Hemisferic, City of Arts and Sciences, Valencia

12 incredible examples of avant-garde architecture


Pausing to think of a typical Spanish architectural monument may conjure up images of large cathedrals or impressive castles. However, the avant-garde in Spain is also highly significant. In fact, certain modern buildings have managed to completely revolutionise the image of cities and become distinguishing features of the cities themselves. Photography buffs will fall in love with the 12 examples of architecture that we list below. Shapes and materials that appear impossible, and famous architects such as Santiago Calatrava, Oscar Niemeyer and Norman Foster present the most modern image of Spain.

  • City of Arts and Sciences, Valencia

    City of Arts and Sciences in Valencia

    This work by architect Santiago Calatrava is simply unmissable in Valencia. The surprising constructions house the largest aquarium in Europe, a science museum and a 3D cinema, among other things. It is an example of futurist architecture by an architect with additional work in Spain, such as the Auditorio de Tenerife and the Oviedo Conference Centre.

  • Guggenheim, Bilbao

    Guggenheim Museum Bilbao

    The building’s 33,000 titanium sheets and its curved line shapes seem to defy logic and surprise visitors who get close to the Nervión riverbank. Architect Frank Gehry made the Guggenheim the most recognisable icon in the city of Bilbao and one of the most beautiful museums in the world.

  • Metropol Parasol, Seville

    Metropol Parasol in Seville

    Due to its strange shapes it is also known locally as the “Mushrooms of Seville”. The traditional Plaza de la Encarnación is home to the largest wooden structure in the world, designed by Jürgen Mayer. It is a wide space where you can find an archaeology museum, restaurants and a nearly 30-metre-high viewing point. Great views guaranteed.

  • Cuatro Torres, Madrid

    Cuatro Torres Business Area in Madrid

    It’s impossible to picture the Madrid skyline without these four imposing towers: Torre Foster, Torre PwC, Torre de Cristal (the tallest building in Spain), and Torre Emperador Castellana (formerly known as Torre Espacio), all over 200 metres tall. The whole complex draws the eye inexorably upwards. Next to them also rises a fifth 181-metre skyscraper, the Caleido building, inaugurated in 2021.

  • MUSAC, León

    MUSAC in León

    A colourful mosaic welcomes visitors to the Castilla y León Museum of Contemporary Art (MUSAC), which was constructed with concrete walls and 3,351 glass panels. It was conceived by Spanish architects Tuñon and Mansilla. It is a type of “contemporary cathedral” which is defined as an open space for reflection.

  • City of Culture, Santiago

    City of Culture of Galicia

    This project radically changed the summit of Mount Gaiás in Santiago de Compostela. The architect Peter Eisenmann brought to life a series of unique buildings that were inspired by the pilgrimage routes to the medieval city. Visitors can walk around the outside, sign up to a guided tour and attend one of the exhibitions or concerts that are organised.

  • Views of Barcelona with the Torre Glòries (formerly Torre Agbar)

    Torre Glòries, Barcelona

    Formerly known as Torre Agbar, this 144-metre-high glass cylinder became part of the city in 2003. As a fun fact, you might like to know that its architect, Jean Nouvel, wanted to emulate the design of the famous Sagrada Familia and the nearby mountain of Montserrat. It is impossible to miss as it is specially lit up at night.

  • Pompidou Centre, Malaga

    Pompidou Centre in Malaga

    It's easy to see the cultural revolution that Malaga has undergone by simply walking around its streets and noting the new museums. These include the Pompidou Centre, whose famous colourful Cube by Daniel Buren catches everyone's attention. Inside you will find select works of art from the 20th and 21st centuries.

  • Bridge Pavilion, Zaragoza

    The Bridge Pavilion and the Water Tower in Zaragoza

    A bridge in the shape of a gladiola and an original, 76-metre-high tower are the two most spectacular examples remaining from the Expo 2008 in a city that was transformed forever. An area that is also home to the Aquarium River of Zaragoza and the Luis Buñuel Water Park.

  • Niemeyer Centre, Avilés

    The Niemeyer Centre in Avilés

    This is the only work in Spain by Brazilian architect Oscar Niemeyer. In contrast to the old town of Avilés, it is modernity personified. The large white buildings and curved shapes draw the gaze and house an auditorium, a viewing tower and a spectacular dome.

  • Museum of Human Evolution, Burgos

    Museum of Human Evolution in Burgos

    Paradoxically, the city of Burgos has chosen to show visitors the origins of man in a modern building. Architect and painter Juan Navarro Baldeweg conceived of the building as a reproduction of the Atapuerca Mountains (one of the most important Prehistoric archaeological sites in the world) in the city. It is a large box of light that also serves as a viewing point of the historic centre.  

  • Centro Botín, Santander

    Centro Botín in Santander

    This is the “youngest” of the buildings on the list. It is an art centre designed by Renzo Piano right in the heart of the Bay of Santander. A spectacular location for a building, covered in 270,000 ceramic pieces. It appears to be suspended over the sea as if it were a pier. It plays host to various exhibitions and cultural events.

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