Amazing Architectural Innovations From The Past
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Architecture is not just building design. It represents the values and thinking of an era, the enterprise of a generation and at the same time it paves way for things to come. It is the most iconic representation of design and science put together.

If you look at the developments that have taken place in architecture in recent times, you would notice it is mostly about huge skyscrapers and man-made marvels, including even islands! Who would have thought? But necessity is the mother of all invention. With human population sky-rocketing it is natural for mankind to think outside the box and make adjustments in every field accordingly to incorporate the burgeoning state of things.

But here let’s look at some architectural innovations and breakthroughs from the past when the demands on the field were not as much, resources were less scarce and architects had the creative freedom to experiment and express more. Add to it the fact that science and engineering were not as advanced and the challenge of giving life to a vision in brick and mortar was even greater and loftier. It is impossible to cover them all in one place but here is a look at the most iconic structures that paved the way for many modern architectural innovations of today.

I. The Great Wall of China, China - Built 2000 years ago and almost 9 kms long and 9 mtrs wide. This is an architectural marvel. Given how it was built mainly using stone, brick, tamped earth, wood, and other materials, with bricks used much later in its construction it has withstood the test of time and more. Although the claims of its visibility from the space and the Moon are just popular myths.

II. The Great Pyramid of Giza, Egypt - The oldest and the only intact of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. It is believed that the pyramid was built as a tomb over a 10 to 20-year period concluding around 2560 BCE. Initially at 146.5 metres (481 feet), the Great Pyramid was the tallest man-made structure in the world for over 3,800 years. It consists of an estimated 2.3 million limestone blocks and it is estimated that 5.5 million tonnes of limestone, 8,000 tonnes of granite, and 500,000 tonnes of mortar were used in the construction of the Great Pyramid.

III. Chand Baori , India Built in the 10 th century, Chand Baori is a well that is perhaps the deepest in the world, extending 100 feet below the surface of the earth. This well has a total of 3,500 steps in 13 levels arranged in an inverted ‘V’ shape. The walls are extremely steep, making it impossible to see the people standing above while looking from the bottom. Yet the most iconic part of this structure remains the patterns engraved on its walls.

IV. Teotihuacan , Mexico - A pre-Columbian city located in the Basin of Mexico, is today known as the site of many of the most architecturally significant Mesoamerican pyramids. Teotihuacan is also significant for its complex, multi-family residential compounds and the Avenue of the Dead. A massive urban complex laid out to celestial, geographic and geodetic alignments, the Teotihuacan archaeological site in the Basin of Mexico contains some of the largest pyramidal structures built in the pre-Columbian Americas. It’s been known as the first true urban centre in the Americas.

V. Leshan Giant Buddha, China – Carved out of a cliff face, it is the largest stone Buddha in the world. It is 71 meters (233 feet) tall and shows a seated Buddha with his hands on his knees. The head of the Leshan Buddha is 14.7 meters tall and 10 meters wide while the shoulders are almost 28 meters. The statue that took almost 90 years to get completed is now a UNESCO World Heritage site.

VI. Leaning Tower of Pisa, Italy –Built between the 12 th and 14 th centuries, it is the freestanding bell tower, of the cathedral of the Italian city of Pisa, known worldwide for its unintended tilt to one side. The tower's tilt began during construction, caused by an inadequate foundation on ground too soft on one side to properly support the structure's weight. The tilt increased in the decades before the structure was completed, and gradually increased until the structure was stabilized. Prior to restoration work performed between 1990 and 2001, the tower leaned at an angle of 5.5 degrees, but the tower now leans at about 3.99 degrees. This means that the top of the tower is displaced horizontally 3.9 metres (12 ft 10 in) from where it would be if the structure were perfectly vertical!

VII. Taj Mahal, India – the Mughal architecture changed and brought in a lot of architectural innovations in the Indian sub-continent but perhaps the most iconic of all times and places is the marvel of the Taj Mahal. Built in the 17 th century, the Taj Mahal is widely recognized as the jewel of Muslim art in India and one of the universally admired masterpieces of the world's heritage.

VIII. Colosseum, Rome - The Colosseum, an elliptical amphitheatre in the centre of the city of Rome, Italy is considered one of the greatest works of Roman architecture and engineering. Built of concrete and stone, it is the largest amphitheatre in the world. Built between 70-80 AD, it is estimated to hold between 50,000 and 80,000 spectators and was used for gladiatorial contests and public spectacles such as mock sea battles, animal hunts, executions, re-enactments of famous battles, and dramas. It was declared a World Heritage Site in 1980.

IX. Machu Picchu , Peru - is a 15th-century Inca site located 2,430 metres (7,970 ft) above sea level. Situated on a mountain ridge, it is often referred to as the "Lost City of the Incas”, it is perhaps the most familiar icon of Inca civilization. Since the site was not known to the Spanish during their conquest, it is highly significant as a relatively intact cultural site. Machu Picchu was declared a Peruvian Historical Sanctuary in 1981 and a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1983.

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Disha Bathija is a fashion marketing professional and writes on design and lifestyle.