Buildings That Show the Beauty of Deconstructed Architecture

It’s true that those who’ve designed our boldest buildings appear more like alchemists than they do architects. Consider your own city, or a place visited last year, and how one building defined the feel of the space more than any other. In Bilbao, Spain, for example, Frank Gehry’s Guggenheim Museum Bilbao steals the show, dwarfing all others in sight. By definition, this building, like any other, is a static object. But try explaining this to anyone who approaches the museum. On sunny days, light dances across the building’s powerful forms, while clouds, too, are absorbed into the titanium, emitting the mood of overcast days. Much of that dazzling effect is due to deconstructionism, a movement in which Gehry’s Guggenheim is a major player. What that building does so well is leap past the idea that architecture should be contained by notions of harmony or symmetry. It breaks down the archaic rules in favor of something more exciting, making titanium appear as ethereal as satin bent in the wind.

What makes deconstructionism so fascinating is that, at its core, architecture is a conservative practice. Buildings stand the test of time as a result of their stability and order. A square is a square because all of its sides are equal, ensuring stability in the greater design. But what if that square were to be distorted? Does it compromise the integrity of the structure? In fact, quite the opposite: By challenging the viewer’s perception of unity and stability, the architect can show that flaws are not only intrinsic in design but powerful and beautiful too. The most talented architects do this by placing forms in conflict with one another, competing as the building evolves into a stunning design—not unlike the powers of nature itself.

While there are many architects who have designed marvelous deconstructed structures, the seminal figures include Peter Eisenman, Bernard Tschumi, Frank Gehry, Zaha Hadid, Rem Koolhaas, and Daniel Libeskind, among others. Below, AD surveys 12 stunning buildings that have all radically changed the built environment.