Just like a face, every city has a distinct profile, says Yolanda Zappaterra, co-author of the new book Skylines: A Journey Through 50 Skylines of the World’s Greatest Cities (Aurum Press, $19.99). “People immediately feel a connection. It’s something that’s more than the sum of its parts.” She and co-author Jan Fuscoe share some favorites with Larry Bleiberg for USA TODAY.
The saying goes that financial buildings are the churches of the modern era. So it’s not surprising that for more than a century, tiny Hong Kong, long a financial hub, has been filling with skyscrapers, Zappaterra says. While not all are noteworthy, some, such as I.M. Pei’s Bank of China, stand the test of time. And taken as a whole, the skyline makes a dramatic sight across Victoria Harbor. Discoverhongkong.com
Sure, it’s odd to find the Eiffel Tower and pyramids in the middle of the Nevada desert, but you can’t deny it attracts attention — which is the whole point. “I love the brashness of Vegas. It’s cheeky and playful,” Zappaterra says. But venture off the Strip and you can find other notable buildings, such as Frank Gehry’s Cleveland Clinic, which looks like a crumpled piece of paper. Lvcva.com
Booming South Florida seems to effortlessly mix building styles from playful Art Deco and sleek Miami Modernism to cutting-edge skyscrapers, Zappaterra says. When visitors aren’t at the beach, they can find some of the world’s top architects here. Coming soon will be Zaha Hadid’s curvy One Thousand Museum high-rise. “It’s almost like an album of skylines meshed together.” miamiandbeaches.com
For more than a century, the nation’s capital has limited building height, which makes the city with its monuments and National Mall instantly recognizable, Zappaterra says. Newer additions, like the just-opened Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture by David Adjaye, only enrich the scenery. “It really has some great buildings.” Washington.org
In the past several decades, the U.K. capital has updated its storybook profile of Big Ben and the Tower of London with gleaming glass high-rises and even the giant London Eye Ferris wheel. “London’s skyline is always changing,” says Fuscoe, a resident. “We have stuff that goes back to the 11th century.” A 1986 addition, the Lloyds Building, a startling modern tower with ducts and elevators on the exterior, was widely criticized at first but now is a city favorite, she says. VisitBritain.org
The master-planned city was heralded as a modern wonder when established in 1960. Architect Oscar Niemeyer shaped the urban area like an airplane, with cultural and government buildings in the fuselage, and the residential areas in the wings. “It was designed by one of the best architects in the world. His stuff is so beautiful, it hasn’t dated,” Fuscoe says. www.visitbrasil.com/en/
From the Empire State Building to the Brooklyn Bridge, Manhattan wows visitors with some of the most recognizable structures in the world. Its skyline, unalterably changed by the Sept. 11 attack that destroyed the twin-towered World Trade Center, now features the even-taller One World Trade Center. Fuscoe says other notable additions include architect Norman Foster’s Hearst Tower, the first skyscraper built in New York after 9/11. goNYC.com
Backed by mountains and sea, this Pacific Northwest gem is regularly named one the world’s most beautiful cities. “They’ve been quite smart. They haven’t allowed physical buildings to obscure nature. You get the best of the both worlds,” Fuscoe says. It’s also home to the Marine Building, hailed as a masterpiece of Art Deco design. tourismvancouver.com
This former British colonial city, once known as Bombay, offers a fascinating blend of Victorian construction and modern skyscrapers, Zappaterra says. “It’s a really great mix, which is hugely loved by Mumbaikars” — the name for city residents. Particularly noteworthy is the 27-story Antilia building, which has been called the most expensive private residence in the world, valued at $1 billion. incredibleindia.org
It’s no surprise the city that invented the skyscraper is one of the world’s most important places for architecture, Fuscoe says. It has some of the tallest buildings in the nation, including the 108-story Willis Tower, formerly the Sears Tower. Taken together with its lakefront parks and museums, the vista is memorable.