Technical advances in the way we build our structures have seen the buildings of civilization transform dramatically over time – and modern techniques allow today’s architects to produce some really dramatic and awe-inspiring builds.
From the days of the Ancient Egyptians, who produced an early form of concrete from lime and gypsum, to the Romans who furthered the technique with sand, hydrated lime and volcanic ash, and finally on to the revolution of steel-reinforced concrete which allows us to build the towering skyscrapers of today.
Our ancestors would surely never have imagined that a superstructure like the Burj Khalifa - which stands at a staggering 2,716 feet tall – could ever be conceived of, let alone built. And aside from advances in the size of the buildings we can create, new and innovative materials mean that buildings no longer need to be tied so tightly to function – there is ever more room for artistry, creativity and pure wow factor!
Let’s take a look at some of today’s weird and wonderful structures that break the mold and take architecture to a whole new level.
Lotus Temple - Delhi, India
Thought of by many as the most beautiful building in the world, the House of Worship in New Delhi with its lotus flower-inspired shape houses a 40 meter tall hall that can hold up to 2,500 people. Interestingly, the white marble which is used for the surface of the ‘petals’ was sourced from the Penteli mountain in Greece – the same site which produced the marble used for the Parthenon!
It’s shape is formed with 27 free-standing petals, arranged in a cluster to form the traditional nine-sided circular pattern which is the standard for all Bahá'í houses of worship. The temple grounds cover 26 acres, which include nine ponds and many decorative gardens. In the Bahá'í tradition, anyone is free to enter the temple regardless of their religion, gender or ethnicity. According to the Indian government, the Lotus Temple had received over 100 million visitors by 2014!
The Eden Project – Cornwall, England
The Eden Project, which houses two enormous artificial biomes – a tropical rainforest and a Mediterranean habitat – must be one of the most intriguing places on Earth. It’s a glimpse into the prehistoric past and into a more sustainable future all at once, and it’s a great day out too! Shops, restaurants, educational tours, music concerts and themed events take place all year round, and it’s one of the most popular attractions in the UK.
The Eden Project is also notable for its keen attention to Health and Safety standards, with thorough guidelines that include daily inspections, verbal lessons for all visitors, and even the provision of life buoys near all water sources and an emergency ‘cool room’ in case of heat stroke!
The geodesic design of the structure is completely self-supporting, with no internal supports necessary. The building is constructed from tubular steel and cladding panels made from the thermoplastic ETFE, which act as heat cushions to keep the temperature inside the domes stable regardless of external conditions.
Atomium - Brussels, Belgium
Built in the shape of a molecule of crystalized iron (magnified 150 thousand million times, that is!) the Atomium in Brussels has to be one of the world’s most unique buildings. An elevator takes visitors to the top floor in just 23 seconds, where there is a public restaurant seating up to 140 people with breathtaking views across the city. It’s a surprisingly old building for its ultramodern look, originally constructed in 1958 by architect Andre Waterkeyn I for the International Exhibition of Brussels. The fact that it was never meant to be a permanent structure at all is a testament to its solid construction.
Kansas City Library - Missouri, USA
The books which form the biggest attraction of the downtown Kansas City library are not the ones on the shelves – but the 25 foot tall ones of the parking garage! When the library and town found itself needing more parking space and a way to beautify the area at the same time, they requested input from the community on how this could be achieved – and the result is truly remarkable!
Patrons of the library and the local community were also involved in choosing the titles of the 22 books which would be displayed, which include classic works like The Lord of the Rings by JRR Tolkien, Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury, Plato’s The Republic, and The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain to name a few.
Looking at the range and diversity of these buildings, it’s exciting to imagine what other unique architectural wonders the future might hold!
Hayden Myers is a South African travel enthusiast and aspiring writer with the dream and goal to travel the world and share her adventures. The travel bug bit her at the age of 10 when she went on her first overseas trip with her family. She has since travelled to many countries of the world including the United States of America, United Kingdom, Spain, Italy, Germany, Thailand just to mention a few. Hayden is a guest blogger at www.afritraveller.com where she passionately advises fellow travellers in need of tips, ideas and inspiration.