Desktop destinations: visit some faraway architectural gems from the comfort of your home

Pandemic lockdowns and travel bans mean that the perennial pastime of globe trotting and archi-touring will, for now, be a pipe dream. But while our borders are closed and our airlines are grounded, our screens, devices and internet connections are taking off (probably more than ever before). So we’ve assembled a team of seasoned travellers to take us to some of the most picturesque architectural gems around the world. No need for passports, layovers, jetlag, or invasive body scanners. We hope you enjoy the tour. (Oh, and don’t worry, there’s not a single cruise ship in sight.)

Utzon’s Can Lis

Jennifer McMaster takes us to the Spanish island of Mallorca, a European summer playground packed with themed restaurants and go-kart tracks. But it’s also home to Jørn Utzon’s Can Lis, the first of two houses Utzon built on the island. “The house embodies the most fundamental of architectural ideals, those of prospect and refuge,” she writes. “Its monolithic construction evokes the ruins of ancient temples, with its stone pock-marked and worn. Within its thick cave-like walls, furnishings are kept to a minimum with tiled stone tables and seats constructed as permanent fixtures for public gathering, while bed nooks have been carved from the stone mass to form protected niches.”

The Floating Piers by Christo and Jeanne-Claude, Lake Iseo, Italy, 2014-16.

The Floating Piers by Christo and Jeanne-Claude, Lake Iseo, Italy, 2014-16.

Christo and Jeanne-Claude’s Floating Piers

Travel back in time with Louise Wright and Mauro Baracco to when this lurid yellow pontoon was floating in Lake Iseo in northern Italy. “The three-kilometre-long, sixteen-metre-wide modular floating dock system was made of 220,000 high-density polyethylene cubes and covered in 100,000 square meters of saffron-coloured nylon fabric,” the pair explain. “The simplicity of this idea, its abstract quality and impressive large scale have the trademark of the best land art.”

Las Cruces Lookout Point by Elemental.

Las Cruces Lookout Point by Elemental.

Image: Marnie Morieson

La Ruta del Peregrino

Join Marnie Morieson on a pilgrimage to Mexico’s 117-kilometre Ruta del Peregrino, through the mountains of Jalisco. Here, along this sacred route, a series of architectural interventions orchestrated by Tatiana Bilbao unites devotees and tourists in a shared experience of place and sanctuary.

Peter Zumthor’s witchcraft memorial in Vardø, Norway.

Peter Zumthor’s witchcraft memorial in Vardø, Norway.

Image: Lindy Atkin

Peter Zumthor’s Vardø memorial

Lindy Atkin and Stephen Guthrie take us to the snow-capped mountains and glacial lakes of far north Norway to visit a witchcraft memorial designed by Peter Zumthor the year before he won the Pritzker Prize. “The memoria is a two-part composition – a long white line and a black dot, sharing the black and white colour scheme of the nearby cemetery chapel. It consists of two structures designed by Zumthor – an ‘infinitely’ long structure of bleached ‘driftwood’ frames encasing a stretched canvas cocoon and a dark glass cube.”

Kastrup Sea Bath by White Arkitekter.

Kastrup Sea Bath by White Arkitekter.

Image: Robert Martin

White Arkitekter’s Kastrup Sea Bath

Over in Copenhagen, Robert Martin invites us to plunge into the icy Baltic Sea from this “alluring” wooden structure. “It’s obvious that the bath’s beauty lies in its simple, elegant form,” he says. “What was not immediately obvious, however, was how its form was so intimately derived from a clear understanding of the bath’s primary function – as a shelter. As I first stepped into the periphery of the circular form, the howling wind seemed to suddenly stop, replaced by the quiet, repetitive lapping of small waves against the bath’s thick wooden piers.”

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