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Architecture is concerned with the design and construction of buildings. The architecture of a place is often a tourist attraction in its own right. Many buildings are quite beautiful to look at and the view from a tall building or from a cleverly-positioned window can be a beauty to behold.

Architecture overlaps considerably with other fields including urban planning, decorative arts, interior design and landscape design. Some of the finest examples are almost fractally interesting — there is something worth a look whatever scale you choose. From a meter away, the impressive thing about the Taj Mahal is the fine stone inlay work on many surfaces. Moving back, one sees the building as a whole and the extensive gardens, and realises it is only part of a great Mughal city. Someone looking at a Frank Lloyd Wright house might consider anything from what it would be like to cook in that kitchen to how the place fits into its neighbourhood.


Historic buildings often tell their own story and provide a place with a heritage that asks the visitor to find out more.

Ancient buildings[edit]

See also: Archaeological sites, Old towns

Religious buildings[edit]

See also: Religion and spirituality

Cathedrals, temples and other places of worship have, until recently, been among the most notable and longest lasting forms of architecture.


Hagia Sophia
See also Christianity, Gothic architecture
  • Notre Dame in Paris
  • Cathedral of Chartres
  • Hagia Sophia in Istanbul was built as an Eastern Orthodox church, but was later turned into a Roman Catholic church and still later a mosque. Today, it is a museum.


See also Islam
  • Dome of the Rock/Masjid Al Sakhrah


See also Buddhism, Sacred sites of the Indian sub-continent
  • Bodhgaya, Bihar State, India - the site where Shakyamuni Buddha gained enlightenment.
  • The Great Stupa of Bodhnath, Kathmandu - the heart of Vajrayana Buddhism in Nepal.


Civic buildings[edit]

There are a large number of buildings for civic or governmental purposes. These include:

Parliament, London
  • Seats of government
  • Transportation centres such as railway stations and airports


Around the world, commemorative structures are amongst the most notable tourist attractions. For example:

  • The Taj Mahal in Agra
  • Tombs
  • War Memorials

Record-holding structures[edit]

Building the tallest building in the world is every architect's dream (or perhaps nightmare) project, as it will eventually be topped by an even taller structure. See the Chicago skyline guide for information on the many tall buildings in Chicago, the birthplace of the skyscraper.

Tallest buildings[edit]

  1. Burj Khalifa, Dubai, UAE (Built 2010) 160 storeys 828 m
  2. Taipei 101, Taipei, Taiwan (Built 2004) 101 storeys 509 m
  3. Petronas Tower 1, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia (Built 1998) 88 storeys 452 m
  4. Petronas Tower 2, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia (Built 1998) 88 storeys 452 m
  5. Sears Tower, Chicago, USA (Built 1974) 110 storeys 442 m
  6. Jin Mao Building, Shanghai (Built 1999) 88 storeys 421 m
  7. Two International Finance Centre, Hong Kong (Built 2003) 88 storeys 415 m
  8. CITIC Plaza, Guangzhou, China (Built 1996) 80 storeys 391 m
  9. Shun Hing Square, Shenzhen, China (Built 1996) 69 storeys 384 m
  10. Empire State Building, New York,USA (Built 1931) 102 storeys 381m
  11. Central Plaza, Hong Kong (Built 1992) 78 storeys 374 m

Tallest towers[edit]

Tornto skyline with CN Tower
  1. CN Tower, Toronto, Canada (Built 1975) 553 m
  2. Ostankino Tower, Moscow, Russia (Built 1967) 537 m
  3. Oriental Pearl Tower, Shanghai, China (Built 1995) 468 m
  4. Sky Tower, Auckland, New Zealand (Built 1997) 328 m - Tallest in southern hemisphere.
  5. Sydney Tower, at Centrepoint, Sydney, Australia (Built 1981) 305 m
  6. Eiffel Tower, Paris, France (Built 1889) 300 m when built, 324 m with TV antenna.

In the USA (and from 1974 to 1991 in Poland) there are some guyed radio masts, which were taller. The tallest construction built so far, was the Warsaw radio mast near Gabin.

Other records[edit]

Of course, height is not the only way in which a building might be remarkable. Other records include:

  • The Marina area of Dubai had seven of the world's ten tallest residential buildings as of 2010.
  • Edificio Copan in São Paulo is "only" 38 stories, but it has 1160 apartments and is considered the world's largest residential building by floor area
  • Largest buildings by roof area: the two Hajj terminals at Jeddah airport which each handle dozens of large aircraft carrying Muslim pilgrims
  • Longest structure on Earth: the Great Wall of China is several thousand km. It is arguably not really all one structure, different parts having been built by different dynasties centuries apart, but even those parts are enormous.
  • Depending on how you define "structure" the great Dingo-fence that crosses Australia is even larger than the great wall of China

Unusual buildings[edit]

Some buildings are unique....

  • The Leaning Tower of Pisa is often considered unusual, though a pagoda in Suzhou has been called the "leaning tower of China" and there are other less famous leaning towers in various countries.
  • Prora on the Baltic Sea has a hotel for 20,000 workers on holiday, created by the Nazi regime in Germany never used for its intended purpose, never completed, later used as barracks by the GDR and now housing a museum as well as accommodation while being mostly empty
  • The Hakka Tulou of southern China are mostly-earth easily-defended buildings, home to entire clans of a few hundred people

Architectural styles[edit]

Some styles like Art Deco attract tourists to visit. The town of Napier, New Zealand, is largely built in the Art Deco style after the town was rebuilt in the 1930s following an earthquake. The local historical society has capitalised on this and runs frequent walking tours around the buildings.

With the rise of the automobile, novelty architecture has been used as a means of roadside promotion. Examples would include restaurants shaped like oversized oranges or motels in which each room is a railway caboose or a concrete wigwam.

Well-known architects[edit]

I.M. Pei[edit]

Pyramid at the Louvre

I.M. Pei (1917-) spent his early years in China, but came to the USA for university and has lived there most of his life. He has designed buildings in many places. He is very much a modern architect, heavily influenced by the European Bahaus school. Pei designed a number of important public buildings including Dallas city hall, the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Boulder, and the Kennedy Library and the John Hancock Tower in Boston. He has also done commercial buildings, notably the Bank of China tower in Hong Kong.

Museums were a specialty; perhaps his best-known work is the controversial glass pyramid outside the Louvre in Paris. Other projects included the East Building of the National Gallery of Art in Washington, DC, an extension of the German Historical Museum in Berlin. the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland, the Museum of Islamic Art in Doha and the Miho Museum near Kyoto. He came out of retirement in his 80s to design a museum for the Chinese city of Suzhou where his family were from.

Frank Gehry[edit]

Canadian-American architect known for his Deconstructivist creations which include Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao, Dancing House in Prague, the Art Gallery of Ontario in Toronto, MIT Ray and Maria Stata Center in Cambridge (Massachusetts), Walt Disney Concert Hall in downtown Los Angeles, the Vontz Center for Molecular Studies on the University of Cincinnati campus, New World Center in Miami Beach and Weisman Art Museum in Minneapolis.

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