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What The World’s Most Famous Skylines Would Look Like Without A Global Influence

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. Because while we might all be able to recognise a famous city from its skyline alone, little is known about the architects behind the buildings and the fact that many of them aren't originally from the country where the building now sits.
To celebrate this great example of the significant and positive impact migration has had on the world, we decided to delve a little deeper into these famous skylines and reveal what they might look like, if these influences were removed.
To achieve this, we’ve researched 15 of the most famous skylines, taking us from the likes of London all the way to Shanghai, looking at key buildings and whether or not they were designed by architects from outside of the country in question, to provide an overview of this crucial international influence. The GIFs below highlight what five of these skylines currently look like, and then how they would look without the creativity of overseas architects.
London, England
London city skyline
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.
The London skyline stands tall as a shining example of the perfect marriage of a country’s traditional styles, and the influence of global cultures, with the work of British architects also featuring heavily where some of the city’s oldest buildings are concerned, with St. Paul's Cathedral, Big Ben, The London Eye, Tower Bridge and Buckingham Palace all designed by Brits.
The Changing London Skyline
The buildings in this iconic London skyline, that wouldn’t have been built with a global influence:
Building Name Architect Nationality Date built
110 Bishopsgate/Heron Tower Kohn Pedersen Fox American 2007
Tower 42 Richard Seifert Swiss 1980
One Canada Square César Pelli Argentine American 1991
Citigroup Centre César Pelli Argentine American 2001
The Leadenhall Building Richard George Rogers Italian 2013
20 Fenchurch Street/Walkie Talkie Rafael Vinoly Uruguayan 2014
The News Building Renzo Piano Italian 2013
The Shard Renzo Piano Italian 2012
Guys Tower Sunand Prasad Indian 2015
New York City, United States of America
New York City skyline
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. For example, Slovakian architect Emery Roth was highly influential on the New York skyline, with 55 Water Street, 200 Water Street, 111 Wall Street and the MetLife Building all having been brought to life from his designs.
The iconic Brooklyn Bridge was created by John Augustus Roeblind from Germany. 4 World Trade Centre was designed by Fumihiko Maki, the only Asian architect who contributed to the skyline detailed in our visualisation, and highly acclaimed architect Frank Gehry (Canadian) was responsible for 8 Spruce Street. Notably, the tallest building in the world at the time, The Empire State Building was built by Canadian and American firm Shreve, Lamb and Harmon, showing how two nationalities working together can create something timeless.
Due to the tragic events of 9/11, the Financial District of Lower Manhattan was irreversibly changed, however has been reborn with help from British architect Rogers Strick Harbour, who designed 3 World Trade Center, Fumihiko Maki, the Japanese architect behind 4 World Trade Center and finally, British architectural firm Foster and Partners who have designed 2 World Center, due to be completed in 2022.
Home-grown American architects are also responsible for revered buildings throughout the Big Apple, including the Rockefeller Centre and the art-deco styled Chrysler Building.
The Changing New York City Skyline
Below are the buildings that wouldn’t make up the Manhattan skyline seen in the above GIF, without the artistry of overseas architects:
Building Name Architect Nationality Date built
One New York Plaza William Lescaze Swiss 1969
55 Water Street Emery Roth Slovakian 1972
111 Wall Street Emery Roth Slovakian 1966
4 World Trade Center Fumihiko Maki Japanese 2013
3 World Trade Center Rogers Strick Harbour British 2018
200 Water Street Emery Roth Slovakian 1971
8 Spruce Street Frank Gehry Canadian 2010
The Brooklyn Bridge John Augustus Roeblind German 1883
Sydney, Australia
Sydney city skyline
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, and 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. French Jean Nouvel created One Central Park, and US firm Kohn Pedersen Fox designed Chifly Tower. As a whole, our visualisation shows the Sydney skyline is an iconic fusion of designs from those outside of Australia and its natives, with Australian architects having designed buildings such as Governor Phillip Tower, Shangri-la Hotel, Sydney Tower and the Powerhouse Museum.
The Changing Sydney Skyline
Below are the buildings disappearing from the Sydney skyline:
Building Name Architect Nationality Date built
MLC Centre Harry Seidler Austrian 1977
Deutsche Bank Place Norman Foster British 2005
Aurora Place Renzo Piano Italian 2000
Intercontinental Hotel Mortimer Lewis, Edmund Blacket, Walter Liberty Vernon, George McRae English, Scottish & Australian 1985
AMP Centre Peddle Thorp Walker British 1976
Suncorp Place Joseland and Gilling British 1982
Gateway Plaza Peddle Thorp Walker British 1990
Sydney Opera House Jorn Utzon Danish 1973
Sydney Harbour Bridge Dorman Long British 1932
Paris, France
Paris city skyline
Paris is famed as the city of love, and no doubt architecture plays a major part in creating the enchanting atmosphere the city affords. 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.
Returning the favour from the French-designed Statue of Liberty, 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 Abramotivz, both of American origin. Canadian architectural firm WZMH built the Tour Total alongside French architects, and Henri Kandjian designed Tour Neptune, while Chinese master architect Ileoh Ming Pei is responsible for the Tour EDF. Other notable Parisian buildings built by foreign architects include the Opera Bastille and Centre Pompidou.
The Changing Paris Skyline
What buildings would be missing from the Paris La Defense skyline, if it wasn’t for a global architectural influence:
Building Name Architect Nationality Date built
Defense Plaza Skidmore, Owings & Merrill American 2004
Tour EDF Leoh Ming Pei Chinese 2001
Arche de la Defense Johan Otto von Spreckelsen Danish 1989
Tour CB21 Max Abramovitz American 1974
Tour Areva Skidmore, Owings & Merrill American 1974
Tour CBX Kohn Pedersen Fox American 2005
Carpe Diem Robert Stern American 2012
Tour Neptune Henri Kandjian Turkish 1975
Tour Eqho Giorgio Macola Italian 1988
Shanghai, China
Shanghai city skyline
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 and 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. Scottish firm RMJM created the China Merchants Bank Mansion and German ABB Architekten designed Bocom Financial Towers. Canadians were involved in the K11 via Bregmann & Hamann and Argentine-American Cesar Pelli & Associates designed the Shanghai IFC, all together bringing this truly multicultural skyline to life.
The Changing Shanghai Skyline
Below are the buildings that would disappear from this striking Shanghai skyline, if it was built without a global influence:
Building Name Architect Nationality Date built
China Merchants Bank Mansion RMJM Scottish 2013
Bank of Shanghai Headquarters Kenzo Tange Associates Japanese 2005
Bocom Financial Towers ABB Architekten German 2002
Bank of China Tower Nikken Sekkei Japanese 1999
Shanghai Futures Building Langdon Wilson American 1998
Shanghai IFC Cesar Pelli & Associates American 2010
Jin Mao Tower Adrian Smith American 1999
Shanghai World Financial Centre Kohn Pedersen Fox American 2008
Shanghai Tower Marshall Strabala American 2014
Aurora Plaza Nikken Sekkei Japanese 2003
Celebrating Global Influences in Cities Around the World
The five GIFs above provide a snapshot of just how essential migration and globalisation is to the places we all call home, and this rings true around the entire world. Beyond London, Paris, New York, Shanghai and Sydney, we researched ten further cities, and the story of foreign influences elevating the skyline’s aesthetic stayed the same. Out of the 200 buildings we researched in total, 124 of these were designed by someone from outside of the country in question. The globalisation of architecture accounting for 62% of some of the world’s most well-known, and well-regarded, buildings, a stat certain to inspire anyone looking to make an impact in a new country.
Read on to find out more about the additional 10 cities we researched...
Berlin, Germany
A bustling hub of job opportunities, friendly locals and sightseeing aplenty, Berlin’s German-designed architecture is partnered with designs from key architects around the world, including the famous Frank Gehry, the Canadian-American architect behind the DZ Bank Building. Collaboration between cultures is also at the core of Berlin, with the likes of the Reichstag Building, Berlin Cathedral and Church of Friedrichstadt designed by a combination of nationalities, including French, British and Dutch, working alongside German architects.
Dubai, United Arab Emirates
The Dubai skyline has emerged rapidly on the coast of the United Arab Emirates and it continues to grow with its booming tourism, meaning there’s no surprise that this has created jobs for a wide range of professions, including the architects of the world. Its skyline shares influences from around the world, most notably with the sky-high Burj Khalifa designed by American Adrian Smith, while Brit Tom Wright is responsible for the Burj Al Arab and Hazel Wong, hailing from Hong Kong, the lead architect of Jumeirah Emirates Towers.
Hong Kong, China
Similar to Shanghai, the busy Hong Kong skyline is a great example of what migration and globalisation can achieve, with some of its key buildings being designed by people from outside of the country. Again, American-owned Kohn Pedersen Fox pops up, having designed both the ICC Centre and the prestigious Ritz-Carlton Hong Kong. Argentine-American César Pelli designed Hong Kong’s International Finance Centre, while Government House was designed by Charles St. George Cleverly.
Los Angeles, United States of America
Over to the West Coast of America, and while American architects have designed some famous aspects of the downtown skyline, such as the US Bank Tower, the city does still benefit from a global outlook. Notably, the famous Griffith Observatory that punctuates the Hollywood hills was designed by British architect John C. Austin, while Argentine-born César Pelli (who then came to call Connecticut his home) designed LA’s 777 Tower.
Madrid, Spain
Madrid, the capital of Spain has become a major tourist destination, and also an extremely appealing place for people to live. With its sunshine, job opportunities and striking architecture making Madrid a great place to be. The city’s style is thanks to an array of Spanish architects, but also those from elsewhere, including Filippo Juvarra, the Italian architect behind the Royal Palace of Madrid and MVRDV, the Dutch firm that designed the Mirador Building.
Mumbai, India
Due to the country’s colonial history, English architects such as George Gilbert Scott (designer of the Rajabai Clock Tower) and Fredrick William Stevens (Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus) have influenced Mumbai architecture, alongside Scot George Witter, the creator of the Gateway of India. The likes of Swedish architect Axel Haig and his work on the Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus have also played a role in the development of the city, while many of the temples, towers and pagodas were designed by Indian architects such as Laxman Vithu and Deubai Patil.
Oslo, Norway
The Nordic city of Oslo is one that continues to grow, and has been assisted by the designs of architects from around the world, including the German-born architects behind the rebuilding of Oslo cathedral: Alexis de Chateauneuf and Heinrich Ernst Schirmer.
Sao Paulo, Brazil
The sprawling skyline of Brazil’s buzzing financial centre posed a mammoth job for our researchers, with the city littered with notable buildings that seem to stretch as far as the eye can see. Out of the cities researched, Sao Paulo stood out as being heavily designed by Brazilian-born architects, however migrants such as Lina Bo Bardi, who was originally born in Rome, have still played a big part in making the city what it is today. Bo Bardi was responsible for the Museu de Arte, while German Franz Heep designed the Edificio Italia.
Tokyo, Japan
Part of the draw of Tokyo, be it for tourists or migrants, is the beauty in the buildings, that collectively make the entire city such a feast for the eyes. Brimming with culture, some of Tokyo’s most famous buildings are thanks to foreigners, such as Prada Tokyo Aoyama (designed by Swiss firm Herzog de Meuron), the Tokyo International Forum (by Uruguayan architect Rafael Vinoly’s New York firm) and the Watarium Art Museum by Swiss architect Mario Botta.
Vancouver, Canada
We recently revealed that Canada is the country most people around the world are searching for a move to. Which is no surprise, due to its vast array of job opportunities, high earning potential and excellent health care. The country also seems to have been a draw for architects of the world, with Argentine César Pelli making his mark with the TD Tower, US firm Kohn Pedersen Fox with MNP Tower and Danish designer Bjarke Ingels, the architect behind Vancouver House. The great work of Canadian native James Cheng is also seen throughout the city, from the Fairmont Pacific Rim, to the ‘Living Shangri-La'.
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