Seen your last Spanish plaza? Sick of amazing ancient ruins? Those damn gorgeous, mosaic churches rubbing you the wrong way? Trade that hooker you bought in Amsterdam for a good camera and check out OTP's 10 Coolest Buildings in Spain.
Most go to the Canary Islands to get half-naked and bronzed and aren’t even thinking about the architecture. If you turn into a lobster in the first couple of days, find some shade at the Tenerife Concert Hall in Santa Cruz de Tenerife, the capital of the islands. Spending a couple hours exploring this space-age building designed by Santiago Calatrava is a great way to recoup, tame your sunburn and see a spectacular structure. The banana boats and jet skis will still be there when the blisters subside.
Everyone's heard of eccentric Salvador Dalí: part brilliant painter, part media whore a-hole. Most famous for his melting clocks reminiscent of your best acid dreams, there is an entire museum dedicated to his unique life and works in Figueres, Catalunya, just outside of Barcelona. Constructed to look like a mini Barcelona, Figueres is Dali's birthplace and he's buried underneath the museum. Faintly resembling a gingerbread house under siege by the Easter bunny from hell, you don’t even need to go inside to make the trip worth it.
Who cares what a rich bitch hotel looks like as long as it’s filled with five-star luxury, right? On the main drag of República Argentina in Córdoba, AC Hotels recently erected the most debate-sparking hotel in the city. At first glance you think the AC Córdoba Palacio is still under construction, but it turns out that the rusted steel plates covering what would otherwise be a stunning building on a prime piece of real estate, are permanent. This joint definitely toes the line between modern art and just plain fugly, on purpose.
Barcelona doesn’t just take the cake for ridiculous architecture, it raped the bakery. From the Cathedral of La Sagrada Familia to the free adult jungle gym that is Parc Güell, Barcelona is an open-air museum, with a trail of Gaudí’s bastard brainchildren dispersed throughout. A standout is the Casa Milà, aka La Pedrera, an apartment block whose warped balconies and curvy exteriors are covered in florescent mosaic. Going inside will cost you (that’s what she said), but creepin' with your camera across the street (the best vantage point) is always free.
If you didn't OD on Gaudí in Barcelona, check out more of his craziness in Cantabria. The tiny town of Comillas is home to an earlier work, his Villa Quijano. The former residence of a businessman who got rich in the Americas, it now houses a shnazzy (and expensive) restaurant. Why the hell Gaudí chose to design a villa in a town with only 2,500 inhabitants is anyone’s guess, but it explains the building’s nickname: El Capricho de Gaudí (Gaudí’s whim).
Bubble wrap? Space ship? Silicone breast implants? We’re not sure how to describe Villa Nurbs, a private residence in Empuriabrava, Girona designed by Catalán architect Enric Ruiz Geli. The exterior materials (like the boob bubbles on the roof) work to save energy and protect against solar radiation. Whoever coughed up the dough to construct this, we’d appreciate an invite to your next party.
The Tenerife Concert Hall architect, Calatrava, scored the awesome job of designing the City of Arts and Sciences in Valencia’s old riverbed. Whether you’re a science geek, art snob, tree hugger, jock or animal lover, this complex addresses all your quirky hang-ups. This thing kind of looks like a giant metal Panda and a combined ticket gets you 3 days of visiting the innards. Down to the last céntimo? Amble through the gardens of L’Umbracle, loiter in the lobbies or rent a bike and ride the path of Jardins de Turia, a park stretching the length of Valencia from the zoo, through historic districts to this nutty science building.
OTP Tip: Always remember to carry a student ID with you for tons of discounts.
Everyone loves a good Frank Gehry creation; Spain lucked out with two shiny spectacles. Take the obligatory gawk at the Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao, filled with mind-blowing installations, then head down to wine country to absorb the steel and titanium waves of the Hotel Marqués de Riscal in Elciego, on the outskirts of Basque Country. Surrounded entirely by lush vineyards, this mammoth city is like an Amish person in Vegas. Sample some wines and see if the buzz helps you make more sense of the architecture.
Just when all European churches start blurring into one, cut through the sameness with the Church of Santa Monica in Rivas, Madrid. Blowin' it up, God style, this little guy is curved on one side and resembles a bloomin’ onion on the other. The architects describe it as “an explosion, frozen an instant after detonation.” You would never guess it was a house of worship if it weren’t for the one simple cross above the entrance.
For a country so fiercely traditional, Spain really got the “going green” memo, and showed off their new eco-sense at the Expo 2008 in Zaragoza with their submission, the Spanish Pavilion. Its columns absorb water from a pool, acting as natural air-conditioners—über important in 105˚F. A roof fitted with solar panels and rainwater collectors, make this building a shining example of sustainability.
Broke-ass travel at its finest, we don't care what's inside, these buildings are exterior stunners. Hit Spain on foot and prepare to be visually attacked by these crazy architectural creations.