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1 Burj Khalifa

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A towering symbol of economic diversification in the Middle East, the world’s tallest building looms 828 meters (2,717 feet) above Dubai. And the US$1.5 billion project’s ingenious buttressed core system stabilizes the building even when high-speed winds whip the top.

2 Sydney Opera House

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One of the most distinctive buildings of the 20th century, the Opera House elevated Australia’s global image and ushered in the concept of landmark architecture. Sure, it was delivered behind schedule and massively overbudget, but it’s now the country’s top tourist destination and the planet’s youngest UNESCO World Heritage Site.

3 Guggenheim Bilbao

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This Frank Gehry-designed architectural marvel—which pulls in millions of tourists every year—sparked a remarkable turnaround for the city of Bilbao, Spain. The impact was so acute that it spawned its own economic concept, “the Bilbao effect”: when cultural investment plus high-profile architecture combine to lift a city’s economy.

4 Centre Pompidou

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Since its debut in 1977, this pioneering structure in Paris, France has attracted hundreds of millions of visitors. Designed as an “evolving spatial diagram,” the now-iconic, inside-out look means each floor is completely uninterrupted by load-bearing structures, ensuring maximum flexibility.

5 Petronas Twin Towers

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Linked by the famous skybridge, these twin skyscrapers didn’t just redefine Kuala Lumpur’s skyline, they become an instantly recognizable symbol of modern Malaysia’s role in global business. IBM, Microsoft, Reuters, Al-Jazeera and Bloomberg are just a few of the megabrands that call the towers home.

6 Zeitz Museum of Contemporary Art Africa

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Africa’s first contemporary art museum has already raked in some big awards. No wonder. As conceived by Heatherwick Studio, the design takes advantage of innovative concrete-cutting techniques while maintaining the spirit of the historic grain silo once housed here.

7 Shanghai

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For all of Shanghai Tower’s superlatives—China’s tallest building, second-tallest building in the world—what truly sets apart the mixed-use building is its brilliant sustainable features. Look no further than the penthouse wind turbines or the structure’s curved form that redirects wind forces.

8 Apple Park

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Apple’s circular, spaceship-like headquarters ranks as one of the most expensive buildings in the world. The US$4 billion price tag isn’t a shocker considering what went into the Foster and Partners-designed building. Take those custom windows crafted to be the world’s largest curved sheets of glass. Yet the building is also one of the world’s most eco-friendly, powered by 100 percent renewable energy.

9 The Shard

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The tallest building in the European Union, the Shard took inspiration from the spires of London, England’s many churches. To achieve its sky-high ambitions, the team relied on pioneering engineering methods, including a top-down construction, in which foundations were dug while the core was built up, a first in the United Kingdom.

10 Niterói Contemporary Art Museum

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Designed by famed Brazilian architect Oscar Niemeyer, this museum’s saucer-shaped design has been a structural icon for the city of Niterói, Brazil and for the country since it opened in 1996. It continues to draw millions of visitors, many who come to gawk at the eye-popping exterior.