Las Lajas, Columbia

Where space creates “wow, how do they do it?” moments

Santuaria de las Lajas might seem miraculous because of the precarious way that it balances on the rocks of the river gorge, or for the way that its Gothic style seems to have been transplanted from medieval Europe to modern-day Columbia—but it's real. The basilica was built in the early 1900's on the site where, legend has it, another miracle occurred nearly 200 years earlier. The towering height, exacting symmetry, and sculptural detail in Las Lajas send a message to every far-flung visitor about the power of the divine, even in remote places.

Hagia Sophia Turkey

Where space creates supports multiple functions
and communicates purpose

Hagia Sophia has been the servant of three very different messages throughout its nearly 1,500-year history. It was a cathedral from the year 537, when it was completed by Byzantine ruler Justinian I, until the Ottoman Empire invaded in 1453 and converted it to a mosque. When this occurred, Hagia Sophia’s Christian imagery and icons were erased and replaced with Muslim analogues. It was a mosque until it closed in 1931. Four years later, through the leadership of the Turkish President, Hagia Sophia reopened as a museum and became a medium of history, rather than religion. Its design evolved to accommodate visitors, who still come to see relics of Christian and Muslim civilizations under the same roof, sometimes side by side. In 1985, it became a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Five centuries of redesign have enabled leaders to communicate different messages and serve different purposes, all through the same space.

Cueva de las Manos, Argentina

Where space is a signature of the people who made it

The Cave of Hands is one of the oldest examples of people using physical space to tell stories and communicate with one another. In remote Patagonia, in the valley of the Pinturas River, ancient caves provide an ochre-colored window 5,000-10,000 years back in time. It's believed that these cave paintings depict the lives of the ancestors of the Tehuelche people, who currently reside near the caves. Scenes illustrate ancient tools, animals, and people; while perhaps the most striking paintings are the collages of stenciled hands, ghostly signatures of the artists. Cueva de las Manos suggests that it's human nature use the space around us to communicate stories, information, ideas, and identities.

The Southern Ridges, Signapore

Where space connects people and place

Suspended between two national parks in bustling Singapore, Henderson Waves bridge connects city to nature, people to place, and neighbors to one another. The pedestrian bridge links the Southern Ridges national park system in a 9-kilometer contiguous trail, providing canopy-level lookouts for birdwatching, undulating alcoves for quiet reflection, generous space for recreation, and some of the best views of the city. Crafted with responsibly sourced and milled indigenous balau wood, the bridge sends a message about the beauty and importance of environmentally sustainable infrastructure. Since its 2008 completion, Henderson Waves has helped people experience the city as their garden.

Superkilen, Denmark

Where space unites people through shared experience

This nearly half-mile long urban park is a playground for people of all ages, backgrounds, and abilities. Bright colors and curious textures distinguish the three different parts of the park. "Red Square" provides unique and modern recreation opportunities, including music and a cafe. "Green Park" contains rolling, verdant knolls for picnicking and play. At the center of the park is "Black Market," where fountains and benches encourage neighbors to meet. The entire park is filled with objects from around the world. Swings, benches, fountains, plants, and more have been sourced from far corners of the world, creating a cultural patchwork of experiences for park-goers. The variety of experiences, cultures, and aesthetics represented in Superkilen send a deliberate message about Copenhagen's value of diversity and mission of inclusivity. The result is a park that welcomes all to enjoy.

The Great Mosque, Mali

Where space represents the capabilities of many

The adobe city of Djenné appears like a mirage in the Mali desert, with the Great Mosque rising up from its heart. The entire town is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, but there's a special reverence for the Great Mosque. It was built around the 13th century but is, to this day, rebuilt annually by the people of Djenné, constructed in a mixture of local materials, including mud, sand, and river water. It was designed as a place of worship, with prayer halls and lofty minerettes designed to reach heavenward, but it's the construction that says the most about the people who worship there—the village comes together after each rainy season to replaster and repair the mosque. Though the form of the mosque has morphed over decades of annual replastering, its design persists as a testament to the people's enduring devotion.

The High Line, New York

Where space attracts and motivates people

There are few contemporary design projects better known than the leafy streak of green ripping through Manhattan's West Side. The High Line is nineteen blocks of elevated freight rail reimagined as a public park. With lounging benches, patches of grass for picnic or play, gardens, art, and views of the past, present, and future city, the High Line transforms both the once-forgotten space and the people who enjoy it. Since opening in 2009, the High Line has become a high-profile steward of New York City in its own right; it transmits a message about the identity of the city and offers belonging to all.

Shwegadon Pagoda, Myanmar

Where space entices and inspires people

Shwegadon Pagoda beckons tourists and pilgrims alike to revel in its glittering splendor. The 325-foot tall Buddhist stupa is covered in gold and encrusted with diamonds, honoring the four divine relics housed within it. Like all stupas, the shape of the Shwegadon Pagoda was designed to look like the seated Buddha, with a spire crown, a square head, a vase-shaped body, and steps representing folded legs. Devotees use the pagoda's terraces to perform the Buddhist ritual of walking around the temple in meditation. Shwegadon Pagoda isn't the only golden stupa but it's the most revered in Myanmar, "The Golden Land." It has become a national icon and its enticing sparkle attracts and captivates people.

Garden of Dreams, Nepal

Where space slows down time, making room for new ideas

The Garden of Dreams is a tranquil Edwardian garden nestled in the heart of pulsing Kathmandu. The vision of Kaiser Sumsher RanaIt and once part of his estate, it was designed in the 1920s by Kishore Narshingh. Meandering the grounds, visitors may find six pavilions representing the six seasons of Nepal, along with fountains, verandas, pergolas, and ornate garden furniture amid the greenery. Keen-eyed visitors may spot a passage from an 11th century poem etched in marble, reminding them to slow down and reconnect with nature. The garden inspires people to bring a picnic and briefly disengage from the chaotic pace of modern, urban life.

Las Pozas, Mexico

Where space stimulates the imagination

Deep in the Mexican jungle, otherworldly concrete architecture emerges from the jungle. At 280 miles north of Mexico City, outside the remote village of Xilitla, Las Pozas was the artistic vision of Edward James, an English poet who lived from 1907-1984 and spent much of his life and fortune patronizing Surrealist art. Las Pozas—meaning, "Pools"—immerses its visitors in the blurred boundary between fantasy and reality; here, the surreal becomes real and the real becomes surreal. In encountering Las Pozas, one may see the world—and one's self in it—in a new way, discovering a fresh reality.

Te Whare, New Zealand

Where space tells stories and communicates values

The Maori people of New Zealand need only to look around their ancestral meeting homes, or whare, to remember their family history, which is literally carved into the walls. Whare are designed to embody an important ancestor, but the whare at Waitangi is unprecedented, because its architecture doesn't represent one ancestor, but all Maori people. Its ornate carvings tell many families' stories, joining them together. This unique whare was envisioned by statesmen Tau Henare and Sir Apirana Ngata, and built to celebrate the centennial of the Waitangi Treaty, New Zealand's 1840 charter and proclamation of peace. The design of Te Whare Runanga immerses visitors in a message of peace and unity.

Usonia, New York

Where space harmonizes people and nature

Tucked up leafy drives, on the edge of suburbia, 47 historic homes sit quietly in the woods. They are the work of mid-century modern giant, Frank Lloyd Wright, and his students. The community—coined, "Usonia," by Wright—is only an hour outside Manhattan, but feels a world away. Usonia was designed to connect residents to nature and to each other for a rich, fulfilling life. Deliberate use of line and color create the illusion that these homes disappear into the woods, or appear out of rocks, and all of them have open living spaces with views. Usonia's original master plan included circular lots, which broke down barriers between neighbors and encouraged their spaces to flow together. The result was a tightly knit community connected to nature, and it has stood the test of time.