Revolution Museum by CADI

1911 Revolution Museum
1911 Revolution Museum Front
1911 Revolution Museum Back

The 1911 Revolution Museum in located in Hubei, china and was designed by CADI. The concept was to design a themed museum meant as a celebration of the 100th anniversary of the 1911 revolution in Wuchang. The building consists of a lobby and a total of six exhibition halls. The construction started in 2009 and ended in 2011. the museum’s triangular shape is a symbol of progression and inspired a positive attitude.

The Science Hills Komatsu Museum

Science Hills Komatsu Museum

Located on a site previously occupied by a former factory, the Science Hills Komatsu Museum was a project by Mari Ito of studio Urban Architecture Office. The building is defined by elements such as a curving rooftop and a dome-like structure. The idea behind this design was to bring together the landscape and architecture and to create a building that can also serve as a public park. Four wavy structures frame a series of courtyards and rooftop lawns, allowing visitors to admire the exhibitions from a variety of angles.