The earliest surviving buildings constructed by humanity are located in Egypt. One of the earliest is the Step Pyramid of Djoser, which was built in 2600 BCE during the Third Dynasty. It is supposed to have been the first building to use mud brick and stone as building materials. Located in Saqqara, it stands on a platform that is 62 metres high and is built from 217,000 blocks of red sandstone. It was designed by Imhotep, an architect, astronomer and a wise man who is considered to be the world’s first builder. It is the first example of monumental public architecture in history.
Other examples of ancient Egyptian architecture are the Great Pyramid of Giza, the only remaining of its kind, and the Temple of Philae, a temple built in honor of the goddess Isis. The Philae temple is considered to be one of the most impressive monuments of ancient Egyptian architecture and is filled with intricate carvings and hieroglyphic inscriptions. The Great Pyramid is one of the Seven Wonders of the World and is estimated to have been built around 2560 BCE. It is composed of two and a half million limestone bricks, each of which weighed around 2.5 tons, and the total weight of the structure is estimated to be around 6.5 million tons. Both monuments continue to attract tourists due to their grandeur and historical significance.
Mayan architecture is some of the most unique, grand and powerful structures built in the pre-Columbian Americas. Some of the most remarkable buildings are the great cities of Tikal and Chichen Itza. The ruins of Tikal stand in the middle of the Guatemalan jungle and date from the 6th century BCE. It is home to some of the most remarkable temple complexes of ancient Mayan architecture, such as the Temple of the Gran Jaguar, and it contains a number of other interesting stone buildings like the Great Plaza and the Lost World Pyramid. The ruins of Chichen Itza, located in Mexico, are especially notable for the grandeur of their pyramids. The most popular buildings in the site are the Temple of Kukulkan, the Sacred Cenote, the Great Plaza and the Ballcourt.
The Temple of Kukulkan is the most famous structure and stands at 75 feet high, with a set of 91 steps on each side, symbolizing the 91 days of the Mayan solar year. It is situated on top of a pyramid base which is the shape of a stepped cross that points to both the four cardinal directions and each of the four elements, giving it special significance in Mayan cosmology. The structure also exhibits astronomical knowledge about the movements of the sun, coinciding with the equinoxes and solstices.
The history of Roman architecture is as grand as it is rich in detail and complexity. The Colosseum, located in Rome, is perhaps the most famous example and is considered to be one of the greatest works of Roman architecture. It is an oval amphitheatre, with the elliptical shape of concentric seating tiers surrounding an arena with a stage and a sealed underground network of passages and tunnels, where the combatants were held during their preparation. It is estimated to have held between 45,000 to 50,000 spectators in its heyday.
Another example is the Pantheon in Rome, which has stood since the 2nd century AD. This magnificent temple has a portico with eight granite Corinthian columns, a domed roof that is vestigial to a circular temple and a coffered ceiling, wherein holes are punched into the ceiling in order to view the stars. The interior is lit by a single large opening at the top of the dome, which is thought to have been designed to act as an observatory.
Gothic architecture has its roots in France and dates back to the 12th century. It is characterized by its flying buttresses, pointed arches, ribbed vaults and stained glass windows. One of the most impressive structures built in this style is Notre-Dame de Paris, also known as Notre Dame Cathedral, which has been standing since 1163. The structure is composed of two massive towers, a pointed spire and a plethora of gargoyles, which give it a distinctive look. Notre-Dame is famous for its brilliant stained glass windows, with the most well known being the Rose Window.
Another well-known example of Gothic architecture is the Cathedrals of Chartres and Amiens, both situated in France. The Cathedrals of Chartres is known for its aesthetically pleasing façade, with sculptures, gargoyles and flying buttresses that form a visible ornate outline. Amiens Cathedral is an equally impressive structure, and is the largest example of Gothic architecture in the world. It is known for its intricate spire and its use of flying buttresses, which afforded it a way to easily create windows that were larger than had been seen previously.
Renaissance architecture is a style that emerged in Italy in the 15th century. The style is most recognisable by its use of detailed ornamentation, based on classical forms and motifs, mixed with a liberal use of geometry and symmetrical designs. The style was further developed during the 16th and 17th centuries, with geometric designs becoming more detailed and opulent. One of the most famous pieces of Renaissance architecture is the Duomo di Milano in Italy, built between 1386 and 1477. The façade is composed of elaborate reliefs and statues, while the interior showcases a single nave decorated with incredible marble columns and a grand ceiling covered in brilliant frescoes.
The Leaning Tower of Pisa is another popular example of Renaissance architecture and was built over a period of time between 1173 and 1345. It is a free-standing bell tower, built of white marble and stands at the height of 55 metres. It is known for the fact that it is slightly leaning and continues to lean, despite extensive efforts to prevent it from doing so. The structure has since become one of the major landmarks of Italy.
Baroque architecture is a style that originated in Rome and flourished between the 16th and 17th centuries, spreading throughout Europe as well as parts of Central and South America. The style is defined by its grandeur and opulence, as well as its use of asymmetrical shapes, curved lines, and intricate detailing. Some of the most notable structures include the Church of Saint Peter in the Vatican, the Royal Palace of Caserta in Italy, and the Royal Palace of Versailles in France.
The Church of Saint Peter is one of the most recognisable structures in the world, with its magnificent dome and exterior featuring an abundance of columns and statues. The Royal Palace of Caserta, situated south of Naples, is an enormous palace complex built in an expansive park and is one of the most impressive examples of Baroque architecture. The Royal Palace of Versailles is one of the most famous, with its grand façade, intricate designs, and extravagant gardens that feature impressive marble statues and octagonal pools.
Neoclassical architecture is a style that emerged during the 18th century, which developed from the movement known as the Grand Tour. The style is characterized by its use of the classical elements of columns, pediments, domes and arches, all of which draw from ancient Greco-Roman inspiration. One of the most famous examples of neoclassical architecture is the Church of Panagia tou Arakos in Athens, Greece, which was designed by the architect Karl Friedrich Schinkel. The building is made from local pink marble and features an elegant portico adorned with six Corinthian columns, making for a stunning façade.
The White House in Washington D.C. is another example of neoclassical architecture, built between 1792 and 1800. It stands out due to its grandeur and is one of the most recognisable structures in the world. It is especially renowned for its Neoclassical façade, which is composed of a central block and two symmetrical extending wings, all of which are covered in white paint.
Modern architecture is an international style which developed in the early 20th century and sought to break away from traditional building aesthetic. It is characterized by its use of clean lines and shapes, a focus on function and a general sense of minimalism. The most iconic example of modern architecture is the Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao, Spain, which was designed by renowned architect Frank Gehry. The building features a sculptural façade, made from curves and swirls of glass, titanium and limestone, that undulate outwards towards the earth in a mesmerizing manner.
Another example is the Freedom Tower in New York, designed by architect David Childs. The building stands at a striking 1,776 feet and is considered to be one of the most innovative structures of modern architecture. It has been hailed by critics for its innovative use of sustainable design techniques and its mastery of vertical composition. It is made up of a steel and concrete core, with outer facades of glass that create a unique pattern of light during the night, consequently making it an iconic part of the New York City skyline.