5 Architectural Styles You Need to Know



5 Architectural Styles You Need to Know

In 2014, public records showed that the Empire State Building earns more from its observation deck than it does from the rent on its office spaces. The Motley Fool reports the building earned an impressive $111 million from the observation deck alone. So what draws so many people to the Empire State Building? The views are great, but architecture buffs know that it is also an excellent example of the Art Deco style. And while you certainly don’t need to know the style to enjoy the beauty of this skyscraper, brushing up on your architectural knowledge can enhance your appreciation of the world’s finest buildings. Here are five styles you should know about before you head out on your next adventure:



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Modern architecture encompasses several different styles, all making their mark on the skyline from about the 1930s through the 1970s. Interesting Engineering notes that modern architecture is easily recognized “by its heavy use of new technologies with particular emphasis on the use of glass, steel and, of course, reinforced concrete.” In other words, it rejected natural elements and instead worked with modern man-made materials. Architects focused on clean lines and little or no adornment on the buildings.

Famous architect Frank Lloyd Wright was the king of the modern style. He designed one of the most famous modern-style buildings in the world, The Guggenheim Museum in New York City. The cone-shaped building is entirely glass and cement on the outside, giving it a stark and dramatic appearance. Inside, the spiraling exhibits take visitors deeper and deeper into the world of Surrealist, Post-Impressionist, and Conceptual art.



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Tudor architecture is the style most closely associated with the renaissance and medieval periods. And while according to English Heritage the style first came to prominence over 500 years ago, some of the original Tudor-style buildings are still standing today. You’ll recognize the style thanks to its iconic timber framing. Builders filled in the timber framing with brick (most common in homes the upper classes) or wattle and daub, a combination of sticks, straw, and mud. Large chimneys are also a prominent feature, along with dormer windows.

If you travel through Europe, you’ll see many examples of Tudor architecture still standing in their original 16th century form. The most famous example is Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre in London. Originally built in 1599, The Globe stood for 45 years until demolished and built over. Painstaking research went into the reconstruction of the building. The new Globe Theatre now stands near the original site. It’s considered to be an accurate reconstruction of the original. Modern fire codes halved the number of audience members allowed in at one time, though.

Art Deco

Art Deco

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Art Deco architecture dominated the skyline from about the 1920’s until Modern architecture took over in the 1950s. The Pennsylvania Historical & Museum Commission says that the “Art Deco style is one of the easiest to identify since its sharp-edged looks and stylized geometrical decorative details are so distinctive.” Building walls often “stepped back” to create a jagged appearance while chevrons dominated the design details. The style defined the era, becoming not only popular in architecture but also in jewelry, clothing, home decor and more.

The most famous Art Deco style building in the world is The Empire State Building, as discussed above. It’s not the only famous example, though. Architectural Digest also lists the Chrysler Building, again in New York City, as one of the most beautiful examples of the style. The two buildings were completed within about a year of each other, competing for the title of the world’s tallest building. If you look at the spire of the Chrysler Building, you’ll see an excellent example of the ornate geometry that defined the period.

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Classical architecture is one of the oldest architectural styles in the world. LookingAtBuildings.com says the style started with the ancient Greeks and was then enhanced by the Romans. That means it’s been around since about 800 B.C. It’s a style that’s still popular today, too, and you’ll see examples of it all over the world. The architectural style is most easily recognized by its use of columns and focus on symmetry. The interiors of the buildings followed specific ratios and rules to achieve perfect proportions.

There are dozens of examples of famous Classical buildings around the world. But perhaps the most famous is the Parthenon in Greece. Built as a temple for Athena, the patron goddess of Athens, construction ended on the building in 432 B.C. The 46 columns that surround the building follow the “Golden Ratio” used in Classical architecture, making the site feel balanced and in proportion. It’s a perfect example of the common elements in classical style buildings.



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There are many different architectural styles you’ll want to learn about as you travel the globe. But Gothic takes the top spot on this list because of the sheer number of important, beautiful, and iconic places built in this style. Gothic architecture originated in France during the Middle Ages. Despite its French origins, you’ll find examples of Gothic architecture in all Europe’s must-see cities. Encyclopedia Britannica lists some of the characteristic elements of Gothic architecture as ribbed vaulted ceilings, flying buttress supports, pointed arches, and plenty of stained glass windows. The goal of the style was to allow in natural light in tall, vast indoor spaces. The outside of these buildings are easily identified by their ornate adornments, including stone carvings and gargoyles.

Famous examples of Gothic architecture include Notre Dame in ParisWestminster Abbey in London, and the Duomo in Florence. And while learning about any architectural style can help you to better appreciate the buildings you are touring on your travels, understanding Gothic architecture takes those buildings to another level. It gives you an understanding of how builders created these soaring masterpieces nearly 1,000 years ago. Their mastery of the art allowed them to create buildings that seem light, airy, and spacious using blocks of heavy, dense stone. It’s truly something wonderful to behold and worth the time to learn more about.

5 Architectural Wonders to See in China



5 Architectural Wonders to See in China

China is a land rich in history and mystery. It is full of both ancient wonders and modern technology, making it a fascinating place to visit. It is also home to some incredible buildings, some of which have been standing for centuries, in spite of the fact that they do not appear to have been built to last (see number 2 on this list for an example). If you are planning to take a tour of some of the most fascinating constructions in China, here are five architectural wonders you just can’t miss.

Shenzhen Bao’an International Airport

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The recently expanded Shenzhen Bao’an International Airport in Shenzhen is a futuristic marvel the likes of which most people have never seen. Designed by Studio Fuksas, a Rome-based architectural firm, Terminal 3 of this building/sculpture has been made to resemble a manta ray. It was designed to look as if it was formed and shaped by the wind itself, with both internal and external “skin” that looks like a white honeycomb. This honeycomb texture allows the light from outside to filter in, giving the 1-mile-long and 260-foot-high terminal quite a dazzling look.

Forbidden City

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Don’t let the name fool you: this “city” isn’t actually a city at all. In fact, it is one enormous ancient palace. Covering more than 7 million square feet, the Forbidden City has more than 10,000 rooms. It has been home to more than 24 emperors and their families, and was forbidden to the public for several hundred years after construction began in the 1400s. The punishment for trespassing into this palace (which was made to represent God’s own Heavenly palace) was beheading, but luckily for us, the 20th century saw the Forbidden City open up to everyone—and all visitors get to keep their heads (phew).

Shibaozhai Temple

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Located along the southern bank of the Yangtze River, the Shibaozhai Temple is truly an architectural wonder. Attached to a large rock in the shape of an imperial seal, this temple is twelve stories high and is held in place without the use of any nails. Also known as the Precious Stone Fortress, legend has it that construction of this temple began when a goddess named Nuwa repaired the broken sky and left behind a colored rock, which was then used to build a fortress during the Ming Dynasty. To make this building even more amazing, it is said that the reason it is still standing after all of these years is that its windows absorb the wind, protecting the temple from inclement weather.

Hanging Monastery

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The Hanging Monastery may as well be called the “Hanging Mystery.” People have been wondering for close to 1,500 years how this 15-story shrine is still standing when it is supported only by a few rickety-looking wooden beams. Located on Mount Hengshan, this monastery is perched (seemingly precariously) 246 feet above the ground, yet has somehow managed to weather multiple dangerous storms, winds, and even earthquakes. It was designed during the Wei Dynasty by a monk named Liao Ran, who actually didn’t even intend for those rickety wooden pillars to be a part of the finished product at all. They were only added later because visitors did not trust the monastery not to fall off of the mountain when they tried to climb up to visit it. You can rest assured, though, that Liao Ran’s monastery is sound: the rock wall it is built into adds an extra layer of stability.

Great Wall of China

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No list of architectural wonders in China (or the world as a whole) would be complete without the breathtaking Great Wall of China. This wall in northern China is more than 13,000 miles long and took several thousand years to build. Its original purpose was to prevent invasions by barbarians, with construction beginning in the third century B.C. after it was inspired by an idea by Emperor Qin Shi Huang. Unfortunately, the wall never really kept anyone from invading China as the Emperor had hoped. But, it still stands proudly today as a symbol of China’s strength and fortitude.

10 Cities All Architecture Lovers Need to Visit Before They Die



Cities All Architecture Lovers Need to Visit Before They Die

From towering skyscrapers to the ancient Colosseum, the world is filled with architectural marvels. And since architecture is best enjoyed in person, here are 10 cities that architecture lovers simply must visit.

Chicago, Illinois, U.S.A.

Chicago, Illinois, U.S.A.

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It’s called the “City of Big Shoulders” for a reason. Chicago is home to some of the oldest skyscrapers, such as the Manhattan Building, built in 1891; the Reliance Building, built in 1895; and Chicago Savings Bank Building, completed in 1905. Most of Downtown Chicago was destroyed in the Chicago Fire of 1871, but the iconic Chicago Water Tower, built in 1869, was left standing. Built solely of yellow Lemont limestone, seeing the 182-foot tower firsthand should be on every architecture lovers bucket list.

Rome, Italy

Rome, Italy

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Rome is home to some of the world’s most photographed structures, including the Colosseum, the Roman Forum and Trajan’s Market. Had it not been for the Romans, designs like the arch and the dome would never have come to be. Rome’s classical structures are a must see. That’s a given. But the city’s Baroque style buildings, which were mostly constructed during the 17th century, are also well worth your time. The sheer grandness of structures like St. Peter’s Basilicaand the Trevi Fountain can’t be captured in a photograph. Few things in life will leave you as awestruck as taking a stroll inside St. Peter’s, with its massive dome, and looking up. You may never want to look down again.

Barcelona, Spain

Barcelona, Spain

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Influenced by the legendary 19th century Catalan architect Antoni Gaudi, Barcelona’s architecture, much like the city itself, is imaginative and colorful. One sight that’s a must see is Gaudi’s Casa Batllo. The façade of the building is constructed of broken ceramic tiles, thus creating an eye-popping mosaic that is unlike anything you’ve ever seen. Other structures that are inspired by Gaudi’s vivid imagination include Jean Nouvel’s Tower, which is designed to resemble a geyser of water shooting through the air, and Frank Gehry’s Fish.

Dubai, United Arab Emirates

Dubai, United Arab Emirates

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In addition to being home to the tallest building in the world, the Burj Khalifa, the Dubai skyline is filled with twisty-turny steel buildings. If you find yourself wandering in this desert city, be sure to check out the Burj al Arab, which is designed to look like an Arabian dhow ship, as well as the curving Cayan, with its seemingly impossible 90-degree twist. There’s also the famed underwater zoo located in the Dubai Mall, which features 300 different species of aquatic life, including all types of fish, sting rays and sharks.

Shanghai, China

Shanghai, China

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Fueled by government investment, Shanghai has grown rapidly in recent years. It’s almost as if a glossy new structure pops up each month. The architecture in Shanghai is modernistic, and best represented in buildings like the Hongkou Soho office building, with its pleated exterior. Shanghai is also home to the second tallest building in the world, the Shanghai Tower, which features a twisted, glass façade that stretches upward for 2,073 feet.

Paris, France

Paris, France

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The birthplace of Art Deco and Gothic architecture, Paris is a city whose rich architectural history stretches back centuries. Gothic style, which is marked by colorful stained glass windows and flying buttresses, can be seen in a number of Paris cathedrals, including the Sainte-Chapelle, the St-Gervais-et-St-Protais and, most famously, Notre-Dame, which was in the news earlier this year after sustaining serious damage during a 15-hour fire. Paris’s famed Art Deco buildings, with their notable exteriors that feature numerous horizontal lines, began popping up shortly before World War I and were dominant in the ’20s and ’30s. Théâtre des Champs-Élysées and the Grand Rex movie palace are two prominent structures that exhibit this style. This is a small sample of the numerous architectural wonders in the City of Light.

Moscow, Russia

Moscow, Russia

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The Russian capital is home to some of the most recognizable architecture in the world with a style known simply as Russian architecture. Arguably the most renown structure in the Russian style is Moscow’s Saint Basil’s Cathedral. Constructed in the 16th century during the reign of Ivan the Terrible, the cathedral is known for its vibrant, onion-shaped domes. Moscow is also home to more recent architectural wonders like the Ostankino Tower, which was completed in 1967 and was for a period of time the tallest building in the world, and a group of Moscow skyscrapers known as the Seven Sisters. The seven buildings, which were built during the reign of Soviet leader Joseph Stalin, are wide and blocky, and scattered throughout Moscow. They were constructed in the Stalinist style of Russian architecture, which borrows elements of the Russian baroque.

Athens, Greece

Athens, Greece

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Several ancient monuments from Athens’s classical era are still standing, most notably the Parthenon, with its enormous stone columns. There is also the Theatre of Dionysus, which was the birthplace of Greek tragedy and the first theater ever constructed. And what would a historically rich city like Athens be without its ancient temples? During its heyday, the Temple of Olympian Zeus, which was completed around the 2nd century, had an unthinkable 104 columns, although only a few remain standing today.

Istanbul, Turkey

Istanbul, Turkey

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The most populous city in Turkey is known for two distinct styles of architecture: Byzantine and Ottoman. The Hagia Sophia, which was constructed in the 6th century, is a church that is emblematic of the Byzantine style, with its massive dome and elegiac mosaics depicting Christ and other biblical figures. The Ottoman style of architecture also flourished in Istanbul. Throughout the 16th and 17th centuries a number of imperial mosques were constructed throughout the city, including Faith Mosque, Yeni Mosque\ and Bayezid Mosque. The mosques all have the key features of the Ottoman style, with extensive use of domes and columns, and are an absolute marvel to experience in person.

New York City, New York, U.S.A.

New York City, New York, U.S.A.

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From the Art Deco masterpiece that is the Chrysler Building (1930), to the Gothic Revival design of the Woolworth Building (1913), to the more recent green design of the Conde Nast Building, New York City’s skyscrapers employ a wide range of stylistic elements. The character of the city can also be seen in the architectural designs used in its residential neighborhoods. From the brownstones in Brooklyn to the tenements on the Lower East Side, New York’s five boroughs are an architectural cornucopia whose styles are as diverse as the city itself.

7 Jaw-Dropping Architectural Masterpieces



7 Jaw-Dropping Architectural Masterpieces

Of all the artistic works we humans have come up with over the years, our architectural achievements may be the most powerful. Great architecture combines form and function; it serves a purpose while acting as a symbol of the culture that created it. Much of our understanding of ancient cultures comes from the architecture they left behind, making it a crucial part of world history and our understanding of civilization as a whole.

If you get a chance, pay a visit to a few of these jaw-dropping masterpieces to get a full idea of how powerful architecture can be.

Wat Rong Khun (White Temple), Chiang Rai, Thailand

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Created in 1997 by Thai artist Chalermchai Kositpipat, the White Temple is one of the newest architectural wonders on this list, though it certainly deserves its place. A sparkling wonder of white plaster and glass, the White Temple is an artistic expression that combines traditional Thai beliefs with modern culture.

Though the exterior of the temple was designed in the Buddhist fashion common in Thai temples, the interior contains an expansive series of pop culture imagery, including depictions of Spider-Man, The Terminator, Michael Jackson, and more. Yes, really. And while photos of the inside of the temple are prohibited by Thai law, seeing the exterior alone should be enough to give you an idea of the grandeur of this bizarre project.

Great Wall of China

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Yes, China’s Great Wall certainly makes our list. And while it’s not the easiest architectural wonder for Americans to reach, it’s worth the trip. Sections of the 13,000+ mile wall were built as far back as the 7th century BCE, with new additions and revisions made over the next several thousand years.

There’s not much else to say about this one, because you already know it! The Great Wall of China is one of the most enduring works out there, with historians agreeing that it’s one of the most impressive architectural feats in human history.

Nasir al-Mulk Mosque, Shiraz, Iran

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Known casually as “the Pink Mosque,” the design of the Nasir al-Mulk Mosque is stunning.

This isn’t your grandma’s mosque; rather than the plain grays and slates typical of religious buildings, the Pink Mosque features a kaleidoscope of color, with pink floor tiles, rainbow stained glass, and painted geometric patterns adorning every interior wall. The outside is similarly impressive, but for this one, you really need to go inside to see its most impressive elements.

Colosseum, Rome, Italy

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Another architectural favorite, the Colosseum is one of those ancient works that always seems to capture our imaginations. Completed around 80 AD, modern scholars believe that the Colosseum represents the brutality of Imperial Rome, noting its dark history of public executions, gladiator matches, and violent chariot races.

Despite its brutal history, it’s hard to ignore the Colosseum’s beauty as an architectural achievement. Reported to hold anywhere from 50,000 to 80,000 spectators in its prime, it dwarfs many modern arenas and serves as a constant (and fragmented) reminder of a lost world.

Santorini/Thera, Greece

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If you ever find yourself in Greece, stop by the island of Santorini. One of many islands on the Aegean Sea, Santorini doesn’t feature one specific architectural achievement. Instead, the whole island can be considered an architectural achievement, acting as a modern representation of ancient Cycladic architecture.

On the island, you’ll see a series of white painted villages dotting red island cliffs, with residents adorning their homes in bright yellow, cyan, and red. Combined with the lush greenery of the region and its proximity to the deep blue Aegean, the whole island bursts forth in vivid colors and unique cliffside architecture unlike any you’ll see in the world.

Golden Gate Bridge, San Francisco, USA

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The Golden Gate Bridge is a masterpiece of engineering if we’ve ever seen one. The bridge’s impressive length of 1.7 miles is matched by its height, standing a cool 220 feet above the waters of the Golden Gate Strait. Designed primarily by Charles Alton Ellis, the Golden Gate Bridge is one of the most enduring modern architectural works in the United States, even being named one of the “Seven Wonders of the Modern World” by the American Society of Civil Engineers.

Sagrada Familia, Barcelona, Spain

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One of the most visually striking buildings on this list, the Sagrada Familia basilica is an unfinished Roman Catholic church designed by Antoni Gaudi in 1852. However, despite Gaudi devoting his life to the building’s creation, he would die with less than a quarter of the project complete. And while a current team of architects is working to finish what Gaudi started, the fact that the church is unfinished is a selling point to many of the basilica’s 2.5 million annual visitors. With a surprisingly modern design approach that blends traditional church architecture with Gothic elements, this one is worth a visit—finished or not.

Monuments to Culture

From China to Italy to right here in the U.S., our architectural monuments are more than just buildings. They’re tributes to our culture. If you ever get a chance to scope out one of these engineering marvels, we suggest you take it. These wonders won’t be around forever, and when they go, they’ll take huge chunks of history with them.