Tiger's Nest Monastery perched on the side of a cliff in Bhutan

The Seven Wonders of the World - Buildings

Author: Sue
Date: 28th December 2023
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Bucket List Buildings

Which buildings should be on a World Wide Bucket List - Seven Wonders of Architecture? Old or modern? I like both. Beautiful or meaningful?

Tallest Buildings in the World

If you want to add mega-tall to your list, then the shiny segmented needle edifice, the Burj Khalifa, in Dubai is currently the winner. You can get afternoon tea and admire the view.

There's been a lot of competition, over the years for the world's tallest building. The Jeddah Tower, now under construction in Saudi Arabia is planned to reach one kilometre in right, dwarfing the 830 metres of the Burj. Going back in time, we have The Petronas Towers, The CN Tower and The World Trade Centre. All iconic and worth a visit (to Ground Zero, for the Trade Centre, of course). Going back still further, The Empire State Building and the Eiffel Tower are obligatory additions to the list.

Largest Buildings in the World

It's not so easy to rank buildings by size and a highly contentious undertaking. Floor area? Volume? The Aerium near Berlin, Germany has the largest uninterrupted volume in the world, whilst Boeing's factory in Washington, U.S.A. has the world's largest useable volume. The AvtoVAZ main assembly building in Tolyatti, Russia is the largest building in area footprint. The New Century Global Center in Chengdu, China is the largest building in terms of total floor area, because it has numerous storeys. It is home to several hotels, a skating rink, a university and a water park with an artificial beach. That sounds like cheating to me.

The Heaviest Building in the World

Bucharest's Soviet era, Palace of the Parliament is the undisputed heaviest building in the world.

The Sagrada Familia

But for me, buildings have be beautiful. So, I'm going to concentrate on that quality. Number One isn't that old, but it isn't exactly modern and it's not even quite finished. I love the Sagrada Familia, in Barcelona. (And Gaudi's other works too.) La Sagrada Familia was begun in 1882. It's a straight out of Mervyn Peake 'minor basilica', incongruously surrounded by cranes.

Construction actually began under architect Francisco de Paula del Villar, but he resigned, in 1883, and Antoni Gaudí took over as chief architect, 'transforming the project with his architectural and engineering style, combining Gothic and curvilinear Art Nouveau forms'. Gaudí devoted the remainder of his life to this project, but, at the time of his death, in 1926, less than a quarter of the project was complete. He is buried in the church's crypt.

After Gaudí's death, the work was continued by his main disciple, Domènec Sugrañes i Gras. It was badly interrupted by the Spanish Civil War , in 1936. Parts of the unfinished building and Gaudí's models and workshop were destroyed by fire. The present design is based on reconstructed (and adapted) versions of those plans.

The basilica is best observed illuminated at night. There are plenty of bars in the square opposite.

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The Pompidou Centre

I'm fascinated by Richard Rogers high tech inside out style architecture. I wander past his old studio on the River Thames, casting admiring glances. His Pompidou Centre Musée National d'Art Moderne is my favourite Parisian building (both inside and out). It houses the largest collection of modern and contemporary art in Europe. It is named after Georges Pompidou, the President of France from 1969 to 1974, who commissioned the building, and it was officially opened on 31 January 1977, by President Valéry Giscard d'Estaing.

The Taj Mahal

Now a more traditional choice. The Taj Mahal in Agra, India is much hyped, but it doesn’t disappoint. It is truly an exquisite building. It required the labour of 20,000 men and is estimated to have cost something in the region of three million rupees (at today's prices that equates to around $70 million). Shah Jehan, Akbar's grandson, built it as a tomb for his wife, Mumtaz, and then was overthrown by his son. It’s poignant to think of the imprisoned shah locked up across the river, in the fort - so near and yet so far.

Again, The Taj Mahal has to be toured both at sunset and sunset, for the rosy light and the atmospheric photos. Little men pop up to lead us to the best spots for pictures - for a suitable reward, of course. And visiting Indians queue up to take our photos and have shots taken with us.

The Chrysler Building

The Chrysler Building was built with the aim of becoming the world's tallest building, stealing the title from the Eiffel Tower. But barely a year went by, before it was surpassed by the Empire State Building. Today, at 319 metres, it is still the tallest brick building in the world, with a steel framework, and the twelfth tallest building in New York City, It was commissioned by Walter Chrysler, of the car company, but he never intended it as a company headquarters and quickly sold it on. It was designed by William Van Alen, in Art Deco style, with 3,862 exterior windows and approximately fifty metal ornaments, protruding at the building's corners, on five floors. There are also replicas of 1929 Chrysler radiator caps and eagles (America's national bird), adorning the 61st-floor.

When the Chrysler Building opened, there were mixed reviews of the building's design. Some complained it was inane and unoriginal, others hailed it as modernist and iconic. I'm with the latter group. It's by far the most engaging building in New York. I also enjoy the Flat Iron Building. The Americans prefer the Empire State Building. Each to his own.

Saint Basil's Cathedral

St Basil's Cathedral in Moscow's Red Square, is another building which exceeds expectations. with its kaleidoscopic onion domes and icons. It ought to be garish, but somehow it isn't. It's entrancing. Ivan the Terrible had it built to celebrate his victories and then blinded the architect, so he could never build anything so beautiful again. Terrible sounds like the right adjective to me.

The Kremlin and the red brick State Museum are pretty impressive too.

The Potala Palace

There are numerous other religious buildings which are contenders. Gorgeous mosques, like the Blue Mosque at Istanbul. The Jerónimos Monastery at Lisbon, almost made it. The tracery is wonderful. The Temple of Bacchus at Baalbek, in Lebanon, is stunning. The Tiger's Nest Monastery (above) perched on a mountainside in Bhutan is postcard perfect, as are so many Buddhist monasteries and temples throughout Asia. I initially went for Angkor Wat, in Cambodia. But that's a complex. (The Registan in Uzbekistan is eliminated for the same reason.) So, I 'm opting for the extraordinary Potala Palace, in Tibet.

Saint Pancras Station

What's my favourite building in the UK? There are plenty of castles and cathedrals, palaces to choose from. Skyscrapers like The Shard and The Gherkin. Maybe my local Brighton Royal Pavilion (though I would say that it's striking rather than beautiful.) But I'm plumping for Gilbert Scott's amazing St Pancras Station.

What would your Buildings Bucket List be?

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