23 Examples of Impressive Museum Architecture





Designing a museum is always an exciting architectural challenge. Museums often come with their own unique needs and constraints–from the art museum that needs specialist spaces for preserving works, to the huge collection that requires extensive archive space, and even the respected institution whose existing heritage building presents a challenge for any new extension. In honor of International Museum Day, we’ve selected 23 stand-out museums from our database, with each ArchDaily editor explaining what makes these buildings some of the best examples of museum architecture out there.

Site Museum of Paracas Culture / Barclay & Crousse


Site Museum of Paracas Culture / Barclay & Crousse. Image Courtesy of Barclay & Crousse

Site Museum of Paracas Culture / Barclay & Crousse. Image Courtesy of Barclay & Crousse

Why we’re impressed: I think it fits right into an incredible landscape, updating vernacular operations and merging them with smart contemporary design decisions. In addition, the design incorporates a ‘passive device’ that improves the efficiency and comfort of the building through a single element, avoiding the use of a large number of complex systems.
– José Tomás Franco, Materials Editor

See more photographs, drawings and a project description here.

China Academy of Arts’ Folk Art Museum / Kengo Kuma & Associates


China Academy of Arts’ Folk Art Museum / Kengo Kuma & Associates. Image © Eiichi Kano

China Academy of Arts’ Folk Art Museum / Kengo Kuma & Associates. Image © Eiichi Kano

Why we’re impressed: This museum combines traditional techniques with recycled materials to create a subtle yet powerful structure. Kengo Kuma’s work stands out because of its careful treatment of the landscape, working with materiality and structure as the main design pillars. The project celebrates a duality in the Chinese culture of today: modern construction techniques versus tradition and handcraft.
– Fernanda Castro, Projects Editor

See more photographs, drawings and a project description here.

Kunstmuseum Basel / Christ & Gantenbein


Kunstmuseum Basel / Christ & Gantenbein. Image © Derek Li Wan Po, Basel

Kunstmuseum Basel / Christ & Gantenbein. Image © Derek Li Wan Po, Basel

Why we’re impressed: A standout museum thanks to its eye-catching, high-tech frieze, the Kunstmuseum Basel is a monochromatic masterpiece – an exceptional exercise in the combination of similarly-hued materials to create depth, shadow and texture. 
– Becky Quintal, Head of Content

See more photographs, drawings and a project description here.

Miho Museum / I.M. Pei

Why we’re impressed: For me, the Miho Museum by I.M. Pei is his masterpiece. Through its insertion on the site and the “architectural promenade” along it, the museum generates a series of unique experiences and moments, a synthesis of what architecture should be.
– David Basulto, Founder & Editor-in-Chief

See more photographs, drawings and a project description here.

Fan Zeng Art Gallery / Original Design Studio


Fan Zeng Art Gallery / Original Design Studio. Image © Yao li-Su Shengliang

Fan Zeng Art Gallery / Original Design Studio. Image © Yao li-Su Shengliang

Why we’re impressed: A building that follows Chinese traditions through the type of spaces rather than the use of materials: Three different courtyards articulate the main spaces creating a sequence of exhibitions between the interior and exterior.
– Diego Hernández, Projects Editor

See more photographs, drawings and a project description here.

Sonorous Museum Copenhagen / CREO ARKITEKTER + ADEPT


Sonorous Museum Copenhagen / CREO ARKITEKTER + ADEPT. Image © Laura Stamer

Sonorous Museum Copenhagen / CREO ARKITEKTER + ADEPT. Image © Laura Stamer

Why we’re impressed: Museums need to adapt to the new generation of visitors. What better way to interpret these needs than by designing designated interactive classrooms that provide a hands-on experience of classical musical instruments and their sound spectra, all within the comfort of the carefully chosen colors and patterns of the acoustic walls?
– Amanda Pimenta, Social Media Editor

See more photographs, drawings and a project description here.

Allmannajuvet Zinc Mine Museum / Peter Zumthor


Allmannajuvet Zinc Mine Museum / Peter Zumthor. Image © Per Berntsen

Allmannajuvet Zinc Mine Museum / Peter Zumthor. Image © Per Berntsen

Why we’re impressed: An interesting museum is understood in the experience of the route and in the interaction between the visitor and the exhibition of cultural value. In the Allmannajuvet Zinc Mine Museum, these two components are evident: a unique and impressive natural route through a site with high historical value that is not only reflected in an individual object, but in the entire context.
– Fabián Dejtiar, Editor, Plataforma Arquitectura

See more photographs, drawings and a project description here.

El MA: Museo de la Memoria de Andalucía / Alberto Campo Baeza


The MA: Andalucia's Museum of Memory / Alberto Campo Baeza. Image © Javier Callejas

The MA: Andalucia's Museum of Memory / Alberto Campo Baeza. Image © Javier Callejas

Why we’re impressed: A museum that transmits the entire history of Andalusia as a monolithic screen in Granada – El MA creates a spatial tension with the rest of the city, as evidenced in the central courtyard where circular ramps rise and from the crown with an astounding overview of Granada.
– Nicolás Valencia, Editor, Plataforma Arquitectura

See more photographs, drawings and a project description here.

Corning Museum of Glass / Thomas Phifer and Partners


Corning Museum of Glass / Thomas Phifer and Partners. Image Courtesy of Corning Museum of Glass

Corning Museum of Glass / Thomas Phifer and Partners. Image Courtesy of Corning Museum of Glass

Why we’re impressed: As natural light filters in from between the impossibly thin structural concrete beams, the walls and floors seem to dissolve away, leaving the perfect pure backdrop for the museum’s collection of vibrant and surprising contemporary glass artworks.
– Patrick Lynch, News Editor

See more photographs, drawings and a project description here.

AD Classics: São Paulo Museum of Art (MASP) / Lina Bo Bardi


São Paulo Museum of Art (MASP) / Lina Bo Bardi. Image © Pedro Kok

São Paulo Museum of Art (MASP) / Lina Bo Bardi. Image © Pedro Kok

Why we’re impressed: The most iconic musem in Brazil. A masterpiece from Lina Bo Bardi located on a very complex site in terms of urban density, flow and topography.
– Romullo Baratto Fontenelle, Editor, ArchDaily Brasil

See more photographs, drawings and a project description here.

Museo Jumex / David Chipperfield Architects


Museo Jumex / David Chipperfield. Image © Simon Menges

Museo Jumex / David Chipperfield. Image © Simon Menges

Why we’re impressed: Though not a particularly large museum, Museo Jumex offers three unique gallery spaces that allow for the program to include a range of exhibition types. The building’s design is timeless and subtle enough not to compete with the contemporary art it harbors, yet with a definite character that allows it to stand out among the hypermodern buildings of Plaza Carso. 
– Karina Zatarain, Editor, ArchDaily México

See more photographs, drawings and a project description here.

Xi’an Westin Museum Hotel / Neri & Hu Design and Research Office


Xi'an Westin Museum Hotel / Neri & Hu Design and Research Office. Image © Pegenaute

Xi'an Westin Museum Hotel / Neri & Hu Design and Research Office. Image © Pegenaute

Why we’re impressed: In this museum, the apparent heaviness of the architectural volumes is juxtaposed against light elements to create sublime and unique spaces to express art. The innovative mixed program contrasts with the material intentions, which adopt the profile of vernacular Chinese architecture.
– María Francisca González, Projects Editor

See more photographs, drawings and a project description here.

Museum of Modern Literature / David Chipperfield Architects


Museum of Modern Literature / David Chipperfield Architects. Image © Ute Zscharnt

Museum of Modern Literature / David Chipperfield Architects. Image © Ute Zscharnt

Why we’re impressed: Completed in 2006, the Museum of Modern Literature is a textbook example of David Chipperfield’s work that shows why he is such a revered figure. The resolution of Chipperfield’s light minimalism and the clear classical inspirations complement the adjacent Schiller National Museum perfectly.
– Rory Stott, Managing Editor

See more photographs, drawings and a project description here.

Fondation Louis Vuitton / Gehry Partners


Fondation Louis Vuitton / Gehry Partners. Image © Iwan Baan

Fondation Louis Vuitton / Gehry Partners. Image © Iwan Baan

Why we’re impressed: Gehry’s structures (with the help of his computer software) provide just the right fit for exhibition spaces – a great combination of material, form and light. Referencing the tradition of 19th-century glass garden buildings, Gehry selected glass as the main material for the envelope, creating a perfect dialogue with the Jardin.
– Diego Hernández, Projects Editor

See more photographs, drawings and a project description here.

Nadir Afonso Contemporary Art Museum / Álvaro Siza Vieira


Nadir Afonso Contemporary Art Museum / Álvaro Siza Vieira. Image © Fernando Guerra | FG+SG

Nadir Afonso Contemporary Art Museum / Álvaro Siza Vieira. Image © Fernando Guerra | FG+SG

Why we’re impressed: Eduardo Souto de Moura thinks it’s one of the best buildings designed by Siza. When compared to other common museums, this project has two distinctions: it’s elevated to combat the regular flooding that occurs due to its proximity to the Tâmega River, and it makes a strong connection to the surrounding landscape and local history. Once you are inside the interior spaces, you can see the fields and the old, partially demolished stone walls that provide a reminder of the former vocation of the area.
– Victor Delaqua, Editor, ArchDaily Brasil

See more photographs, drawings and a project description here.

Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture / Adjaye Associates


Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture / Adjaye Associates. Image © Darren Bradley

Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture / Adjaye Associates. Image © Darren Bradley

Why we’re impressed: Given its location on Washington DC’s national mall, it’s not hard to argue that the NMAAHC is, culturally-speaking at least, among the most important US buildings of the 20th Century. The design by Freelon Adjaye Bond / SmithGroup JJR rises to this challenge, working within the limitations set by the surrounding context while also using the building’s content as inspiration for a truly unique and refreshing design.
– Rory Stott, Managing Editor

See more photographs, drawings and a project description here.

Arts Centre – Casa Das Mudas / Paulo David


Arts Centre - Casa Das Mudas / Paulo David. Image © Fernando Guerra | FG+SG

Arts Centre – Casa Das Mudas / Paulo David. Image © Fernando Guerra | FG+SG

Why we’re impressed: Both volume and materials seem to suggest that the building integrates and privileges nature. Its careful implantation at the top of the hill on the sea gives the building an unimposing quality, functioning instead as topography itself. The architects seem to have learned from Siza how to dramatically open up views, creating spectacular landscape framings.
– Eduardo Souza, Editor, ArchDaily Brasil

See more photographs, drawings and a project description here.

Museu dos Coches / Paulo Mendes da Rocha + MMBB Arquitetos + Bak Gordon Arquitectos


Museu dos Coches / Paulo Mendes da Rocha + MMBB Arquitetos + Bak Gordon Arquitectos. Image © Fernando Guerra | FG+SG

Museu dos Coches / Paulo Mendes da Rocha + MMBB Arquitetos + Bak Gordon Arquitectos. Image © Fernando Guerra | FG+SG

Why we’re impressed: An interesting result from the collaboration between Paulo Mendes da Rocha, Ricardo Bak Gordon and MMBB. The raw, austere structure creates a clear background for the museum subject: old wagons. In terms of volume and mass, the museum consists of a main pavilion and a second structure which hosts the entrance, restaurant and auditorium, all connected by an elevated walkway that creates a portico over the public plaza.
– Romullo Baratto Fontenelle, Editor, ArchDaily Brasil

See more photographs, drawings and a project description here.

MAAT / AL_A


MAAT / AL_A. Image © Hufton + Crow

MAAT / AL_A. Image © Hufton + Crow

Why we’re impressed: MAAT was designed by the English architect Amanda Levete with the organic and futuristic lines for which the architect is recognized. Located at the edge of the Tejo River, the project snakes along the site organically like a creature with ceramic scales, alluding to Portuguese tradition and simultaneously breaking from the usual formal paradigms of the Portuguese school. An abundance of technologies applied in its construction allow for versatility and innovative compositions of the exhibition areas. The project adapts to the environment in a delicate and subtle way, reconnecting the river with the city.
– Joanna Helm, Head of Content, ArchDaily Brasil

See more photographs, drawings and a project description here.

The Whitney Museum of American Art at Gansevoort / Renzo Piano Building Workshop


The Whitney Museum of American Art at Gansevoort / Renzo Piano Building Workshop. Image © Nic Lehoux

The Whitney Museum of American Art at Gansevoort / Renzo Piano Building Workshop. Image © Nic Lehoux

Why we’re impressed: Despite the fact that most architects tend to prefer the original Whitney Museum by Marcel Breuer, the new Whitney is an amazing building for exhibitions – its flexibility providing visitors with a different experience each time they step foot in the museum. Additionally, the outdoor circulation between terraces offers expansive views of the city and contributes to a museum path that is not confined to the building itself, but to New York as a whole.
– Diego Hernández, Projects Editor

See more photographs, drawings and a project description here.

The Broad Museum / Diller Scofidio + Renfro


The Broad Museum / Diller Scofidio + Renfro. Image © Iwan Baan

The Broad Museum / Diller Scofidio + Renfro. Image © Iwan Baan

Why we’re impressed: Diller Scofidio + Renfro’s design for the Broad was driven by two key concepts: first, the much-publicized idea of “the veil and the vault” which controlled the project’s organizational layout and structure; second, the idea of the visitor experience, which culminated in the building’s main route up an escalator to the exhibition floor and then back down a set of stairs where the public gets a glimpse of the museum’s archive. This focus on a simple logic and on visitor experience has made The Broad one of LA’s most popular museums.
– Rory Stott, Managing Editor

See more photographs, drawings and a project description here.

Tippet Rise Art Center


Structures of Landscape / ENSAMBLE STUDIO. Image Courtesy of ENSAMBLE STUDIO

Structures of Landscape / ENSAMBLE STUDIO. Image Courtesy of ENSAMBLE STUDIO

Why we’re impressed: I think a museum is defined by how it highlights the art exhibited. Whether using a built construction or simply positioning landmarks in an open field, it’s all about the experience of ‘living’ the art. The experimental Tippet Rise Art Center may not keep its work under a roof, but works such as Structures of Landscape designed by ENSAMBLE STUDIO are all the more powerful for it; their work is simple poetry, turning elements of the land itself into landscape art.
– Danae Santbáñez, Projects Editor

See more photographs here.

Harvard Art Museums Renovation and Expansion / Renzo Piano + Payette


Harvard Art Museums Renovation and Expansion / Renzo Piano + Payette. Image © Nic Lehoux

Harvard Art Museums Renovation and Expansion / Renzo Piano + Payette. Image © Nic Lehoux

Why we’re impressed:  The renovation of the listed Fogg Museum – a neighbor of Le Corbusier’s revered Carpenter Center –had all the ingredients required for a potential controversy. But Renzo Piano and Payette’s clever project capitalized on the existing building’s best traits, reimagining the central courtyard as a civic-minded, light-filled atrium, while the extension itself was sensitive enough to both the Fogg Museum and its neighbor that few took issue with the changes.
– Rory Stott, Managing Editor

See more photographs, drawings and a project description here.

See more than 450 museums at http://www.archdaily.com/search/projects/categories/museum

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