Throughout the course of civilization, various cultures have created enduring testaments to their legacy in the form of architecture. Here is a list of the ten of the most iconic buildings in the world:
10. Angkor Wat – This is the only building so famous that it is found on a country’s flag! Angkor Wat has been featured on every version of the Cambodian flag since 1863. Constructed in the 12th century, this Cambodian national treasure is a beautiful temple and tourist attraction known for its intricate bas-reliefs and religious imagery.
9. St. Basil’s Cathedral – The name may not ring a bell, but this masterpiece of Russian architecture is surely something you have seen many times. It’s brightly colored onion domes are virtually the only thing that come to mind when you ask the average person to name a building in Russia. Commissioned by Ivan the Terrible in the 1500’s, this Moscow landmark is often mistaken for the Kremlin by tourists (the Kremlin is actually on the opposite side of Red Square).
8. The Parthenon – The most important surviving building of Classical Greece, this Athenian landmark draws scores of visitors every year. A magnificent example of Doric architecture, the Parthenon was originally designed as a temple to the goddess Athena in the 5th century, but has also been used an early Christian church and a mosque in it’s long history.
7. The Louvre (and Glass Pyramid) – Although the Louvre is a famous building in it’s own right, many people can more easily recognize the glass pyramid in it’s courtyard than the actual Louvre. This pyramid, and the 3 smaller ones that surround it, were only completed in 1989, making them the youngest of the landmarks on this list. The pyramids were desgined by I. M. Pei; the Louvre proper began as a 12th century fortress, and slowly evolved into the structure we know today.
6. The Palace at Versailles – It is hard to say what is more striking: the Palace of Versailles, or the lush gardens surrounding the palace. From the reign of Louis XIV to the time of the French Revolution, Versailles was a seat of power, and a symbol of the French Monarchy. A recent study postulates that over $2 Billion dollars was spent on Versailles prior to the French Revolution and millions more have been spent on renovations since then.
5. The Colosseum – Originally known as the Flavian Amphitheatre, construction on the Colosseum first began around 70 AD. Able to hold up to 50,000 spectators, it was used for gladitorial games, mock sea battles, executions, drama, and religious services. It is estimated that half a million people and over a million animals died within the walls of the Colosseum during the heydey of the Roman Empire.
4. Big Ben – Big Ben, of course, is the name of the bell in the clock tower. The real name of this building is the Palace of Westminster. Big Ben is celebrating it’s 150th birthday in 2009, and many events are planned.
3. The White House – An enduring symbol of American government. George Washington actually never lived there, as it took some time to complete the building, and so it was John Adams who was the first president to live in the White House. The building was selected out of many proposed designs, and was designed by James Hoban, an Irishman. In 1814, the White House was seized by the British and burned. It has since had many renovations.
2. The Taj Mahal – The iconic Taj Mahal, the first thing that comes to mind when people think of India. Meaning “Crown Palace”, this mausoleum was erected in the 1600’s to honor the Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan’s deceased wife Mumtaz Mahal.
1. The Pyramids – There are over 100 of these massive structures in Egypt. They were used as tombs, most often for royalty. The pyramid of Khufu is the largest of all Egyptian pyramids, and is unique in that it is the only one the 7 Wonders of the World still in existence.