High-rise and low rise, ancient and modern, the talent of master architects transcends the millennia. Here's a suggested itinerary for artful architecture.
Imaginations run wild with the whimsical designs of Antoni Gaudi's Catalan Modernisme style. Don't miss La Sagrada Familia church, his masterpiece. Though the building is unfinished, its honeycomb-like spires and 230-foot vaulted ceilings leave onlookers in awe. His Casa Mila apartments are equally dazzling, with a self-supporting undulating stone facade and twisted wrought iron decor. You'll see no straight lines inside Casa Batllo, Gaudi's home. Its unique design has inspired the nickname "house of bones."
Unbridled creativity makes for exciting discoveries. Palacio Barolo, a 1919 neo-Gothic skyscraper, features 22 floors symbolizing Dante's "Divine Comedy." The upper floors are "heaven," with spectacular city views, and the ground levels are "hell," inlaid with flame-like designs. In contrast, the contemporary Puente de la Mujer bridge is an avant-garde representation of tango dancers. Just when you think you've seen it all — you spy the glitter of the millions of glazed tiles that give the 1894 Palacio de las Aguas Corrientes a fairytale look.
The architectural future is now in Dubai, United Arab Emirates. The healthy economy of the region has given rise to some of the world's loftiest contemporary skyscrapers. Burj Khalifa is the planet's tallest freestanding structure, shooting 160 floors up into the blue sky, with a tapered candle-like shape. Well-heeled visitors enjoy the perks of Burj Al Arab, an ultra-luxurious hotel designed to resemble a white sail. Don't miss a high-rise view of The World — an archipelago of 300 manufactured islands designed to look like a map of the earth.
Classics never go out of style. A perfect example is the Acropolis of Athens. Designed in 432 BC to honor the Greek goddess Athena, the Parthenon remains an architectural icon. So too is the Erechtheum and its Porch of the Maidens, using six female figures as supporting columns. The symmetry of the Temple of Athena Nike, the earliest fully Ionic temple, is as pleasing now as it was in 427 BC.
As the birthplace of the Renaissance — this city has the finest examples of its architecture. The Duomo is the crème de la crème. Designed by Filippo Brunelleschi, the father of Renaissance architecture, it's easy to see the magnificent embellished symmetry and geometrical structures, columns and domes that define the style. The Basilica of Santa Maria Novella is another standout, as is the Palazzo Rucellai, the Palazzo Medici and the Brunelleschi-designed Pitti Palace. While Brunelleschi's Basilica Santo Spirito looks bleak on the outside, its lavish column- and art-filled interior is a must-see.
-Barbara Beckley, Brand Publishing Writer
For more great summer travel options, go to latimes.com/summertravelseries.