While nothing compares to the Earth’s own natural wonders, humans too, have created some pretty amazing structures – some of which still stand after thousands of years and draw visitors from all around the world.
From private residences, to public spaces and places of worship – every civilisation has made its mark. Here’s how architecture has helped shaped the landscape we live in, and how and where you can spot them on your travels.
Neolithic & Megalithic
The oldest manmade structures and dwellings can be dated as far back as the Neolithic period (10,000 – 2,000 BC). Aside from building homes out of mud-bricks in Asia and wattle and daub in Europe, people also got more creative in constructing monuments and tombs out of large stones, known as megaliths.
Stonehenge in Wiltshire is possibly the most famous example but if you really want to be amazed at what man achieved so long ago then head to the Megalithic Temples of Malta, which have claimed to be the oldest freestanding structures on Earth – dating back to 3,600 BC.
The next major phase in the evolution of architecture can be seen in all its glory in countries across North Africa, once a part of the Egyptian Empire. Made from stone, the pyramids were the largest structures ever built, with the Great Pyramid at Giza in Egypt standing 140 metres high.
There is also the impressive Karnak Temple Complex in Luxor, which is over 4,000 years old. Luxor boasts a mix of ancient temples, chapels and pylons, elaborately adorned in statues and hieroglyphs.
Spanning from 850 BC to 476 AD, architecture from the Classical Era become more refined and grandiose than ever. It was born from ancient Greece and then Rome, and formed the blueprint for almost all western architecture. There are three main orders of classical architecture – Doric, Ionic, Corinthian – each identifiable by a particular style of column.
The most famous examples of classical architecture include the Parthenon temple on the Athenian Acropolis, the Archaeological Site of Delphi and the Roman Colosseum.
Between 330 – 1453 AD, the Byzantine Empire took architecture into its next stage by drawing on Roman temple features and the precise symmetry of the Greeks. It also introduced soaring domed roofs, sumptuously decorated with marble inlays, intricate mosaics and gold paneling.
The Aya Sofya in Istanbul is a stunning example of Byzantine innovation in both structure and beauty.
Heavily influenced by the Byzantine era, gothic style architecture can be found in various forms worldwide. It was taller, lighter and brighter but just as elaborate. Pointed arches, narrow columns and towering spires create the fairytale-like castles and churches of this era that flourished between the 12th-16th centuries.
Notable gothic buildings include Paris’ Notre Dame Cathedral and London’s Westminster Abbey.
Running concurrently with its Gothic’s later years, the Renaissance period (14th – 17th centuries) gave a nod back to the Greek and Roman approach to architecture with heavy emphasis on symmetry, proportion and geometry.
Many of Florence’s greatest buildings were built in the Renaissance including its cathedral and the Palazzo Pitti. St Peter’s Basilica in the Vatican City is another example of the exquisite Renaissance style.
Art Nouveau & Art Deco
Fast forwarding to the beginning of the 20th Century, we see a significant shift in cutting-edge architecture.
The Secession Building in Vienna was constructed by a group of rebel artists wanting to push the boundaries like never before and looks like something from a dream. Meanwhile in Barcelona, Spanish architect Antoni Gaudi became known for his surreal designs of curved facades, multicoloured palettes and clever glasswork.
After Art Nouveau came Art Deco, which stripped everything back to clean lines and stylised design. It also pioneered the cityscape we know today of towering skyscrapers and office blocks. In the US, the Chrysler Building and the Empire State Building in New York are both iconic representations of this movement.