Tuesday, May 24, 2011

7 Great Buildings

Well, the rapture has come and gone, and we're all still here. Not much of an apocalypse, really. I guess it's too much to expect something like George R. Stewart's Earth Abides, which has got to be the definitive book of surviving post-humankind. In the best self-congratulatory fashion, today let's take a look back at some of the great works of architecture we humans have managed to design. There are so many amazing designs that for this list i've decided to narrow it down to the best design in a few categories: Home, Religious, Governmental, Military, Commercial and Industrial, as well as a bonus Honorable Mention.

Safe House, KWK Promes
I had to open this list with something a little bit unusual. This house, by Polish firm KWK Promes, has popped up as something of an internet phenomenon for being "zombie-proof"... which it probably is. The only access when all the walls are closed up is a 2nd story drawbridge.
The most obvious criticism is that it looks a little bit like a prison, and i can see that when the walls are all closed up, but it's really quite beautiful when it's opened.

All images provided by KWK Promes
Photographer: Aleksander Rutkowski
Bath Abbey
This was probably the most difficult category for me to choose. There are so many great cathedrals and mausoleums -- not to mention the Pyramids -- that i couldn't find one that had all the qualities i wanted. Admittedly, Bath Abbey is a bit shy on gargoyles, and it doesn't have the macabre shock of the Capuchin Crypts, but the fan vaulting is just absolutely breathtaking (the ceiling structure). Its location right next to the ruined Roman Baths in Bath makes for a great shot upwards out of time, too.
All images provided by author.
Roman Forum
This was an easy choice. When talking about governments and architecture, you can't go bigger than the Roman Forum. Forums, or plazas, were the center of most Roman cities, and this one in Rome was by far the most important. For hundreds of years this was THE place to be for trade, justice and entertainment. Now, thousands of years later, we're still imitating their styles for our own government buildings. For sheer density of cultural importance and iconic design, the Roman Forum takes the cake (and eats it, too).

All images sourced from Wikimedia Commons
Great Wall of China
This one seems like a no-brainer, but i had to think twice before i decided to include it because it never really served its purpose. This seems to be a recurring theme with country-sized walls, from Hadrian's to the one we're building on the border with Mexico. Still, in a field that's tends more towards engineered design than aesthetic design, the Great Wall is pretty impressive. It's just SO BIG. One estimate puts the total construction at 3.8 BILLION stones, which, if true, is just mind-boggling. For all our advances in technology in the centuries since it was built, we may never build its equal.

All images sourced from Wikimedia Commons.

Burj Khalifa (Burj Dubai) SOM Architects
I didn't choose these last two exclusively because of their size, although it did play into my consideration. The technical prowess required to build something of this magnitude is incredible.
SOM Architects, who also designed the Sears/Willis Tower, have cemented their place as the leaders in mega-skyscrapers. As one of their more recent and also their largest piece, the Burj Khalifa wins its place as the title holder for my commercial architecture category. If there's a more potent symbol of capitalism and commerce than the skyscraper, i don't know what it is.
The last picture here is looking down from the observation deck.

Image credit: neekoh.fi, flickr.com
Image Credit: nlann, flickr.com
Image Credit: jodastephen, flickr.com
Falkirk Wheel, RMJM
This is one of my favorite constructions of all time. First, it brings elegance to what is otherwise a fairly dirty business of moving boats around. Second, it's amazingly efficient at what it does. Because boats displace water equal to their weight, the top and bottom of the wheel are perfectly balanced, and rotating the wheel takes as little as 1.5kw-h to complete.

All images provided by author.

Honorable Mention
Wudang Mountains
This is the sort of place that inspires all those fantastic wuxia films like Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon. There's an ethereal quality to these places, hidden so far up in the mountains, that lends weight to the mythical legends of heroes and villains of the past.

All images sourced from Wikimedia Commons.

1 comment:

  1. A very nice selection of quite elegant structures; all amazing but the Safe House was really a surprise when opened up.