7 Museums With Iconic Architecture Everyone Should Recognize

Famous Museum Architecture

For centuries, the museum has remained one of the most important cultural institutions. On top of preserving and presenting art, artifacts, and other objects, many museums are also known for their educational programs, engaging entertainment, and world-class architecture.

While countless beautifully designed museums exist across the globe, we've selected seven state-of-the-art examples whose architecture is among the most famous in the world.

Explore the amazing architecture of these famous museums around the world.


The Louvre

Famous Museum Architecture Famous Museums Louvre Pyramid

The Louvre Pyramid (Photo: TTstudio via Shutterstock)

Paris' Louvre Museum is one of the most famous examples of old-meets-new architecture. Its world-class collection of ancient to 19th-century art is housed in a former French Renaissance-style palace whose wings wrap around two large courtyards. Within one of these courtyards is the Louvre Pyramid, a contemporary glass-and-steel structure.

In 1983, President François Mitterrand commissioned Chinese American architect I.M. Pei to design a new entrance to the museum. Pei, whose prior projects included the National Gallery of Art's East Building and John F. Kennedy Library in Massachusetts, proposed a 71-foot pyramid that would bring guests to a luminous underground lobby. His concept was approved and construction was completed in 1989.

Louvre lobby

The Louvre's lobby

Since then, the Louvre Pyramid has become a universally understood symbol of the popular museum.


The Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum

Famous Museum Architecture Famous Museums Guggenheim

The Guggenheim (Photo: f11photo via Shutterstock)

On top of its jaw-dropping collection of modern and contemporary art, The Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in New York City's Upper East Side is famous for its Frank Lloyd Wright-designed building.

Like other Wright creations, the Guggenheim showcases the architect's interest in organic shapes and forms. Unlike the sharp rectangles of the buildings that surround it, the museum features a round silhouette separated into tiers. This aesthetic is echoed by the building's open-plan atrium, which is framed by a spiraling, shell-inspired ramp and topped with a spider web-like skylight.


Inside the Guggenheim's atrium

Wright was approached with the project in 1943. Fifteen years and 200 sketches later, the museum finally opened to the public—and it has dazzled ever since.


Tate Modern

Famous Museum Architecture Famous Museums Tate Modern

The Tate Modern (Photo: Richie Chan via Shutterstock)

Unlike the Guggenheim and the Louvre Pyramid, London's Tate Modern museum was not built from scratch. In fact, the steel-and-brick building that exhibits this world-class art collection was an electricity generating station until 2000.

The Bankside Power Station was built in the middle of the 20th century on the south bank of the River Thames. After closing in 1981, it risked demolition. However, in 1994, the Tate Gallery announced it would house its artworks, with Herzog & de Meuron architects leading its renovation.

Following its transition, the building retained much of the original architecture, including its iconic central chimney and large turbine hall. However, in 2016, an 11-story Herzog & de Meuron-designed tower called the Blavatnik Building was added to the existing site.

The Blavatnik Building

This new extension offers panoramic views of London while “allowing visitors to engage more deeply with art” by increasing exhibition space.


Next: 3 More Museums with Iconic Architecture

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Kelly Richman-Abdou

Kelly Richman-Abdou is a Contributing Writer at My Modern Met. An art historian living in Paris, Kelly was born and raised in San Francisco and holds a BA in Art History from the University of San Francisco and an MA in Art and Museum Studies from Georgetown University. When she’s not writing, you can find Kelly wandering around Paris, whether she’s leading a tour (as a guide, she has been interviewed by BBC World News America and France 24) or simply taking a stroll with her husband and two tiny daughters.
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