No matter how far and wide you travel, no matter how many countries or continents you strike off your list, this magnificent world will still be hiding a gazillion gems that wow and awe us, and leave us feeling small in front of its magnanimity. If you think that architecture is a ‘modern’ subject, you should take a look at these genius creations that have been standing tall for millenniums now, all a result of the impeccable architectural prowess of the rulers and kings of the eras gone by. Architects, brace yourself, we are about to give you some major creative inspo. By Shubhanjana Das
1. Borobudur, Central Java, Indonesia
About 400 years before the largest religious monument in the world, Angkor Wat, was built in Cambodia, Indonesia already had Borobudur to boast of. This three-tier Buddhist temple covers an area of 1900 square metres and houses 504 Buddha statues and 72 stupas. Given that the very existence of this stupendous temple was hidden from the world till 1814, the masterminds behind its creation remain unknown. The temple has a pyramidal base, a cone structure at the centre, and a stupa on top. It is an estimation that 55000 cubic meters of andesite rocks and knobs and woodworking joinery were used to join those rocks during its construction, which took place sometime between the 8th and 9th century. The temple’s three levels represent three main areas of Buddhist cosmology called kamadhatu, rupadhatu and arupadhatu. There are 100 water gutters in the shape of an elephant headed-fish known as makara as well as a giant puzzle made of two million volcanic stones. This one sure is one helluva architectural genius!
2. Petra, South Jordan
The ‘Rose City’ was the capital of ancient Nabataeans and is entirely carved out of red-rose sandstones. This rock city comprises houses, temples, tombs and altars carved out of sandstone cliffs of Petras 2000 years ago. Petra served as a buffer point for ancient traders who travelled between Mediterranean and Africa. Combining Nabataeans rock-cut and Hellenistic architectural styles, the ‘King Wall’, and Khazneh el Faroun (the Treasury of the Pharaoh) are two of its most famous attractions. The city also shelters relics from the Roman rule and is one of the best sites to study inscriptions on the walls of the 800 monuments that it boasts of.
3. The Great Wall of China
Built by Qin Shi Huang for defence purposes, The Great Wall of China is the longest man-made structure ever built on this planet. The Great Wall was built by different emperors at different points in time but it was recognised as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1987 for its historical and architectural significance. Bricks, stones, tampered Earth and woods were used to make this great wall, which now stands at a whopping 50,000 kilometres. Even though only a few parts of the original war remains and it may also have lost its military significance, The Great Wall is now one of the most popular tourist attractions in China as well as South Asia.
4. Great Pyramid of Giza, El Giza, Egypt
It’s no surprise that every architect’s pilgrimage should start from the final resting place of Egyptian Pharaoh Khufu and the biggest pyramid in the world, the Great Pyramid of Giza. Egyptians as we know it, did not shy away from showing off their other-worldy architectural knowledge as is evident from its pyramid complex. It is not without reason that the Great Pyramid of Giza is considered one of the best specimens of architectural brilliance of the ancient Egyptians. Built somewhere between 2560 and 2540 BC, it is estimated that about 2.3 million stone blocks were transported from the quarry by the Nile river for its construction. Its towering 146.5 metres remained the tallest building in the world for 3800 years since its construction.
5. Taj Mahal, Uttar Pradesh, India
An outstanding example of Mughal architecture, the Taj Mahal is one of those places that is on every architect’s bucket-list, no matter where in the world they hail from. Combining Mughal, Ottoman, Turkish, Persian, Islamic, and Indian architectural styles, the architectural plan of this marvellous construction and a withstanding symbol of love was designed by Ustad Ahmad Lahauri, Makramat Khan, and Abd ul-Karim Ma’mur Khan. Over a period of 20 years, thousands of craftsmen, sandstones, white marbles, jasper and jades imported from different parts of the world, and 28 different semi-precious and precious stones were used to complete the ‘Crown of Palaces’. Its 35 metre-long dome, four minarets with equally divided balconies, and the large garden attract thousands of people from all over the world, every single day.
6. Palace of Alhambra, Andalusia, Spain
The Palace of Alhambra in Spain is another such architectural wonder of the world, which is as stunning from the inside as it is breathtaking from the inside. This fortress was the brainchild of the Moorish monarchs of Granada, Spain and it gets its name from the red colour of the tapia or the rammed earth with which the outer walls are built, sometime between 1238 and 1358. The decorations on the interior are the result of the artistic genius of a certain Yusuf I. Conquering rulers and earthquakes have been causes of some significant damage of the Alhambra.
7. Stonehenge, Salisbury, England
Salisbury city in England is home to a prehistoric monument, which as archaeologists estimate, was built 4000-5000 years ago! But, what is so special and awe-striking about this circle of standing stones of different sizes? The form of the sarsen stones and bluestones is aligned with midwinter sunset and midsummer sunset. Even though the construction of Stonehenge took more than 1500 years at the time, its purpose and the masterminds behind it are still unknown. Was it a burial site or a religious site? Or perhaps neither? We are yet to know.