Colorful Buildings by Colorful Architects

No more Bauhaus! These colorful buildings buck modernist trends

Ancient builders reveled in color. Temples and tombs in Egypt, Greece, and the Mayan world were asplash with red and gold. Yellow and red were the dominant colors in China's Forbidden City.

Modern buildings pale in comparison. Seeking the natural look of wood and stone and the industrial aura of glass and metal, serious architects in the 19th, 20th, and 21st centuries turned away from playful palettes. However, a few rebel architects have bucked the trend. Just look at these eye-popping buildings by Friedensreich Hundertwasser, Jean Nouvel, and other rule-breakers.

1999-2006, Paris, France
Quai Branly Museum in Paris, France. Jean Nouvel, architect. Photo © Roland Halbe, courtesy Ateliers Jean Nouvel

Architect Jean Nouvel used color to dramatize the diverse collection housed in the Quai Branly Museum in Paris, France. He also plays architectural tricks with glass walls, shifting ceiling heights, spiral staircases, and concealed lights. More »

Hundertwasserhaus, Vienna, Austrian artist Friedensreich Hundertwasser and Joseph Krawina
Hundertwasser House in Vienna, Austria. Photo by Maria Wachala/Moment Collection/Getty Image (cropped)

A startling apartment building with intense colors and undulating walls, Hundertwasser-Haus expresses the ideas of Viennese painter and architect Friedensreich Hundertwasser. More »

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Paula Rêgo Museum in Cascais, Portugal

Paula Rêgo Museum in Cascais, Portugal by Eduardo Souto de Moura
Paula Rêgo Museum in Cascais, Portugal by Eduardo Souto de Moura. Pritzker Prize Media Photo © Luis Ferreira Alves

With earthy red walls, the Paula Rêgo Museum captures the spirit of Portuguese-born artist Paula Rêgo. Eduardo Souto de Moura, winner of the 2011 Pritzker Prize, designed the museum to house Rêgo's works.

Casa Vicens by Antoni Gaudí in Barcelona, Spain
Casa Vicens by Antoni Gaudí in Barcelona, Spain. Photo by Neville Mountford-Hoare/Aurora/Getty Images (3.87mb)

Spanish architect Antoni Gaudí combined Gothic and Mudéjar (or, Moorish) styles when he designed the flamboyant Casa Vicens. Constructed early in his career, Casa Vicens established Gaudí as a visionary who defied expectations. More »

Jean Nouvel's Guthrie Theater in Minneapolis
Jean Nouvel's Guthrie Theater in Minneapolis. Photo by Raymond Boyd / Michael Ochs Archives / Getty Images

Once again, French architect Jean Nouvel explores light and color with the shocking blue Guthrie Theater. A yellow terrace and orange LED images on the towers add dramatic contrast. More »

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Guggenheim Museum in New York City (Proposed)

The Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum rendered in ink and pencil on tracing paper, by Frank Lloyd Wright
The Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum rendered in ink and pencil on tracing paper, by Frank Lloyd Wright. This rendering was part of a 2009 exhibition at the Guggenheim. 20 x 24 inches. FLLW FDN # 4305.745 © 2009 The Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation, Scottsdale, Arizona

No, the Guggenheim Museum in New York City isn't brightly painted, but it would have been if Frank Lloyd Wright had his way. Wright didn't like white, and his original drawings for the museum showed a rainbow of colors, including his signature Cherokee red.