The 5 Coolest Design Destinations of the World

1. Herzog & de Meuron’s showroom at VitraHaus, in Weil am Rhein, Germany

Furniture manufacturer Vitra’s grassy headquarters at the meeting point of France, Germany, and Switzerland (just outside Basel) has been an architecture destination since its Frank Gehry–designed museum opened in 1989. There are also buildings by Zaha Hadid and Tadao Ando, but the most remarkable sight may be the new showroom and store designed by the Swiss firm Herzog & de Meuron. The architects have taken the archetypal pitched-roof house, elongated it, and stacked 12 of them up like fireplace logs. Inside, you can follow winding staircases through the dreamlike space and look for home furnishings.

This post features top five world’s coolest designed architectures of the world.

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2. Andels Hotel, in Lodz, Poland

A sister property of the ultramodern Andels Hotel in Prague, the Polish version is notable for its setting, an immense red-brick mill built by the 19th-century Jewish entrepreneur Izrael Poznanski. The hotel is just one component of a fantastic cultural and shopping district that somehow escaped destruction during World War II. An electrical plant from 1912 is now a disco. An ornate 1877 weaving mill houses restaurants and shops. And, in a former finishing mill, you’ll now find the Museum of the Factory.

3. Shweeb, in Rotorua, New Zealand

Australian inventor Geoffrey Barnett dreamed up his human-powered monorail while living in Tokyo, when he wished he could pedal above that city’s endless traffic jams. Since 2007, it’s been possible to test-drive Barnett’s fantasy on the world’s first Shweeb, at the Agroventures adventure theme park in Rotorua, New Zealand. Last year, his company, Shweeb Holdings Limited, received $1 million from Google to invest in research on a commuter-powered transit system in a city still to be determined.

4. Vanke Center, in Shenzhen, China

Steven Holl, of Steven Holl Architects, refers to this building as “the horizontal skyscraper.” Situated in Shenzhen, the building is about as long as the Empire State Building is tall (1,250 feet) and is mounted on massive, illuminated stilts, called “cores,” above a network of tropical gardens. Much of the Vanke Center will be used for offices, but a 200-plus-room hotel will open in fall 2011, offering an unusually tranquil retreat in this bustling city.

5. Souk Waqif, in Doha, Qatar

Souk Waqif is the one great public space that remains in Doha, Qatar, a city that is reinventing itself at lightning speed. In the souk, locals congregate to dine, smoke shishas, meander through a maze of alleys, and shop. The 2008 restoration by designer Mohamed Al Abdullah replaced all structures that seemed at odds with tradition, revitalizing the historic spot.

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