Are these really the 'world's most spectacular university buildings'? [slideshow]

Emporis lists its top 13 higher education buildings from around the world. We want your feedback!

February 25, 2014 |
Sharp Centre for Design at OCAD University

Construction project database Emporis today released its list of the world's top university buildings. They range from the globe's tallest higher education building, Lomonosov Moscow State University's 240-meter-tall, 36-story Main Building, to the tent-like Campus Luigi Einaudi building in Turin, Italy. 

It's an entertaining exercise to debate the design merits of the world's most decorated buildings. But are these 13 structures really the best university projects? 

Don't get us wrong: every one of these buildings is "spectacular" in its own way. But think about the dozens of higher ed buildings in the U.S. alone that are on par with these projects.  

The lone U.S. representative is Cornell's Bradfield Hall. What about Mies' Crown Hall at IIT in Chicago? Or Frank Lloyd Wright's work at Florida Southern College? Even Gehry's Stata Center at MIT?  

Thank you Emporis for kicking off this debate. We know a definitive list does not exist.

BD+C readers: We want your feedback on this list! Which projects are missing from the Emporis report? Offer your feedback in the comments section at the bottom of this post (or email the BD+C editors directly at 



Here is the full Emporis' report:

Grade A Architecture: The World's Most Spectacular University Buildings

Lecture halls at dizzying heights, libraries with glass-domed roofs or crooked seminar rooms with slanting walls – it is not just in the field of learning that universities have plenty to offer, but on an architectural level, too.

From the historic Universiteitsbibliotheek KU Leuven of 1928 to the enormous glass sphere of the Philologische Bibliothek in Berlin to the brand-new, tent-like Campus Luigi Einaudi in Turin: Emporis (, the international provider of building data, has compiled a selection of the most spectacular university buildings from around the world. 


Biblioteca Central, Mexico City. Copyright: Luis Ibáñez


All students set their sights high, but for the 30,000 enrolled at Lomonosov Moscow State University, this is meant literally as well as figuratively, since their main building, dating from 1953, is the world's tallest university building at 240 meters in height. Over its 36 stories it contains everything one could expect from an educational institution, including a 1,500-seat auditorium, seminar rooms, a library, and even a museum.

A further example of concentration of knowledge is the Mode Gakuen Cocoon Tower in Tokyo: Completed in 2008, the 204-meter-tall, cocoon-shaped skyscraper is home to no fewer than three different colleges, their teaching rooms offering breathtaking views of the city.

By contrast, the architects of the Swanston Academic Building and the Sharp Centre for Design use colorful elements to set accents. The first catches the eye with its wavy and jagged facade that mirrors the colors of the surrounding buildings. Inside, loud red, green and yellow are the dominant hues.


Swanston Academic Building, Melbourne, Australia. Copyright: RMIT / Flickr


The shape and coloring of the Sharp Centre for Design also represent a distinct contrast to its surroundings: The Centre's black-and-white structure, which is reminiscent of a chessboard, stands on bright stilts and appears to hover above the neighboring buildings.

Perhaps less colorful, but at least as spectacular, is the effect created by Bradfield Hall at Cornell University. The dark-red brick building with its rectangular and round pillars is almost entirely windowless, all of which combines to give it the weighty, massive appearance of a medieval fort.

The Graduate Centre of London Metropolitan University and the Run Run Shaw Creative Media Centre in Hong Kong also opt for monochrome facades, in gray and white respectively. Nevertheless, both buildings jump straight out of the landscape: The slanting walls with their narrow window slits seem to positively sink into one another.

Wherever one looks, universities are increasingly setting store by having architectural highlights on campus. Some of the chunky relics of the 60s and 70s, on the other hand, are being torn down. This was recently the case in Frankfurt am Main, where February 2, 2014., saw the demolition of the AfE-Turm. In the largest inner-city controlled blasting Europe has ever seen, the high-rise at the Johann-Wolfgang-Goethe-Universität, dating from 1972, was destroyed in a matter of seconds.


Bradfield Hall, Ithaca, N.Y. Copyright: John W. Cahill


Campus Luigi Einaudi, Turin, Italy. Copyright: Carmelo D'Agostino / Flickr


Faculty of History, Cambridge, England. Copyright: John Levett / Flickr


Graduate Centre, London. Copyright: J Haeske / Flickr

Lomonosov Moscow State University Main Building. Copyright: Igor Butyrskii
Mode Gakuen Cocoon Tower, Toyko. Copyright: Mathew Shaffer
Philologische Bibliothek, Berlin. Copyright: David Ausserhofer
Run Run Shaw Creative Media Centre, Hong Kong. Copyright: Bjarke Liboriussen / Flickr
Sharp Centre for Design, Toronto. Copyright: Andreina Schoeberlein / Flickr 
Roland Levinsky Building, Plymouth, England. Copyright: Alan Coates / Flickr

Universiteitsbibliotheek KU Leuven, Belgium. Copyright: Michiel van Dijk
About Emporis

Emporis is a leading database of information about building and construction projects, based in Germany. For over a decade Emporis has helped companies, organizations and individuals stay informed about the building industry. The Emporis Skyscraper Award is the world’s most renowned prize for high-rise architecture.
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