our evolving culture - architecture

It is always about the tallest or highest, the biggest, the smartest, the longest and the most sophisticated. It should always appeal to the eye, providing a reflex full of awe, wonder and praise. It is always about building, moving, climbing and so many different verbs that grudge against one another trying to stand out as the superlative. Time (1999.12.31 issue) focuses on build this time – done in the past millennium.

11th centurySan Marco, Venice. The Doge’s chapel was modeled on a now destroyed church in the rival – and more splendid – metropolis Constantinople. But as it prospered, Venice both updated and preserved San Marco’s splendor: five shallow Byzantine brick domes were covered over by metal ones. The 320-ft campanile, foreground, raised in 912, collapsed in 1902. It was rebuilt in 1912 – on its 1,000th birthday.

1113 – 1150 Angkor Wat, Cambodia (213 ft. tall). Part holy mountain, part city, the sprawling temple built by King Suryavarman II was intended to be proof of his divinity.

1224 – 1424 Notre Dame de Chartres (112 ft.). Again and again, over the course of 200 years, fire destroyed the cathedral as commoners, clergy and nobility struggled to raise it. But with its towers, sculpture and luminous stained glass, it became the crown of the High Gothic age as it celebrated the piety, pride and prosperity of Crusader France.

1550 – 1557 Suleimaniye Mosque, Istanbul (174 ft.). Suleiman the Magnificent’s reply to Justinian’s Hagia Sophia.

1555 St. Basil’s, Moscow (107 ft.), marked Ivan the Terrible’s victory over the Mongols.

1506 – 1626 St. Peter’s Basilica, Rome (452 ft.), took 120 years to complete by a Who’s Who of architects, including Bramante, Raphael, Bernini and Michelangelo. Begun by the warrior Pope Julius II, it is the fortress of Catholic faith.

1630 – 1653 The Taj Mahal, Agra (200 ft.), was built by Mogul Emperor Shah Jahan as the tomb of his beloved wife Mumtaz Mahal. Dethroned by their son Aurangzeb, Shah Jahan gazed upon the Taj from prison and was later buried beside Mumtaz.

1889The Eiffel Tower, Paris (984 ft.), was built as a temporary structure to celebrate the centennial of the French Revolution. It was first called an eyesore and then, as the world’s tallest structure, became a source of pride, defining the skyline of the City of Lights.

1930The Chrysler Building, New York City (1,046 ft.), was quickly surpassed by the Empire State Building – but only in height. It’s Art Deco beauty celebrated a Golden Age of American capitalism.

1996Petronas Towers, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia (1,476 ft.). Peaked like the Angkor Wat, the world’s tallest building attests to the ambitions of Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad.


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