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The Country With the Best Architecture in Asia

We recently conducted an in-depth analysis of the Asian countries with the best architecture and in this article we will take a look at the country that made it to the top of our list. Check out our free report on the 10 Countries With the Best Architecture in Asia.

The Blends in Asian Architecture

Asian architecture is particularly well-known for its unique blend of contemporary design styles with traditional architectural techniques. This is one of the reasons why UNESCO has an architectural heritage award for Asia-Pacific in the category of ‘New Design in Heritage Contexts’. This reward is meant to encourage architects to innovate their designs, while also preserving the cultural heritage of the region. This particular award was first introduced in 2005 and recognizes newly built structures with outstanding design and optimal integration with the region's historical context.

The traditional and historical context is considered significant for Asian architecture because it offers ingenious solutions to the region's issues. A 2015 study by Rashid and Ara discussed how traditional Asian architectural design solved local problems. For example, the Mru Tribe of Bangladesh has hillhouse structures that are generally considered ‘primitive’ architecture. However, the houses are balanced in such a way that any soil shifts or earthquakes in the region would not affect them.

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Another notable aspect of these houses is that the general living space, known as the Kim-Tom, is supported and propped up by five pillars. The five-pillar arrangement distributes the roof load more evenly. The study also noted that bamboo is a commonly used construction material in Southeast Asia. The material is worth focusing on because it surpasses even reinforcement steel in terms of tensile strength, as noted by Rashid and Ara. The researchers note other such traditional arrangements in Japan, China, Malaysia, and many other Asian countries. This is why Asia has several countries with the best architecture in the world.

Architecture Awards Showcase Asia’s Domination as Well 

The Pritzker Architecture Prize is one of the world’s most notable architecture awards. Each year, the award grants $100,000 to an architect or a group of architects who have achieved something significant in their field. During the 15 years from 2010 to 2024, Asian architects received the award seven times. This is higher than every other continental region. European architects received the award in six different years. A South American and an African architect have won the award one time each.

The 2024 award went to Japanese architect Riken Yamamoto. His work is recognized for balancing privacy within his buildings, while also finding a way to foster communal ties. He designed his own home, titled GAZEBO, in a manner that makes it easy to interact with the neighbors through the rooftops and terraces. Yamamoto is the ninth Japanese architect to receive this prestigious honor. It’s the work of creatives like these that makes Japan one of the countries that produce the best architects in the world.

Asian architecture has also received several awards from The International Architecture Awards, which are organized by the Chicago Athenaeum: Museum of Architecture and Design. In the 2023 awards, Asian buildings won at least one award in 22 out of the 25 categories. The winning categories included civic centers, commercial buildings, exposition centers, and monuments, among others.

Architecture Contributes to Tourism

The architectural landscape of a place is one of the many reasons why tourists might be attracted to it. In 2018, researchers from the University of Technology in Sydney conducted a study to map this phenomenon. They used the Dr. Chau Chak Wing building as a case study for determining potential tourist inflows. The research concluded that the building had a potential to contribute somewhere between AUD 48.8 million to AUD 97.6 million in tourism revenue, annually. This research presents just one example of how architectural buildings can become multipliers for tourism flows. This is especially pertinent for a continent like Asia which is laced with unique architectural styles in almost every country.

Tourism and the Pandemic - A Contentious Pairing 

However, no amount of architecture could prevent tourism from taking a hit due to the COVID-19 pandemic. According to a 2022 report by the Asian Development Bank, 2020 brought tourism to a standstill in the entire world. As vaccinations started rolling out, tourism recovery was expected to start in 2021, but the data showcased a different picture. From January to September 2021, international tourist arrivals in the Asia-Pacific fell by 94.9% as compared to the same period in 2019. Southeast Asia was one of the most affected subregions in the world, witnessing a 98% decrease in international arrivals.

Furthermore, by November 2021, 65% of the destinations in Asia-Pacific were still completely closed to international tourism. One of the sectors hit hardest by this situation was the aviation industry. According to ADB, the Asia-Pacific region had the world’s largest aviation market, accounting for 35% of all global travelers. However, the pandemic reduced international passenger traffic by 80.3% from 2020 to 2021.

Post-pandemic, tourism recovery has been a bit slow in the Asian region. On January 19, 2024, the United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) reported that in 2023, international arrivals reached 65% of pre-pandemic levels in Asia-Pacific. This was significantly lower than in Africa, where arrivals managed to reach 96% of pre-pandemic levels. Countries such as Morocco and Ethiopia had significant tourism recovery, and they’re also some of the African countries with the best architecture. Within the Asian subregions, South Asia showed the best performance by recovering 87% of its 2019 arrival levels. Other regions performed quite low, for example, North-East Asia, which only recovered 55% of its pre-pandemic levels. However, experts believe that the growth will continue in 2024.

In a nutshell, tourism in Asia is recovering, even if slowly and gradually. As international travelers start flying into the Asian region again, one of the companies helping them make their travel decisions is Tripadvisor, Inc. (NASDAQ:TRIP). Visitors can check out over 55 million reviews of Asian hotels, attractions, and restaurants, which makes Tripadvisor, Inc. (NASDAQ:TRIP) a valuable resource for the trip-planning process. In the 2024 Travelers’ Choice Awards by the company, Asian destinations received a lot of recognition. The first five Trending Destinations all belonged to Asia. The number one spot went to Tokyo, Japan.

In the category of Top Destinations, Asian locations held three out of the top five spots. The first spot belonged to Dubai, UAE. In the 2024 award series, Tripadvisor, Inc. (NASDAQ:TRIP) also launched the category of Sustainable Destinations. For this category, Asia had only one mention in the top five, with Singapore coming in at number fifth. Lastly, the category of Culture Destinations also saw Asian mentions. Agra in India received the third spot, followed by Colombo (Sri Lanka) in seventh place, Hue (Vietnam) in the eighth, and Tokyo (Japan) in the tenth.

Thus, data from Tripadvisor, Inc. (NASDAQ:TRIP) corroborates that the Asian region can expect its tourism to flourish in the upcoming months of 2024. Let's now look at the country with the best architecture in Asia.

The Asian Country With the Best Architecture
The Asian Country With the Best Architecture

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Our Methodology

In order to compile this list of the 10 countries with the best architecture in Asia, we adopted a consensus approach. First, we consulted ten reports and rankings on the internet, shortlisting countries that appeared in at least 50% of our sources. Then, we ranked the countries according to the number of tourists they received in 2023. Our hypothesis is that countries with good architecture attract a high number of tourists. We sourced our tourism data from the UN World Tourism Organization (UNWTO). Further information from each country is sourced from Trip Advisor, The International Architecture Awards, and The Pritzker Architecture Prize.

Note:

  • China and India did not have data in UNWTO’s 2023 database. However, both of these countries are extremely revered for their architecture, thus, we utilized their pre-COVID numbers to rank them. The tourist arrivals for these countries are from 2019. We have also looked up individual media reports for both of them in order to mention an updated figure from 2023. These figures are not corroborated by the UNWTO and come from media reports.

  • For the purpose of this analysis, we have considered Macau and Hong Kong as regions separate from China.

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The Asian Country With the Best Architecture

China 

Tourist Arrivals (2019): 65.73 Million

China ranks number one on our list of countries with the best architecture in Asia. The country received 65.73 million tourists in 2019, according to the UNWTO. A CNN report from January 18, 2024, revealed that the country received 35.5 million tourists in 2023. The UNWTO further reports that outbound and inbound tourism is expected to improve for the country in 2024. This is due to visa facilitation and advanced air capacity. China is providing visa-free travel to citizens from France, Malaysia, Germany, the Netherlands, Italy, and Spain. This service is available until November 30, 2024.

Chinese architecture has developed into its modern shape over millenniums. Today, it is characterized by elements such as open spaces, symbolic elements, symmetry, and feng shui. Feng Shui is the technique of optimizing buildings so they generate feelings of happiness and harmony. The stylistic development of Chinese architecture dates back thousands of years and can be studied in immense detail.

Wang Shu, a Chinese architect, received the Pritzker Prize in 2012. The country was also immensely recognized in the 2023 International Architecture Awards, winning over nineteen awards. Some of the winning sites were the Guangzhou Julong Bay Civic Center, the Radisson Collection Resort Hotel, and the Zhuji Historical Memorial Hall. The Palace Museum of the Forbidden City is the top-rated Chinese architectural building on Trip Advisor, with over 14,000 reviews and ratings. The international recognition of these buildings shows why China has the best architecture in Asia.

China ranks number 1 among the Asian countries with the best architecture. To learn about other Asian countries that are home to some of the most architecturally significant sites, check out our comprehensive report on 10 Countries With the Best Architecture in Asia.

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Disclosure: None. This article is originally published on Insider Monkey.