Beautiful Museums+Architecture

Museums like the Guggenheim and the Louvre are ingrained in our culture and are best known for their impressive collections and beautiful architecture. These institutions often make it onto top museum lists, and for good reason. People love them, but I’m here to introduce you to some lesser-known, but equally noteworthy museums that are architectural marvels in their own right. From science and technology to art and history, these modern galleries from around the world are works of art that you can admire without even setting foot inside.

THE ROYAL ONTARIO MUSEUM in Toronto, Ontario

Visit the largest museum in Canada during your next trip to Toronto. The Royal Ontario Museum features exhibits of art, world culture, and natural history and attracts more than one million visitors every year. The historical buildings of the existing structure are complemented by a bold new façade of prismatic glass and metal. According to Studio Libeskind, the architectural firm in charge of the project, the crystal-like atriums presented unique design challenges making it “among the most complicated construction projects in North America.” Besides the impressive multi-million dollar expansion, other reasons to visit include the museum’s vast collection of archaeological specimens as well as its array of design and art pieces.

LOUIS VUITTON FOUNDATION in Paris, France

Since 2014, the Louis Vuitton Foundation’s art museum in Paris has introduced visitors to exhibitions promoting modern and contemporary artistic creation. The museum is a production of world-renowned architect Frank Gehry. Its design presented builders with unprecedented technical challenges, namely its clustered white blocks (that the team called icebergs) and twelve glass “sails” supported by wooden beams. The interior design is just as impressive as the exterior — opening up to vast, lofty halls with plenty of natural light. The glass walls and ceilings not only provide epic views of downtown Paris from top floors but also play with the museum’s artwork through light, mirrors, color, and more.

MILWAUKEE ART MUSEUM in Milwaukee, Wisconsin

Located on the coast of Lake Michigan in downtown Milwaukee, Wisconsin is one of the largest art museums in the United States. The Milwaukee Art Museum is home to nearly 25,000 works of art including an extensive Georgia O’Keeffe collection. The museum is comprised of three buildings including the War Memorial Center, Cudahy Gardens, and the Quadracci Pavilion — the iconic glass building that opened in 2001. The 90-foot glass ceiling features a 217-foot moveable, wing-like screen that unfolds twice daily. Called the Burke Brise Soleil, these “wings” open at 10 in the morning, flap at noon, and close when the museum closes. The pedestrian suspension bridge conveniently connects the museum to the city.

MIHO MUSEUM in the Koka Forest, Kyoto, Japan

Located in the dense forest of Koka near Kyoto, Japan, the MIHO Museum offers visitors a unique architectural experience that blends manmade structures and natural surroundings. Designed by famous architect I. M. Pei, the steel and glass structures of the museum were designed to contrast against the panoramic views of the mountains and valleys below. Visitors first walk through an arched tunnel to reach the museum entrance, which is one of the only above-ground structures in the complex. In an effort to preserve the natural environment, about 80% of the museum is underground. The exhibits at MIHO frequently change with a focus on ancient works from the Egyptians, Romans, and Asian cultures.

MUSEO SOUMAYA at PLAZE CARSO in Mexico City, Mexico

The Museo Soumaya has become a highlight of Mexico City’s art scene with its shimmering, anvil-shaped exterior and impressive art collection ranging from MesoAmerican history to modern day. While the museum technically consists of two buildings, the most popular is the new structure at Plaza Carso, where the primary museum collection was moved in 2011. This nine-story building made of 16,000 aluminum hexagons was designed by Fernando Romero, who commonly focuses on fluidity in his designs. As one of the most-visited museums in Mexico, it’s no surprise that its list of A-list displays is lengthy. Don’t miss the vast collection of artwork by Rodin including the famed sculpture “The Thinker” — a permanent exhibit here.

MAXXI NATIONAL MUSEUM IN ROME, ITALY

The MAXXI National Museum of 21st Century Arts focuses on contemporary art and architecture. Upon opening in 2010, this museum designed by architect Zaha Hadid received a Stirling Prize for architecture by the Royal Institute of British Architects. The massive complex consists of two sections — “MAXXI Art” and “MAXXI Architecture” — along with an outdoor courtyard for large-scale works of art. The interior stairways and walking paths overlap to create an exciting and dynamic environment for visitors. The museum’s most prominent architectural features are its curved, concrete walls and suspended, black staircases. Its interior colors and structures are a nod to the overarching theme of the museum — to promote contemporary art and architecture.

Beautiful Infinite Blue Hotel – Sorrento, Italy

Being in a state of quarantine, my planned excursion to Italy had to be put on hold. Actually, as everything has a way of turning out alright, I’m ok with that because it gives me more time peruse wonderful stories about Italy that I previously never seemed to find time for. I’m discovering some of the hidden treasures that I’ll take with me…some this September. And if September shall come and go and still I cannot fly to Europe? Well then, I shall peruse even deeper until the time comes when I can. Below is a story from Cereal magazine for all to peruse and enjoy.

“I STAND ON A BALCONY WITH TILES LAID IN DIAGONAL STRIPES, LOOKING OUT INTO THAT INFINITE BLUE UNTIL I AM SUSPENDED IN IT.”
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White concrete frames a square of uninterrupted blue. The cloudless sky, the iridescent Tyrrhenian sea, even the land stretching out either side — pastel-painted Sorrento to the left, Vesuvius to the right — is cast in a haze of blue. An impressionist’s dream.
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swooning over this blue tile

The concept of infinite blue was architect Gio Ponti’s driving inspiration when he built Parco dei Principi, his slice of 1960s modernism on a coast of faded antiquity. When it opened in 1962, the hotel was something new for ancient Sorrento: a clean-lined, contemporary edifice on the tufa-stone cliff. Inside, the bright, wide-open spaces were pared down and decorated entirely in white and blue.
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Ponti was commissioned to build Parco dei Principi when his friend and colleague, the Neapolitan engineer and hotelier Roberto Fernandes, bought the neighboring property, the ballet-shoe-pink 18th century Villa Cortchacow. The villa was originally owned by the Count of Syracuse and then by a Russian prince, who had a mock Gothic castle half-built in the grounds lest his cousin, the last tsar of Russia, should come to stay. Ponti’s challenge was to transform this — perhaps thankfully — unfinished castle.
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Gio Ponti was one of the most pioneering architects of the mid-century, with an extraordinary portfolio of buildings that championed forward-looking principles. He was driven by the ideas of transparency and lightness. His diamond-shaped Pirelli tower in Milan soars; his ethereal Taranto Cathedral in Puglia, delicate as a paper cut-out, is known as ‘the Sail’. “He loved to create little spaces of lightness, through elements in the design,” says Caterina Licitra Ponti, his great-granddaughter, a passion for her great-grandfather’s work alive in her eyes.
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And so in Sorrento, as in Taranto, he uplifted the castle’s solid stone walls so that the new building seemed to hover above the clifftop, wrapping the interior in a white concrete skin, perforated with spaces that allow the light and the sky to penetrate the framework. On approach, through verdant subtropical gardens, the blue of the sea is visible all the way through the glass-walled ground floor.
gio-ponti-hotel-parco-dei-principiOf all Gio Ponti’s 100-odd buildings, Sorrento is the only hotel where you can still stay, fully immersed in his art — for as well as the building itself he designed every last detail. He was not just an architect, but a designer — of interiors, furniture, industry, cars — an artist and a ceramicist, a writer and a teacher; and at Parco dei Principi his passion for so many disciplines converged in one triumphant paean to modernity.

Work was his passion. Every moment was one in which to create. Her grandmother, Lisa — Ponti’s daughter — recalls him waking each morning at 6.00 am. He used to have coffee in bed while he sketched and wrote letters on a tray of his own design — daily correspondence to friends and colleagues about every devilishly intricate detail of his projects, right down to the tablecloths and tiles.
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In the lobby, blue and white glazed pebbles are set into the walls, their cool, shiny-smooth surfaces reflecting infinite depths of radiance, chosen, Ponti wrote, for their ‘lightness and grace’, their ‘reflexes of light and sky’. Down in the hotel’s subterranean levels, where there is nobody else about, I put my cheek to the cool of them. It is clear Ponti created this place not just to look at but to touch, too, so that his work would engage and bring delight.
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On the bright upper floors, the hotel’s bedrooms are stripped back to the bare essentials, each element designed by Ponti in mid-century modern style and made in Italy: a bed, a chair, a footstool which doubles as a suitcase stand, and a dressing table facing the sea, where I sit and write this story on its smooth Formica top the color of the sky.
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Shaded from direct sunshine by the building’s perforated sheath, the room is cooled naturally by the shades of blue and white, and by the ceramic tiles underfoot. Of all Parco dei Principi’s carefully curated details, these ceramic tiles are perhaps the most enduring. Ponti made 30 different designs, all in the dark blue, pale blue, and white of the local seascape — some geometric, some figurative, featuring moons, stars and leaves. They are configured differently in each of the hotel’s 96 rooms.

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“I always think of the endless possibilities of the art,” Ponti observed, of creating these tiles. “Give someone a square measuring 20 by 20 and although people have been turning them out for centuries, there’s always room for a new pattern… There will never be a last design.” Here again, the concept of infinite blue. His dream was to make a permanent mark — infinite, like the blue of the sea and the sky.VFMLID=1074137304212f566e64500cfc882084ebdd0bb1c
I stand on a balcony with tiles laid in diagonal stripes, looking out into that infinite blue until I am suspended in it. Below me, a sailing boat cuts across the bay, its wake drawing a straight white line through the water. Above me, a gull hangs steadily for a moment, then soars away into the sky. Borne on the wind, light as air. Gio Ponti is everywhere.
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Parco de principiGio Pontioktober 1997

Cereal magazine

Beautiful Italy

With Italy on my mind, I’d like to feature a gorgeous interior because well, we need a little more beauty in our lives. Presenting Vincenzo De Cotiis villa, Pietrasanta – Tuscany, Italy
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I love the idea of Old is New Again. I also believe that when we experience global disasters such as the current pandemic, we learn to appreciate history even more – especially Italy.

When we are forced to look at humanity from a wider perspective, we see the beauty of the human endeavor. The work and effort, the talent and skill, the appreciation of beauty, and the value of cooperation. Saving what is valuable and beautiful to us  becomes even more important than before.
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Milan-based Vincenzo De Cotiis renovated this beautiful villa for himself and his wife and business partner.
3He has overhauled the 5,500-square-foot (510-square-metre) early 18th-century villa in Pietrasanta by the sea in Tuscany, in a grandiose but understated, elegantly distressed minimalist style that is often evident in his palazzo renovations.

4This particular palazzo was built by a local painter, Antonio Digerini, who died in 1889, but it has served many purposes over the centuries including being a cloister and a hotel.

I love the exposed patina of the walls and ceiling beams, the minimalist emptiness of the rooms and the lack of unnecessary objects. The color palette is also beautifully muted with soft hints of cold greens and warmer brick-tones.

5In several spaces, the texture and tone of the patina of the original walls and ceilings is replicated in dyed, gessoed and sanded Belgian linen used for parts of the walls and ceilings. Most of the marble is local as the area is famous for its marble quarries.

6Many of the furnishings and art are of De Cotiis’s own creation and design and although their vibe is futuristic and even slightly brutalist, they fit seamlessly with the villa’s cold-cool ambiance. The balance exudes a sense of calm but in an eerily powerful way. It isn’t cozy or comfortable overall, yet it is inviting and interesting for those of us who love his style.

7De Cotiis doesn’t promise to create an environment in a style any client might want. But you can’t help but respect his boldness.

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Learn more here

Beautiful Apartment Renovation in Milan

All’Arco by Tommaso Giunchi + Atelierzero
All’Arco is a minimal 19th-century apartment located in Milan, Italy, designed by Atelierzero + Tommaso Giunchi. The main goal was the creation of an apartment in which a contemporary approach could fit within the unique soul of the original space. The internal distribution has undergone some changes to meet the needs of the new tenants, a couple with two children, who often love to host friends and family at home. The dining room and the living room, initially divided by an internal wall, have been united, creating a single vast space, defined by calm green light color.
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The prominent feature of the apartment is its long hallway, a large distribution space that connects the living and sleeping areas, creating fascinating perspectives throughout the space. Here, the original and diverse floors have been removed and replaced with a continuous surface of contemporary cement tiles, which, referring to the traditional Milanese ones, give a touch of contemporaneity thanks to their geometric design. The main bathroom has undergone the most important renovation, combining travertine details with Moroccan design tiles, which juxtapose the flooring of the corridor.
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The existing most defining design elements, such as wooden doors and their decorative details, classic stucco ceilings, and elegant wooden floors, have been maintained, offering a counterpart to the contemporary materials, finishes, and colors of the project. Besides allowing a sense of continuity to the renovation process, this also provides contrast with the juxtaposed new elements.
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Love this door!

Photography by Simone Furiosi