A Visual Tour of 125 Years of Architectural Excellence

Habitat 67, 1967. (Photo: Sylvain Pastor/Wikimedia)

In commemoration of the 125th anniversary of one of the world's leading architecture publications, the editors of Architectural Record have compiled a list of 125 of the "most significant works that defined architecture in our era."

Founded in 1891, Architectural Record is a monthly trade magazine that boasts an authoritative voice on all things architecture and interior design. If there was ever an editorial enterprise qualified to make such a definitive list of groundbreaking buildings (like Moshe Safdie's "Habitat 67," above), it's Architectural Record. Of course, that doesn't mean it wasn't a challenge.

"This was not an easy task," the editors explain. "While many inclusions are obvious, others may be surprising, or a little controversial — as are some omissions. And, we know, all 125 might not make the list at RECORD's next big birthday: time inevitably changes not only our tastes, but how we understand history."

You can check out the entire list on the Architectural Record website, or continue below for a small selection of the featured groundbreaking structures — one from each decade starting in the 1890s to the present day.

Wainwright Building

Wainwright Building, 1891. (Photo: Tom Bastin/Flickr, Library of Congress)

Location: St. Louis, Missouri
Year built: 1891
Architect: Adler & Sullivan
Claim to fame: Designed in the Palazzo style, this 10-story red brick office building is distinguished for being one of the first skyscrapers in the world. In the decades since it was erected, it was recognized by the National Register of Historic Places and was designated as both a St. Louis city landmark and a National Historic Landmark. In Frank Lloyd Wright's landmark 1931 publication, "Modern Architecture," the legendary architect called the Wainwright Building "the very first human expression of a tall steel office-building as Architecture."

Unity Temple

Unity Temple, 1908. (Photo: Nagel Photography/Henrik Sadura/Steve Wood/Shutterstock)

Location: Oak Park, Illinois
Year completed: 1908
Architect: Frank Lloyd Wright
Claim to fame: Unsurprisingly, Frank Lloyd Wright appears on the Architectural Record's 125th anniversary list multiple times, but this reinforced concrete Unitarian Universalist church is considered to be one of the architect's most groundbreaking works. As one of the first modern buildings in the world, it was designated a National Historic Landmark in 1971 and was one of several FLW properties to be nominated as a World Heritage Site in 2008.

New York Public Library Main Branch

New York City Public Library, 1911. (Photo: Ryan DeBerardinis/Jorg Hackemann/Comaniciu Dan/Shutterstock)

Location: Manhattan, New York City
Year completed: 1911
Architect: Carrère and Hastings
Claim to fame: In addition to being one of New York City's most iconic examples of Beaux Arts architecture, this building serves as the flagship for a city library system that boasts more than 53 million items and hosts 18 million visitors every year. With numbers like that, it should come as no surprise to learn that it's the second largest public library in the U.S. (second only to the Library of Congress) and the fourth largest in the world.

Stockholm Public Library

Stockholm Public Library, 1927. (Photo: Kevincho.Photography/Stefan Holm/Shutterstock)

Location: Stockholm, Sweden
Year completed: 1928
Architect: Gunnar Asplund
Claim to fame: This public library — an architectural merging of classicism and functionalism — was the first of its kind in Sweden to incorporate the "open shelf" concept that was found prominently throughout the public libraries of the United States. This meant that instead of requiring assistance from librarians to check out materials, visitors were allowed to peruse and access books on their own.

Empire State Building

Empire State Building, 1931. (Photo: cocozero/Vacclav/Drop of Light/Shutterstock)

Location: Manhattan, New York City
Year completed: 1931
Architect: Shreve, Lamb and Harmon
Claim to fame: Upon its completion, this 102-story skyscraper reigned as the world's tallest building for almost 40 years. Built in the Art Deco style, the Empire State Building was originally designed to be a hub for dirigible mooring, though this ultimately proved to be an impractical pipe dream. Today, the building's major draws are observation decks on the 86th and 102nd floors.

The Glass House

The Glasshouse, 1949. (Photo: Edelteil/Wikimedia)

Location: New Canaan, Connecticut
Year completed : 1949
Architect: Philip Johnson
Claim to fame: On a 1991 walking tour of the Glass House, Johnson described the style of this modern domestic treasure as "a mixture of Mies van der Rohe, Malevich, the Parthenon, the English garden, the whole Romantic Movement, the asymmetry of the 19th century." Upon its completion, Johnson lived in the Glass House for 58 years with his partner, David Whitney. Following their deaths in 2005, ownership of the Glass House was passed to the National Trust for Historic Preservation, which transformed it into a museum with guided tours.

Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum

Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, 1959. (Photo: Sean Pavone/Adriano Castelli/Tinnaporn Sathapornnanont/Shutterstock)

Location: Manhattan, New York City
Year completed : 1959
Architect: Frank Lloyd Wright
Claim to fame: Named for the American art collector and museum founder Solomon R. Guggenheim, this cylindrical, seashell-like art museum was designed by Frank Lloyd Wright. Hilla von Rebay, the museum's first director, commissioned Wright to create a "temple of the spirit" that would reimagine how audiences would view modern masterpieces.

Salk Institute for Biological Studies

Salk Institute for Biological Studies, 1965. (Photo: Sean Pavone/DCornelius/cdrin/Shutterstock)

Location: La Jolla, San Diego, California
Year completed : 1965
Architect: Louis Kahn
Claim to fame: This scientific research institute was named for polio vaccine developer and all-around good guy Jonas Salk. In addition to travertine, concrete, teak wood and other construction materials, the complex uses a wealth of natural light and the tranquility of the nearby Pacific Ocean to foster a space that inspires the pursuit of knowledge. According to ArchDaily, "Salk's vision included a facility with an inspiring environment for scientific research, and Kahn's design decisions created a functional institutional building that also became an architectural masterpiece."

Munich Olympiastadion

Munich Olympiastadion, 1972. (Photo: meunierd/pavel dudek/Juriaan Wossink/Shutterstock)

Location: Munich, Germany
Year completed : 1972
Architect: Günther Behnisch, Frei Otto, Carlo Weber, Frtiz Auer
Claim to fame: Built as the main athletic venue for the 1972 Summer Olympics, this stadium incorporates one of the first major examples of lightweight tent construction using steel cables and acrylic glass. The peaks of the tents were meant to imitate the appearance of the nearby Alps mountain range.

Vietnam Veterans Memorial

Vietnam Veterans Memorial, 1982. (Photo: Orhan Cam/Richard Cavalleri/John Keith/Shutterstock)

Location: Washington, D.C.
Year completed : 1982
Designer: Maya Lin
Claim to fame: While not technically a "building," the Vietnam Veterans Memorial remains one of the country's most iconic and controversial memorials. The reflective, V-shaped design featuring the names of 57,661 fallen soldiers is meant to resemble the opening and closing of a wound.

The Jewish Museum

The Jewish Museum, 1999. (Photo: WorldWide/Carlos Neto/Morenovel/Shutterstock)

Location: Berlin
Year completed : 1999
Architect: Daniel Libeskind
Claim to fame: This glassy, deconstructivist-style museum is designed with a zigzag footprint and an entrance that's only accessible from an underground passage connecting from one of the museum's older buildings. According to Libeskind, the linear cut-outs, called "Voids," that slice throughout the building's exterior represent "that which can never be exhibited when it comes to Jewish Berlin history: Humanity reduced to ashes."

Seattle Central Library

Seattle Central Library, 2004. (Photo: f11photo/Checubus/Nagel Photography/Shutterstock)

Location: Seattle
Year completed : 2004
Architect: Rem Koolhaas, Joshua Prince-Ramus
Claim to fame: This seemingly gravity-defying masterpiece is the third iteration of the Seattle Central Library. The original library was a classic Beaux-Arts design built in 1906, and the second version was a stark, modern design dedicated in 1960. The new building — a striking, 11-story steel and glass structure — quickly solidified itself as not just a library but a Seattle tourist attraction. Although the aesthetic certainly packs a punch, the library has been criticized for its less-than-intuitive use of functional space and confusing layout.

Heydar Aliyev Center

Heydar Aliyev Center, 2013. (Photo: Nickolastock/Elnur/alionabirukova/Shutterstock)

Location: Baku, Azerbaijan
Year completed: 2012
Architect: Zaha Hadid
Claim to fame: Characterized by its soft, fluid curves, this 619,000-square-foot complex is widely heralded as one of the most distinctive pieces of architecture to be created in the past decade. The center, which includes an auditorium space, museum and a gallery hall, is named in honor of Heydar Aliyev, a former Soviet-era president of Azerbaijan.