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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.


Article by HL Architects Durham

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.

best architecture 2017

22 Of The Most Ingenious Buildings Of 2017

The Zeitz Museum of Contemporary Art Africa In South Africa

The Zeitz Museum of Contemporary Art Africa In South Africa

Thomas Heatherwick’s studio in London, England has created a museum for Contemporary African Art in Cape Town, South Africa. The architects have taken a grain silo and hollowing out sections which have created 42 vertical concrete tubes. The Zeitz Museum of Contemporary Art Africa will house more than 80 galleries and be a part of the V&A Waterfront complex.

Apple Campus 2 – Cupertino, California

Apple Campus 2 – Cupertino, California

After 6 years in the working, Norman Foster’s firm revealed this amazing design for Apple’s new Cupertino campus. The architecture is design in an enormous hoop-shape and opened its doors to employees in April 2017 while still under construction. This beautiful structure is home to research and development facilities, offices, a fitness center, a cafe, and a 1,000-seat capacity auditorium. The facility was developed to increase creativity and collaboration among the staff. In 2011, it was estimated to cost $3 billion but ended out costing $5 billion.

The Lego House In Billund, Denmark

Located in the company’s hometown of Billund, the BIG’s new visitor centre for Lego is designed to resemble a stack of their famous plastic bricks. Bjarke Ingels, the studio founder, took the idea for his design from the basic two-by-four Lego bricks for its creation. The building contains areas for exhibitions, a cafe, shop, and a number of beautiful public roof gardens!

Chaoyang Park Plaza, China

Chaoyang Park Plaza, China

Over the past few years, Ma Yansong, founder of MAD, has been offering is ideas for a “Shan-Shui city”. This is an urban development spawned by forms that show the traditional Chinese landscape paintings. As of 2017, he unveiled his first example in Beijing. Chaoyang Park Plaza is a wonderful complex consisting of skyscrapers, offices, and public areas. The entire design looks like mountains, hills, and lakes!

The Alserkal Avenue, Cultural Centre in the United Arab Emirates

The Alserkal Avenue, Cultural Centre in the United Arab Emirates

Rem Koolhaas’s architectural firm has unveiled their first project in Dubai. This is an amazing cultural centre that will host huge public events, art exhibits, performances, and conferences.

The project transformed 4 warehouses with spray-on concrete exterior walls. Inside, there are 4 eight metre high movable walls that will rotate and slide to provide different levels of space configurations to fit the needs of the event.

 King Abdulaziz Center for World Culture In Saudi Arabia

King Abdulaziz Center for World Culture In Saudi Arabia

Snøhetta is an international architectural and interior designing firm based in Oslo, Norway and New York City. They have studios in San Francisco, Stockholm, Innsbruck, Austria, and Singapore. Craig Edward Dykers and Kjetil Traedal Thorsen, founding partners, have approximately 150 designs in the works worldwide.

The King Abdulaziz Center for World Culture is the largest project undertaken by Snøhetta. The center offers 100,000 square metres of cultural areas including an auditorium, library, exhibition hall, cinema, museum, and archive. The exterior consists of huge cylindrical metal-pipe forms and opened to the public in the second-half of 2017.

The Museum Of The Human Body in Montpellier, France

The Museum Of The Human Body in Montpellier, France

This 7,800 square metre structure offers 8 curbed interlocking areas with sloping roofs from the ground going in alternate directions. Some of these roofs are covered in turf while others are paved. The overall look is amazing! This is another creation of BIG, along with their Lego House.

The Guardian Art Center in Beijing, China

The Guardian Art Center in Beijing, China

Originally, this complex was estimated to open in 2016 but carried into 2017. Located between Beijing’s Forbidden City and the shopping district, it is the headquarters for China’s oldest art auction house with several galleries, areas for events, and a fabulous 120 room hotel.

The lower level comprises of small blocks which resemble the old hutong neighbourhoods. The large hollow structure known as the “floating ring” has been raised to the top. This entire complex is an amazing piece of art.

Seoul Skygarden, South Korea

Seoul Skygarden, South Korea

Inspired by New York’s High Line Elevated Park, many proposals have been put forward around the world. The first to be completed was an elevated road in Seoul and turned into a public park. This is the creation of MVRDV architects working with the Dutch design studio Studio Makkink & Bey, along with landscape designer Ben Kuipers. The overhauled, 938 metre long Seoul Station Overpass, created a pedestrian walkway with 254 species of trees, flowers, and shrubs.

 Design Society, China

Design Society, China

The V&A has a second project in the wings, the museum in Shenzhen which has been created in partnership with the China Merchants group. Designed by Fumihiko Makie, Japanese architect & Pritzker Prize winner. The Design Society is the first major design institution beating out Herzog & de Meuron Designs.

The Cotton Gin In Hutto, Texas

In order to revitalize the site at the Co-Op District in Hutto, Texas, the reuse of 2 existing cotton gin structures was purchased by the City of Hutto. The structures were taken down and rebuilt as a single open-air, 6,500 square foot public events environment. The building was wrapped in perforated stainless steel that is striking against the hot Texas sun. Amazingly, during the night hours, it offers an interesting transparency that should be seen.

The designers created a flexible space for both public and private events. This structure complements everything from the local library, farmer’s market, artisan fairs, and wedding receptions. It reflects the local environment and culture.

Victoria Gate Arcades in Leeds, UK

Victoria Gate Arcades in Leeds, UK

This expansive, shopping centre has been inspired and designed from nearby 19th-century arcades that complement each other. It is adorned with a woven, geometric patterned facade, reflecting the city’s bygone wool trade.

The Wolfson Tree Management Centre, UK

The Wolfson Tree Management Centre, UK

Constructed by local trainee carpenters, the two timber buildings were erected and adorned with local timber. The center is located at the National Arboretum in Gloucestershire and a wonderful testament to originality in carpentry!

Dyson Campus Expansion in the UK

Dyson Campus Expansion in the UK

Located at the Wiltshire HQ, these 3 new buildings offer a cafe, multi-purpose sports centre, and R&D facilities. They are so beautifully constructed that the external reflective glass seems to just disappear into the landscape, becoming a natural part of the surrounding, lush landscaping.

 The Tate Modern Blavatnik Building in the UK

The Tate Modern Blavatnik Building in the UK

Often referred to as the Switch House, this is an impressive extension to the Tate Modern on London’s Bankside. The structure offers a spacious gallery that leads to a free rooftop gallery, providing an amazing panoramic view of the city. The perforated chain mail facade has set a new precedence for the use of bricks.

Dujardin Mews in the UK

Dujardin Mews in the UK

This is the first phase of Ponders End in north London that was led by the council along with social housing delivered by the local borough in over 40 years. These wonderful new homes are built in the local style of London brick and are the first step in a massive rejuvenation of Enfield.

Musée Yves Saint Laurent in Marrakech

In 1966, world-famous French fashion designer Yves Saint Laurent spent a great deal of time in Marrakech. During this time, he created an amazing couture collection. Now, there is a museum completely devoted to his work. Designed and created by Olivier Marty and Karl Fournier’s studio – Ko. With their years of experience designing beautifully crafted minimalist Moroccan homes, they have finally opened in the city.

Their building, set in a terracotta brick facade, represents fabric while the exquisite creamy walls of the entrance looks like fine silk. Visitors feel like they have just draped themselves in a Yves Saint Laurent designer outfit. The museum offers a complexity of venues from galleries, an auditorium, cafe, library, and bookshop.

The use of laurel, stained glass, glazed bricks, oak, marble, pearlescent tiles, and lacquered surfaces gives homage to the great designer himself.

Hastings Pier, East Sussex in the UK

Hastings Pier, East Sussex in the UK

This renovated seaside pier was initially completed in 2016 when Hastings-born lead singer of Madness, Suggs, placed down the last piece of the decking. This festive structure won the 2017 RIBA Stirling Prize which is the architect’s equivalent to the Turn Prize. Alex de Rijkke and Sadie Morgan’s firm, dRMM, not only provided their expertise as designers but also worked with the local initiative which was led by the Hasting Piers Society. They all agreed to bring a wonderful new look to the battered and burned Victorian structure, which was often the fate of many seaside piers. This structure now dons a brand new look with modern pavilions and is embraced by all. 516

Juergen Teller Studio in London

Juergen Teller Studio in London

Set in a London suburban street, this unpretentious studio is home to German-born artist and photographer, Juergen Tell. He showed everyone how to turn ugly and narrow city areas into something special! His grey concrete facade hides a structure designed from three individual blocks, offices, and an archive. Above, a studio, dining room, and private quarters surrounded by garden courtyards. The textured concrete is offset by the streaming of sunlight that adds intriguing shadows and lush greenery.

The gardens were designed by Dan Pearson, reflecting the natural growth of greenery from London’s bombsites that started taking place after WWII. The surrounding buildings were taken over by plant life similar to the ruins of Pompeii. There are a series of courtyards that are hidden by the glare of neighbours. Teller’s studio has created a modern yet reminiscent feel of the ancient Roman homes that were wedged into thickly occupied, restrictive areas of the city.

Louvre Abu Dhabi in the United Arab Emirates

Reflecting the original Louvre in Paris, this is an amazing art gallery. Set on the Saadiyat Island, that is located off the coast of Abu Dhabi, will be completed around 2020. Nouvel’s new Louvre is designed like a modern Medina which is based on the traditional Arab city centres. Surrounded by walls and alleys that are formed like mazes, this is an exceptional concept. The museum consists of 23 galleries that are designed like separate city buildings, protected from the sun with its enormous, intricate dome that almost seems to float above everyone. There are 7,850 perforated, interlaced steel and aluminum panels and the dome brings in a play of light that fills the museum’s alleys.

Napoli-Afragola Railway Station in Naples, Italy

Napoli-Afragola Railway Station in Naples, Italy

This glorious new station is one of 13 for the expanded high-speed rail system with over 80 tracks that connect the overlooked outer areas of Naples. This is a spectacular bridge formation that emphasizes the 300 kph railways and their pristine trains. The main stations offer ticket offices, cafes, offices, and amazing views of Mount Vesuvius that are mysterious but also haunting. This was a challenge for the Italian State Railways engineers because this region has such a history of earthquakes and volcanoes. The engineers did come up with a design and structure that is not only dynamic but a great feat of excellence.

Tianjin Binhai Library in Tianjin, China

Tianjin Binhai Library in Tianjin, China

This Chinese library looks like a giant eye looking out at everyone and all who stop by must take photos to bring home. This is an impressive piece of architecture with the pupil of the eye serving as the circular auditorium which is located in the centre of this five-story, and eye socket-like appearance for the hall. The hall’s white walls are loaded with books that, in some cases, are literally stacked from end to end. That said, some of these books are not really books, they are a part of the plan. Quite cleverly, the upper, unreachable shelves have aluminum panels that are in a print that look likes books!

In Conclusion

There are so many wonderful ideas and creative innovations taking place around the world with architectural designing. New and upcoming designers with new visions are creating unbelievable, original concepts. Who knows what tomorrow will bring and what exceptional works will be on the top of the list for 2018. Only time will tell but there will always be new ideas and new visions of creativity, as long as there are people who think outside the box.