5 Iconic City Skylines Shaped by Foreign Architecture

Last updated on August 28th, 2023 at 01:59 pm

Migration has been so important to the evolution of countries and cities all around the world, helping to advance a place’s culture and in turn shape its entire look and feel. In certain locations, all you have to do to experience this, is to look up. 

The fact is, many of the buildings that define the iconic skylines of major cities were actually designed by people who hailed from abroad. To provide an overview of this crucial international influence, let’s take a closer look at some of these skylines, their key buildings, and which design maestros were behind their creation.  

1. London, England

Italian architects had a major part to play in the development of the London skyline, with Italian-born Richard George Rogers designing The Leadenhall Building and Renzo Piano credited for famed skyscraper The Shard and The News Building. 

Argentine-American César Pelli is also responsible for more than one building in this skyline, as One Canada Square and the Citigroup Centre are both his works of art. Swiss Architect Richard Seifert and Uruguayan Rafael Vinoly are responsible for the designs of Tower 42 and 20 Fenchurch street respectively, and Indian Sunand Prasad was tasked with reskinning London Bridge-based hospital Guy’s Tower.

2. New York City, United States of America

You can’t picture New York City without thinking of the Statue of Liberty, a world-renowned symbol of freedom and opportunity, welcoming immigrants arriving by sea. The statue itself was designed by Frenchman Frederic Auguste Bartholdi, signalling a global influence that continues on throughout the city’s skyline and in some of its most iconic features. 

The iconic Brooklyn Bridge was created by John Augustus Roebling from Germany. Much more recently, 4 World Trade Centre was designed by Fumihiko Maki. He’s the only Asian architect who contributed to the skyline detailed in a special visualisation we’ve created to show what the New York skyline would look like without the influence of architects from overseas.

3. Sydney, Australia

The Sydney Opera House and the Sydney Harbour Bridge render this as one of the most recognizable skylines in the world, and interestingly it was Danish architect Jorn Utzon who designed the former, whilst British firm Dorman Long created the latter. In fact, due to Australia’s colonial history, the work of British architects features regularly in this skyline: Peddle Thorp Walker designed both the Gateway Plaza (1 Macquarie Place) and the AMP Centre; British firm Joseland and Gilling are responsible for Suncorp Place, while Norman Foster created Deutsche Bank Place.

Italian Renzo Piano’s work makes another appearance, this time for Aurora Place, as does Canadian-American Frank Gehry, for the Dr Chau Chak Wing Building.

4. Paris, France

Although many of the buildings in Paris were the work of French architects, such as the Eiffel Tower, Arc de Triomphe and the Notre Dame Cathedral, foreign architects also had a major role to play in the development of dreamy Parisian skylines. Notably, La Grande Arche de la Defense, arguably the most recognisable building in the La Defense skyline, was designed by Johan Otto von Sprecklesen from Denmark.

Americans have had the most influence on this skyline, with US firm Skidmore, Owings and Merrill credited for the Tour Areva and Defense Plaza. In addition, The Carpe Diem was created by firm Robert Stern and The Tour CB21 (formerly Tour Gan) by celebrated architect Max Abramovitz, both of American origin.

5. Shanghai, China

The Pudong skyline of Shanghai, China is one of the most iconic, modern skylines in the world. Whilst the Oriental Pearl Tower and the Jin Mao Tower were designed by Chinese nationals, the distinctive Shanghai Tower was created by American Marshall Strabala, while the Shanghai World Financial Centre (also known as The Bottle Opener) was the work of American firm Kohn Pedersen Fox. 

Kohn Pedersen Fox were also credited with Shanghai Wheelock Square and fellow American firm Callison designed Grand Gateway Shanghai I & II. Although American architecture makes up a significant portion of Shanghai’s skyline, the work of Japanese architects is also reflected in the Bank of China Tower, Aurora Plaza and One Lujiazui – all by Japanese firm Nikken Sekkei.

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