For a building to become a world-famous landmark, an Eiffel Tower, Big Ben or Coliseum, it has to meet many specifications. Featuring in an historic document, being designed by a famous architect or even simply good PR can make a building iconic, but it is a difficult process that leaves many amazing buildings either locally famous or not very well-known at all. We check out 10 beautiful buildings that deserve the attention of the world.
The Atomium | Belgium
It is amazing that such a bizarre, unique building is not more widely known. Built for the 1958 Brussels World’s Fair, The Atomium is a 102m model of an iron crystal cell, with five of the ‘atoms’ visitable and featuring exhibit halls or in the case of the highest sphere a panoramic view of Brussels. To move between these spaces, visitors travel in escalators within the structure, which is a trippy experience straight out of ‘2001’. CNN named it the most bizarre building in Europeand its crazy retro-futurism really does has to be seen to be believed.
The Monument | England
Built to commemorate the Great Fire of London, the 1666 blaze that wiped out one third of London’s building, the Monument can be found by Bank Station (or, as the name perhaps suggests, Monument Station). Designed by Christopher Wren, the 62m structure, if laid flat, would point to the exact place where the fire started in Pudding Lane. What makes it a building, however, is the 311 steps within that lead you to its viewing deck, featuring a breathtaking view of the city at less than a tenth of the price of the Shard. Plus, people who make it to the top receive a certificate, making it a great family afternoon out.
Chand Baori | India
Named oxymoronically by many as ‘the world’s best unknown building’, this is one of the most beautiful examples of a stepwell (a building in which water is reached by descending down stairs) in the whole of India. Found in Jaipur, it is known by sight by many due to its featuring heavily in the Christopher Nolan film ‘The Dark Knight Rises’ (it is the temple Bane must climb out of in the flashback sequences). Movie franchise aside however, this building is a stunningly preserved example of its kind, over 1200 years old and one of the deepest stepwells in India, featuring over 3,500 steps.
Starrett Lehigh Building | USA
Totally unique in the city and yet completely unknown compared to NYC’s other major architectural achievements, the Starrett Lehigh Building is a behemoth of a building that fills an entire block on 26th Street, between 11th and 12th avenue. Previously a shipping facility, it is a staggering 1.8 million square feet in size and yet is a remarkably graceful building for its size, with its rounded corners and rows of windows filling the building with light and space. There is so much space inside in fact, that trucks are able to drive in, take an elevator to the appropriate floor, get loaded and leave without ever having to turn around.
Palace of Culture | Poland
Built in 1955 as a gift to Poland from the Soviets, the Warsaw Palace of Culture and Scienceis a bizarre yet beautiful combination of Socialist, Stalinist Architecture and American Skyscraper of the Art Deco period. How US and USSR architectural styles were allowed to mix during the heat (or should that be deep freeze) of the Cold War is unknown, but architecture fans the world over should be glad they did, as the result is a stunning building unlike anything else in Europe. Equal parts Manhattan and Moscow, and yet also uniquely Polish, the building deserves much higher recognition.
Municipal Building | Israel
Combining Anglo-American Brutalism with an explicitly Middle Eastern design sensibility, the building is famous enough in its home country to have featured on a postage stamp and yet remains largely omitted in studies of either of its influences. Although more successful visually than it is functionally (many called it claustrophobic to work in due to a lack of real windows), it certainly is an intriguing building with its ambitious inverted ziggurat design and bold diamonds unlike any other building. Allowed to become dilapidated in the time since it was built, it has recently been recognized as an architectural achievement, with plans afoot to turn it into an art gallery.
Haxo Station | France
Alongside the underground world of Metro stations found in major cities all over the world, there lies a hidden world of ‘ghost stations’, stations that have either closed, been rerouted or, best of all, were just never used. All of these are fascinating, but Haxo Station is notable in that it is one of the few you can actually visit, with tours occasionally organised. Not only that, but it is a ghost station whose street entrance was never constructed, with the project abandoned halfway-through, making it even more fascinating.
Rietveld Schröder House, Utrecht, Netherlands
Perhaps the smallest of all UNESCO World Heritage Sites, and certainly one of the lesser known, the Rietveld Schröder House is one of the finest example of De Stijl architecture still standing, and the only building ever completed that did not deviate from the principles of the movement. An abstract form made from bold colours and bold horizontal and vertical lines, De Stijl’s most famous disciple is Piet Mondrian and this house, by architect Gerrit Rietveld, could be one of his paintings made concrete. A fascinating anomaly to the other buildings on its street, it makes you wish more of its kind had been completed.
Abu Mena | Egypt
It may be easy to think that there is no historical sight in Egypt not widely known about and visited, yet Abu Mena remains the least known of Egypt’s UNESCO sights. It is also its most endangered sites, one of 35 World Heritage Sights marked as ‘in danger’ due to its near collapse and ever continuing decay. Before this inevitably happens, a visit to this early Christian pilgrimage sight is a must to see the ruins of a once-great church, basilica and tomb of an Egyptian martyr built in the 3rd century.
San Carlo alle Quattro Fontane | Italy
Rome is a city in which it is easy to get bombarded by beauty, with so much marvellous architecture that there is simply not enough time in the day to explore its less famous locations. You must make time to visit the San Carlo alla Quattro Fontane, however. A tiny church considered in its day to be on the avant garde side of the Baroque movement, the curves that make its design so distinctive make for a truly one of a kind architectural experience, with the very solid church having a weird sense of almost lurching movement about it.