Innovative Museums that Transformed Their Cities

There are many innovative museums that have changed the skyline of their cities and are part of the lives of their citizens. Although many were controversial, cities now cannot be imagined without them. Today we've gathered a selection for you to read about.
Innovative Museums that Transformed Their Cities

Last update: 10 August, 2020

Many innovative museums in the world have transformed their environment and cities due to their design and location. As a result, these have generated great and interesting transformations on an urban level, becoming cultural hubs.

However, thanks to these museums, the cities where they’re located have experienced much urban renovation work. These marked a before and after for the urban environment but are also a foothold for cultural and social momentum.

Also, architecture often brings winds of change along with it, and it promotes the development of cities. Today we’d like to show you some interesting examples of museums that have changed their environment and city and also transformed lives.

A view of the Prince Felipe Science Museum.

Museu de les Ciències Príncep Felip – one of the most innovative museums

The Museu de les Ciències Príncep Felip in Valencia is part of the Ciutat de les Arts i les Ciències. This is a cultural complex that renovated the old Turia riverbed. City planners had to divert the Turia river as a result of the great Valencia flood that took place on October 14, 1957.

The rains overflowed the banks of the Turia River, whose waters flooded much of the city. Valencia suffered material damage and officials reported 80 people dead. Because of this, they built a new river channel that doesn’t go across the city, avoiding future flooding.

Then, in the old Turia River bed, after diverting its waters, planners designed a linear park for the enjoyment of Valencians. It was here where they built the City of Arts and Sciences, which consists of 6 buildings, one of which is the Prince Philip Science Museum.

This museum has a unique style and stands out for its groundbreaking design by architect Santiago Calatrava. It has a futuristic feeling that renewed the Valencia skyline.

However, its construction was fraught with controversy, as it went over budget and many doubted the legitimacy of the selection of Calatrava. But in general, its construction was a contribution to the culture and life of the city, eventually becoming a landmark.

Innovative museums that transformed their city

The Guggenheim Museum in Spain.
Image courtesy of Matt Kieffer/

One of the best examples of museums that transformed their city is the Guggenheim Bilbao Museoa. Undoubtedly, the Guggenheim building is perhaps the one that changed the skyline of Bilbao the most.

Its construction started in 1991, the year the Basque government proposed a plan to revitalize Bilbao and its estuary. Furthermore, to make it more iconic, they contacted the Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation.

Also, they hired Frank Gehry as the architect of the new museum on the banks of the estuary. Its construction began in 1992 and lasted until 1997. In October of that year, King Juan Carlos inaugurated the Guggenheim Bilbao Museoa, and it became the driving force and transformer of the urban landscape of this Basque city.

As a result, this architectural intervention gave its name to an urban renewal strategy, which people replicated in other cities. They referred to it as the Guggenheim effect. The locals have etched this museum into their minds, so much so that they couldn’t conceive the city without the bright walls designed by Gehry.

“Architecture must speak of its time and place, and yearn for eternity at the same time.”

-Frank Gehry-

Museo de Arte Contemporáneo de Castilla y León

Museo de Arte Contemporáneo de Castilla y León.
Image courtesy: Ion Sarasola Jaureguialzo /

This interesting building located in Castile and León is the work of the architecture studio Mansilla y Tuñón Arquitectos. It earned them the 2007 Mies Van der Rohe Award.

This building stands out for its personality, reflected in the façade thanks to a glass mosaic of 37 colors. The architects got the inspiration for this mosaic from the stained glass window El Halconero in Catedral de León.

This window is one of the oldest in the cathedral and features a hunting scene. Reminiscent of the past, such as that of the stained glass window, the intention behind this museum was to evoke the city’s heritage. Also, it gives the concept that the museum is “a cultural contemporary cathedral.”

The idea behind this building, which opened in 2005, is for it to be a shelter for art, that helps erase the borders “between private and public, between leisure and work, ultimately, between art and life”, in the words of design.

Museu Oscar Niemeyer

A view of one of the most innovative museums.
Image courtesy of Morio/

The Museu Oscar Niemeyer is located in the city of Curitiba, State of Parana, Brazil. It consists of two buildings and occupies an area of ​​376,737 square feet, of which 375,185 comprises the exhibition area.

The first building of the complex was designed in 1967 by Oscar Niemeyer. Following the style of that era, it was conceived as an educational institute. This building was reformed to fulfill the function of a museum, annexing a building designed by Niemeyer in the shape of an eye.

This renovation gave a new identity to the complex. The annex building was inaugurated on July 8, 2003, taking the name of Novo Museu. It’s locally known as Museu do Olho (The Eye of Curitiba), due to the shape of its design.

The building, of outstanding beauty and importance, has become a cultural institution of national and international quality. This cultural center focuses on visual arts, architecture, and design.

As you can see, architecture is an important engine for the urban, social, and cultural renewal of cities, and these innovative museums are a clear example of the positive influence of cultural buildings.