US modern architecture: The 10 most fascinating buildings

America may be best known for historical buildings such as the Empire State and White House, but you'd do well to admire some of its amazing contemporary architecture too.

RAY AND MARIA STATA CENTRE, BOSTON

With its wandering walls, random curves, colliding facades and tilting columns, this Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) building is as disorienting as a funfair house, and looks as if it's about to collapse. The deconstructivist design by Frank Gehry mixes brick, glass, metal and paintwork, so the eye never really settles in one place. One critic called the building's whimsical outline a "crinkled sculpture". See web.mit.edu

CENTRAL LIBRARY, SEATTLE

Famed Dutch architect Rem Koolhaas is responsible for this soaring box of steel and glass, with its oddly-angled facades and apparently floating platforms. Its lattice-like exterior throws bands of light across the interior, and floors flow upwards in a spiral that follows the Dewey Decimal System. Like much contemporary architecture it has been controversial, alternatively described as exhilarating and innovative by some, oppressive and depressing by others. See spl.org

FAENA FORUM, MIAMI

There's lots of striking art deco and modern architecture in Miami, but there's no overlooking this stunner, also by Rem Koolhaas, just a block from Miami Beach. The building for public events references both opera houses and ancient Roman forums. Half is wedge-shaped, half is curved, and the whole appears to be wrapped up in bands of white, thanks to the irregular arrangement and shapes of its windows. See faena.com

US AIR FORCE CADET CHAPEL, EL PASO

Colorado might be famous for its landscapes, but the state's most visited man-made attraction is this structure of glass, steel and aluminium. Built in 1962 and now considered a classic of modernist architecture, it features a row of 17 spires linked by tetrahedrons of glass. The interior of stained glass, which becomes progressively lighter towards the altar, is even more striking. See usafa.edu

AQUA TOWER, CHICAGO

This looks like the ghost of a building, or a tower built from ice that's about to melt and collapse, and at some angles it seems chunks of the façade have already fallen off. Its architect Jeanne Gang was inspired by Great Lakes limestone architecture. The rippling, sinuous residential skyscraper is made from a series of irregular concrete floors, with balconies also contributing to the building's wave-like, sculptural appearance. See allianz-arena.com

DALI MUSEUM, ST PETERSBURG

If you're building a museum devoted to surrealist Spanish artist Salvador Dali then it had better be quirky. This Florida building rises to the occasion, with globular glass protrusions known as Enigma and Igloo erupting from its concrete façade, as if the building is slowly being swallowed by an alien blob. The soaring glass entrance hall features a spiral staircase that could be from a Dali painting. See thedali.org

JEPPESEN TERMINAL, DENVER

Denver airport's Jeppesen Terminal features pitched roofs that recall the peaks of the surrounding Rocky Mountains, or perhaps early settler wagons or native tepees – and they certainly prove airports don't have to be boring. The tent-like roofs are made from wafer-thin fibreglass coated with Teflon, thin enough to let in light. The terminal is often cited as having one of the best architectural designs of any American building. See flydenver.com

PEROT MUSEUM, DALLAS

This science museum is itself an exhibition of cutting-edge sustainable technology and futuristic architecture. It features a large, split cube that appears to float above a multi-storey plinth covered in greenery, which captures most of the building's solar and water needs. A glass oblong containing escalators is attached, seemingly precariously, to the exterior. Like many great contemporary buildings, it looks ugly from some angles, sublime from others. See perotmuseum.org

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WALT DISNEY CONCERT HALL, LOS ANGELES

Fans of architect Frank Gehry will recognise his style in this building's sweeping metallic surfaces, some angled, some undulating, and all resulting in a constantly changing profile as the sun casts shadows throughout the day. The form is meant to represent musical movement. Attend a concert here by the Los Angeles Philharmonic if you can; the acoustics are as wonderful as the building itself. See laphil.com

ONE WORLD TRADE CENTRE, NEW YORK

This skyscraper on the site of the Twin Towers destroyed during the 9/11 attacks is a symbolic 1776 feet (541 metres), the date of American independence, and has a striking façade of angled, mirrored glass tapering towards the summit in an echo of the Empire State and Chrysler buildings. The world's fastest lifts bring you to the 102-storey observation deck in 47 seconds. See oneworldobservatory.com

The writer travelled both as a guest of numerous tourism offices and at his own expense.

See also: The 10 most spectacular buildings in Europe

See also: The world's 10 scariest places to stay

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