From the Great Pyramids of Giza to Machu Picchu to the Sears Tower, humans have always been driven by the hunger to build larger and more lavishly than our neighbors. Keeping up with the Joneses has become more difficult than ever, as the new record for world’s tallest building has changed no less than five times in the past forty years. But today, it’s about more than just scraping higher clouds. Architects the world over are still challenging each other in countless ways, leading to a golden age of the odd, magnificent and over-the-top.
The great benefactors of this architectural arms race? Us travelers, who have more shiny and marvelous destinations to add to our itineraries. Let’s take a look at these modern wonders of the world, their origins, and how to see them.
1. Burj, Dubai
Photo courtesy of Imre Solt (cc)
The rapidly expanding Dubai is the world’s hotbed for mind-boggling structures, and the soon-to-be-complete Burj is its centerpiece, its office space costing a stunning $4,000 per square foot.
Soon to take the crown as the world’s tallest building at 818 meters—though who knows for how long—the 4.1 billion-dollar tower was begun five years ago as part of the massive Downtown Dubai project, wherein countless new attractions are being created to add to Dubai’s reputation as a world cultural center.
As it stands, the building looks like a giant steel needle—perhaps what Oz would look like if the wizard were a robot. Its design is based on the Hymenocallis flower and its pattern can be found frequently in Arabic architecture. The developers don’t want the Burj to just impress with its heights, either. Giorgio Armani is designing the interior, and will feature an entire floor dedicated to a swimming pool, not to mention a massive fountain at its front door that features 6,000 lights, fifty color projectors, and a twenty-four-hour soundtrack.
Oddly, it wasn’t always the original plan to make the Burj the world’s tallest building. Instead, architect Adrian Smith requested a series of height increases in new blueprints, as he thought it added more balance to the building’s overall appearance. His demands probably didn’t faze the developer of the Burj Dubai, Skidmore, Owings, and Merrill, as they were the masterminds behind former monoliths such as the Sears (Willis) Tower and New York’s former World Trade Center.
2. The World Trade Center, Manama, Bahrain
Photo courtesy of omar_chatriwala (cc)
These two jagged, pointed buildings are strategically positioned in Manama, Bahrain, to accumulate wind for the three giant turbines that sit in between, which help power the building. The Bahrain World Trade Center has been lauded as a landmark in building greening technology.
3. The Basket Building, Newark, Ohio
Photo courtesy of Greg Gladman (cc)
Corporate office buildings are rarely as inventive as the one devised by the Longaberger Company in Newark, Ohio. Former company CEO Dave Longaberger had long desired this cheeky exterior for his basket company headquarters, but many of his employees didn’t believe he was serious. Longaberger dreamed of all offices getting the basket treatment, but only the headquarters were completed before he passed in 1999.
4. Niteroi Museum of Contemporary Art, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
Photo courtesy of Luiz Maron (cc)
It’s fitting that a building full of art is a work of art in itself, and the Niteroi Museum of Contemporary Art in Rio uses its surroundings to its full advantage. The building juts out and swirls, like the main lair for some sci-fi supervillain.
5. Lotus Temple, Delhi, India
Photo courtesy of Ben Tubby (cc)
The Baha’i House of Worship, more popularly known as “the Lotus Temple,” is the gem of Delhi, India. This sanctuary for worshipers of all religions looks like the world’s largest piece of origami (though it’s made of marble), and since its opening in 1986, the temple has attracted more than fifty million visitors per year.
Originally published on Where I’ve Been