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Architecture History: Skyscrapers Of The Past

Humanities incessant fascination with defying gravity is nothing new. It has existed throughout time and man has been in a constant battle with himself in the pursuit of building higher and higher skyscrapers. It has been a non-stop cycle wand this has led to the definition of skyscrapers to be continuously redefined through the passage of time.

Advancement in technology has enabled man to redefine the skyscraper benchmark over and over again. But if you stop for a moment to consider that skyscrapers have existed in form or another throughout history and that it is something that we share with our predecessors.

Let’s take a trip down the memory lane and let’s look at some of the skyscrapers from the history of civilizations.


La Venta Pyramid, La Venta

900 BC | Height: 34m-110ft

Today, if you visit the city of La Venta, located in Tabasco, Mexico, it will seem like any other city. But this is no ordinary city, it was once the capital of the great Olmec civilization and the pyramid of La Venta was truly a wonder of its time. It was the central building of the city that stood in all its might leaving spectators spell bounded.

The most interesting fact is that the pyramid of La Venta was actually a rectangular pyramid with inset corners and stepped sides. This great building was made entirely of clay and such had been its might that it has withstood 2500 years worth of corrosion.


La Danta Temple, El-Mirador

300 BC | Height: 72m-236 ft

If you are asked to sum up the Mayan Empire in a few words, you can safely answer – La Danta Temple.

A stone building constructed with stone-age tools, this iconic temple speaks volumes about the greatness of Mayan Empire. In its glory days, it was the pride of the city of Mirador, towering over the central Acropolis and main city plaza.


Pyramid of the sun, Teotihuacan, Mexico.

100 AD | Height: 71m-233ft

The third skyscraper on the list is another pyramid, which isn’t a surprise as pyramids were the structure of choice in the past.

The Pyramid is situated in the ancient city of Teotihuacán, Mexico and is the 3rd largest pyramid in the world. It is amongst the best tourist attractions in Mexico City, leaving visitors in awe because of its sheer size.

It is a common misconception that the Pyramid of the sun is an Aztec temple. However, this is incorrect as this masterpiece was constructed by the Teotihuacans, which existed at a much earlier time. Unfortunately, not much is known about the Teotihuacans and hence, the purpose for which the Pyramid of the Sun was built has been a subject of a lot of debate.


Step pyramid, Saqqara

2650 BC | Height: 62m-203 ft

Though pyramids have been constructed by civilizations across the globe, however, when it comes to these structures, the country that comes to mind instantly is Egypt. It can be safely said that pyramids are the most famous structures of Egypt and in this regards, let’s take at look at one of the most prestigious pyramid.

Commonly known as Step Pyramid, the Pyramid of Djoser is considered to be the first Egyptian pyramid. It isn’t a surprise that the appearance of this pyramid is quite different from the pyramids built later.

Located in the Saqqara necropolis, the Step pyramid was built during the Third dynasty for the burial of Pharaoh Djoser. It is considered as the earliest large-scale cut stone construction. The pyramid stood 62 meters tall, with a base of 109 m × 125 m and was clad in polished white limestone.

The construction of the step pyramid was a pivotal step in the history of Egypt as it led to the ambitious pyramid construction program that ultimately led to the construction of Great Pyramids at Giza.


Colosseum, Rome

80 AD | Height: 49m-160 ft

Moving on from pyramids, let’s take a look at an architectural wonder that is regarded as one of the most popular tourist destinations in the world – The Colosseum.

It is without a doubt that the Colosseum is the most recognizable classical building in Rome. It was constructed 2,000 years ago and has been subject to a lot of damage over the years. Despite the fact that this structure has been affected by excessive damage like being abandoned, pillaged for building materials, destroyed in numerous earthquakes, this structure has survived the test of time and still stands today.

The actual name of the Colosseum is Flavian amphitheater. However, it became to be known as the Colosseum as it gained immense fame because of the colossal statue of Nero. When it was built, it was the first permanent and the largest amphitheater in the Roman Empire. It measured around 620 by 513 feet (190 by 155 meters) and could accommodate 60,000 seated and 10,000 standing spectators.

The distinctive feature of the Colosseum was that it consisted of a freestanding structure composed of concrete and stone. This was unique as amphitheaters were traditionally dug into the hillsides in order to provide the required support. Furthermore, the structure consisted of around 80 entrances, which means that even when fully packed, all the people inside the Colosseum could easily leave in a matter of minutes.


Lighthouse of Alexandria

280 BC-1323 AD | Height : 137m-450 ft

The Lighthouse of Alexandria, also called the Pharos of Alexandria, is one of the seven wonders of the ancient world. It was a ground-breaking technological achievement and become the model for on which all lighthouses have been built ever since.

The lighthouse of Alexandria was constructed in the 3rd century BC and was more than 350 feet high, making it one of the tallest man-made structures for many centuries.

Unfortunately, the lighthouse of Alexandria was damaged significantly during the 14th century when the region was hit by major earthquakes.

Paper Architecture

Paper Architecture

While paper architecture popularly refers to architectural ideas that exist only on paper and have visionary qualities. Today, we will talk about a different type of paper architecture: Architecture that is actually made of paper. Though this idea seems a little absurd at first, Architect Shigeru Ban has proved otherwise.

Shigeru Ban is a Japanese architect and is best known for his experimentation with paper as a building material. He developed a fascination with paper early in his career as he discovered that paper’s structural integrity was much better than assumed. Hence, he started experimenting with paper tubes manufactured for the textile industry as structural columns. He soon realized that this unconventional building material is extremely inexpensive, accessible and can be used in disaster-hit areas to quickly build large quantities of high quality, low-cost shelters.

Ban has always had an inclination towards humanitarian architecture and has dedicated his life towards making design accessible to the most vulnerable of communities. He has been awarded the Pritzker Prize for his innovative use of materials and compassionate approach to architectural design.

Ban’s extensive knowledge of recyclable materials and his ingenuity towards design is reflected in many of his designs. Discussed below are some of his most inspiring projects:

Paper Log Houses – Kobe, Japan, 1995

This modular house was designed in response to the earthquake that jolted Kobe in 1995. The walls of the shelter were made from 106mm diameter, 4mm thick paper tubes and tenting material was used for the roof, while the foundations consisted of donated beer crates filled with sandbags. A waterproof sponge tape backed with adhesive was sandwiched between the paper tubes of the walls to provide insulation.

Each unit occupied a 52 sq.m. space. The area between the units was used as shared community spaces. These units did not only provide shelter from the elements to the climatic refugees but also gave their communities a chance to thrive again. These temporary shelters were easy to dismantle, and the materials easily disposed or recycled. The same design was later used in Turkey after the 1999 earthquake and then in India after the 2005 earthquake.


Paper Concert Hall – L’Aquila, Italy, 2011

This building was gifted to the people of Italy by the Japanese government after an earthquake that occurred on April 6, 2009, in L’Aquila, Italy. The intent was to construct a concert hall that was easy to assemble and durable, for an early recommencement of musical activities in the city.  The building spreads over 700 square meters. The structure is composed of steel, cardboard concrete and clay sacks. The temporary unit houses 230 seats and can be dismantled and moved to a new location.


Cardboard Cathedral – Christchurch, New Zealand, 2013

This cathedral was built after an earthquake of magnitude 6.3 hit the city of Christchurch, New Zealand and irreparably damaged one of Christchurch’s most esteemed landmarks – the iconic 1864 Anglican cathedral. A temporary cathedral was constructed in its place with an expected lifespan of 50 years.

Constructed as a simple A-frame structure, using 98 cardboard tubes of equal length and 8 shipping containers, the cardboard cathedral is deemed as one of the safest buildings in Christchurch. The paper tubes were coated with polyurethane to make them water proof and flame retardant. This cathedral, which has a capacity of 700 people, can be used as an event space and a concert space. The Cardboard Cathedral demonstrated how paper can be used to create meaningful and beautiful spaces as well.

Ban has proved that the use of paper is not limited to creating basic, low-cost shelters but it can also be used to fashion beautiful spaces and create better, more environmentally sound buildings. Paper has the ability to be used as an environmentally friendly and low-cost alternative to traditional building materials

Following in Shigeru Ban’s foot steps we now see a lot of architects and artist experimenting with paper as a building material.


WooJai Lee, designer

WooJai Lee, a designer based in Eindhoven has turned recycled paper into bricks that can be used to build furniture. These Paper Bricks are made from newspaper pulp that has been mixed with glue and pressed into a mould. The paper gives each brick a soft, textile-like surface. Each brick can be cut, drilled and glued in the same way as wood. Holes down the side of each block allow them to be attached together. This innovative piece of furniture was displayed at Dutch Design Week 2016.


papaer bridge

British artist Steve Messam experimented with the structural qualities of paper in 2015, when he installed a weight-bearing foot bridge across a stream, using 20,000 sheets of bright red paper. This temporary installation was perched above a stream in the rural Lake District national park of Cumbria, UK. Two stone-filled cages anchor the structure to the ground on either side of the river, with an additional wooden form to shape the arc of paper. After placing the foundations, each sheet was inserted without adhesives or fixings, ending in a smooth, compact crescent. The bridge uses the mechanics of an arch in compression and highlights paper’s incredible compressive strength. The poppy red bridge stands out as a peculiar element against the natural backdrop of the site.

Watch a Range Rover driving over a Steve Messam bridge made entirely from paper!

Coachella Music Festival in 2015 flaunted a pavilion built using over a tonne of paper pulp.

Coachella Music Festival in 2015 flaunted a pavilion built using over a tonne of paper pulp.

The Ball-Nogues Studio produced an organic, purple and orange pavilion that enveloped the music fans. This Pulp Pavilion was constructed by air blasting the paper pulp on a series of columns covered by twine.

The tall latticed structures were produced by using 2,200 meters of twine woven around the formwork. Then, the process of air blasting was used to cover this material with more than 1 tonne of paper pulp. Once this had dried up, the firm components were bound together to create a structure with a scalloped roof edge.

According to the architects,

“Historically inapplicable to architectural structure and considered disposable, it exhibits unique sculptural capabilities when recycled into pulp“.

It is evident that the potential of paper is vastly underestimated. Not only is it a low cost and environmentally friendly alternative to the traditional building materials, it also has a wide range of applications that are currently being explored and are in the process of discovery.

Recent Research Has Discovered A New Chamber In The Great Pyramid Of Giza In Egypt!

Probably one of the most renown architectures in the entire world is the Great Pyramid of Giza in Egypt. It is considered the oldest of the Seven Wonders and has been researched for hundreds of years by anthropologists and archaeologists.

The Great Pyramid was completed around 2560 BC and has always been surrounded by many mysteries. Many anthropologists and archaeologists that have studied the 455-foot pyramid came to the conclusion that there were no more hidden chambers to be found within its walls.

That said, a new article published in The Nature has announced that an unknown chamber has been discovered in the pyramid. This definitely has caused an enormous stir in the Egyptology community and has people scrambling for answers.

Going back in time, the walls of the Great Pyramid were first entered in the Middle Ages. This was the first time anyone understood the inner workings and construction of the pyramid. Overall these centuries, there are still many things that are unknown about this pyramid. This led to why it has been researched and studied for centuries by those looking for answers revolving around this massive structure.

Archaeologists have long known about the three major chambers within the pyramid. The King’s Chamber, The Queen’s Chamber, and The Grand Gallery. According to the latest article published in Nature, scanning through the rocks has discovered another area. Although archaeologists do not fully understand its size, its parallel to the ground or its angle, they do believe it is substantial and comparable to the Grand Gallery. The Grand Gallery is 154 feet long and 28 feet high.

The team that has been assembled to study this space believe it is approximately 68 feet above ground level. What this chamber was originally used for is still unknown and will probably take many years or even decades to reveal its mystery.

Archaeologists have always dedicated their lives and the patience to understand this amazing ancient culture. This will, once again, entice them to reveal this incredible find! The Nature stated: “There are still many architectural hypotheses to consider”.

The Great Pyramid was originally built as a testament to Pharaoh Khufu who was considered one of the greatest Pharaohs who ever lived. There has never been any doubt that the builders of this Great Pyramid were geniuses that are still leaving modern man trying a figure out the secrets hidden within. It has been over 4,500 years since its construction and archaeologists are still looking for answers regarding its mysteries.