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10 Architectural Feats You Must See Before You Die

“If you hear a Parisian saying how much they love the iron lady, chances are they’re not talking about Margaret Thatcher”

Instead, they’re probably referring to the French capital’s iconic centrepiece…

  • 10 Architectural Feats You Must See Before You Die

    Eiffel Tower – Paris

    Eiffel Tower in Paris

    1887-1889
    If you hear a Parisian saying how much they love the iron lady, chances are they’re not talking about Margaret Thatcher. Instead, they’re probably referring to the French capital’s iconic centrepiece. Made up of 18,000 iron girders and two-and-a-half million rivets, La dame de fer took 300 workers two years to build. Interestingly, when the Nazis invaded Paris, the French resistance cut the Eiffel Tower’s lift cables. The thinking was if Hitler wanted slap a swastika on the top, he’d have to puff his way up the 1665 stairs first. Funnily enough, he didn’t bother.
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    Chichen Itza – Mexico

    Chichen Itza in Mexico

    550 AD
    Rising up from the Mexican jungle, this enormous stepped pyramid is Chichen Itza’s star sight. It’s a phenomenal piece of Mayan masonry with 91 steps on each of its four sides and a box-like shrine on top. If you add all those elements together you get 365. And that’s not coincidence. The pyramid isn’t just a temple, it’s actually a time temple – a gigantic calendar representing the solar year. As if that wasn’t impressive enough, the whole place was built before the Maya had invented the wheel.
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    Sagrada Familia – Barcelona

    Sagrada Familia

    1882-2026?
    There can’t be many cities in the world where the main attraction is a building site. But Barcelona’s star turn is little more than a shell surrounded by cranes and scaffolding rigs. In fact, it’s not scheduled for completion until 2026. But despite that minor detail, this church-in-progress still nets over two million visitors a year. Reason being, it defies all building conventions. Just take the spires. All curves and twists of fantasy, they look like a pair of dribbled candlesticks. Let’s just say this is one place where a spirit level isn’t part of the toolkit.
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    Leaning Tower of Pisa – Tuscany

    Leaning Tower of Pisa

    1173-1372
    If the Leaning Tower could speak, it’d probably slur its words – with a four-and-a-half-metre tilt, it looks like it’s had one glass of chianti too many. The tower’s design was flawed from day one. With foundations just three metres deep, it wasn’t long before the structure began to slope sideways. To try and solve the problem, Medieval engineers built upper floors with one side taller than the other. The result? A perma-slant that earned the monument the moniker, ‘the most famous architectural disaster in the world’.
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    Parthenon – Athens

    Parthenon

    447-438 BC
    This enduring image of the ancient world has had a fair few jobs in its time. It started out as temple dedicated to the goddess Athena. In the 5th century AD, Athena was served an eviction notice and the Virgin Mary moved in as the temple was converted into a church. When the Ottoman Turks invaded in the 1460s, it morphed once more, this time into a mosque – complete with a minaret. For a time it even served as an ammunition dump, which wasn’t ideal the day the Venetians attacked Athens – part of the Parthenon went up in smoke.
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    Taj Mahal – India

    Taj Mahal

    1632-1653
    “The sight of this mansion creates sorrowing sighs. And the sun and the moon shed tears from their eyes…” So goes a heart-wrenching poem about India’s trophy sight, the Taj Mahal. The ditty was penned by the man behind the monument, the Emperor Shah Jehan. The reason for his melancholy words? The death of his beloved queen who died giving birth to their child. Grief-stricken, he commissioned the Taj Mahal in her memory. No wonder so many people regard it as the ultimate symbol of eternal love.
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    Sydney Opera House – Australia

    Sydney Opera House

    1959-1973
    Now here’s a reason to eat your five a day… In 1955, a competition was launched to design a concert hall in Sydney. The winner was a Danish architect called Jorn Utzon. Although brilliant, his sail-like design was so avant-garde the technology didn’t exist to build it. Thankfully, Utzon had a eureka moment. It came as he was peeling an orange. As he pulled the segments of fruit apart, he realised the shell of his design could be built out of a single sphere. Problem solved.
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    Lost City of Petra – Jordan

    Lost City of Petra

    For centuries, nobody knew this ancient site existed. That was until a young Swiss explorer stumbled upon it in 1812. But it’s easy to see how Petra managed to sneak beneath the radar. Tucked away among craggy mountaintops, it’s all but hidden from view. Many archaeologists call it the 8th Wonder of the World. And for good reason – the city’s 800 or so temples, tombs and stairways are all carved out of the sandstone cliffs. You might get a sense of deja-vu here – Petra landed the starring role in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade.
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    Empire State Building – New York

    Empire State Building

    1930-1931
    At 1250 feet high, this Art Deco megalith is the tallest building in New York. But it very nearly missed out on that accolade. Two other buildings under construction at the same time – 40 Wall Street and the Chrysler Building – also had their sights set on the title. The skyscraper is a record breaker other ways. Built in a remarkable 410 days, it’s actually the fastest-erected tower ever to rise from the ground. Rocket up in one of its satiny-wood lifts to the observation decks for heart-stopping views of the Big Apple.
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    Great Pyramid of Giza – Cairo

    Great Pyramid of Giza

    2560 BC
    The Hanging Gardens of Babylon? Taken out by an earthquake. The Colossus of Rhodes? Ditto. And it’s pretty much the same story for the other Seven Wonders of the World. All except one, that is – the Great Pyramid of Giza. Historians think it took 20 years to construct this gargantuan tomb and reckon it’s made up of 2.3 million blocks. That means 800 tonnes of stone had to be shifted every day – that’s an average of around 12 blocks being hauled into place every hour, day and night. Talk about built to last…
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Author: Osman Khan

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