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Urban Legends

Private school tuition aside, urban life can be livable. These recent architectural wonders accommodate density in style

8 Spruce Street

City: New York

Architect: Frank Ghery

Year completed: 2011

Accommodating the masses: At 76 stories, the Western Hemisphere's tallest residential building has 903 units. The structure, with its rippled steel facade, also has a six-floor base occupied by a public school and a hospital.

Parc de la Villette

City: Paris

Architect: Bernard Tschumi

Year completed: 1998

Accommodating the masses: The 125-acre urban park, which took 15 years to finish, currently sees around 8 million visitors annually. The design was based on modern-day culture rather than nature.

Seattle Central Library

City: Seattle

Architect: Rem Koolhaas

Year completed: 2004

Accommodating the masses: The library saw 2.8 million visitors its first year. It has a four- story "Books Spiral" that doesn't break up the Dewey Decimal.

UFA Cinema Center

City: Dresden

Architect: COOP Himmelb(l)au

Year completed: 1998

Accommodating the masses: The sprawling complex, which houses eight large movie theaters with a total of 2,600 seats, doubles as a glass-enclosed public square featuring views of the historic German city.

Madrid-Barajas Airport NAT

City: Madrid

Architects: Richard Rogers and Estudio Lamela

Year completed: 2006

Accommodating the masses: In 2010, 49.9 million passengers came through Madrid-Barajas, one of the largest buildings in Europe.

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