What makes a great museum? It’s about more than just the art inside its walls—it’s also those walls themselves, which are meant to work in service of what’s on view. As many architects have realized over the years, museum buildings can, if anything, function like artworks themselves, as objects for appreciation. In some cases, these buildings have become just as identifiable as the masterpieces in museums’ collections.
This list collects some of the most important museum buildings of the past 100 years. It includes influential modernist experiments and polarizing postmodern expansions, architectural oddities and beloved additions, circular museums and glassed-in pyramids. These structures proposed strange, new possibilities for how a museum ought to look—and, in some cases, changed the cultural landscape altogether. In the past few decades alone, spurred by Frank Gehry’s Guggenheim Bilbao in Spain, there’s been a museum boom that caused architects to push their practices in new directions, and while the momentum of that boom has died down, its energy lives on.
From a space resembling a hovering spaceship to an institution shaped like an unrolled carpet, these are the 25 best museums since 1922.