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The structure of art

We put together a list of some of the most impressive museum designs around the world, from Winnipeg to Cape Town.


Photo by Iwan Baan

The architectural designs of museums are often created with a high degree of artistic consideration – much like the priceless collections they house. Among the most impressive contemporary structures in the world, museums tend to offer a striking, complex and often abstract addition to the architectural climate of their respective cities. In 2004, world-renowned Canadian architect Frank Gehry added the AGO to the list of museum buildings with contemporary flair when he designed a series of new additions, including the Dundas Street façade, Gallery Italia and our iconic spiral staircase. Below, we’ve compiled a list of some world’s most notable museum building designs. 


Quamajuq Inuit Art Centre – Winnipeg, Canada  


Photo by Lindsay Reid 

The Winnipeg Art Gallery’s new Inuit Art Centre, Quamajuq, celebrated its grand opening in March of this year. The 40,000 square foot space houses the largest collection of contemporary Inuit art in the world – 14,000 works. Designed by architect Michael Maltzan and Winnipeg-based Cibinel Architecture, Quamjuq is an extension of the Winnipeg Art Gallery, and is known for its grand four-storey glass vault which encases hundreds of sculptures, carvings, paintings and more. 


Museo Soumaya – Mexico City, Mexico  

Somaya museum

Frédéric Soltan/Corbis via Getty Images.

Covered in 16, 000 hexagonal aluminum tiles, Mexico City’s Museo Soumaya is a towering six-storey art museum holding an extensive collection of works from over 30 centuries. Designed by Mexican architect Fernando Romero, the building’s unique concave curvature allows for six distinctly shaped levels which visitors access via a continuous ramp around the perimeter of the building. 


Ordos Museum – Ordos City, China

Ordos Museum

Photo by View Pictures/UIG via Getty Images.

Dedicated to the history and cultural traditions of Inner Mongolia, China’s Ordos Museum is a 440,000 square foot bulbous pod made in the reflection of the Gobi Desert landscape. Designed by Chinese firm MAD Architects, the structure’s exterior was crafted with horizontal panels of polished brown aluminum, starkly contrasting its interior of vast, white cavernous spaces spanning five floors. 


Kunsthaus Graz – Graz, Austria 

kunsthaus graz

Photo by Universalmuseum Joanneum/N. Lackner.

Often called a baby Hippo, sea slug, or porcupine, the Kunsthraus Graz (Graz Art Museum) is a unique, world-renowned architectural landmark in Austria. The 188,000 square foot structure was co-designed by architects Colin Fournier and Peter Cook in 2003. It houses no collection but is dedicated solely to presenting and procuring exclusive contemporary art presentations and exhibitions. In the evening, the structure’s east façade illuminates with 930 fluorescent lamps built into its exterior.   


Zeitz MOCAA – Cape Town, South Africa (Image at top)

Previously a massive grain silo in Cape Town, South Africa, Zeitz MOCAA is the first ever international museum completely dedicated to contemporary African art. Engineered with precision by Heatherwick Studios, the structure was carefully integrated into the grain silo’s 42 towering concrete cylinders. Its 102,000 square foot interior spans nine floors, and features a grand atrium surrounded by the building’s original silo cylinders cut into captivating, rounded formations. 

Stay tuned to the AGO Insider for future explorations into the vast world of art, architecture and design.  

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