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10 architectural masterpieces everyone should see in their lifetime

From the Taj Mahal and Pyramids of Giza to the Great Wall of China – the masterpieces you need to visit...

Around the globe, there are certain sights which are guaranteed to take your breath away. So, in pursuit of perfection, why not become a jet-setting gent, tally up those air miles and travel the world to gaze in awe at the incredible buildings and architectural masterpieces man has created over the centuries past. Here are our pick of the best.

10 architectural masterpieces everyone should see in their lifetime

Taj Mahal

Surrounded by marble-lined canals and the ideal paradise garden as described in mystical Islamic texts, work started on the construction of the Taj Mahal in 1632. The imposing building topped with its 35-metre tall dome and four impressive minarets employed thousands of workers from India and Central Asia.

The architectural inspiration combines Mughal, Ottoman Turkish, Persian, Islamic and Indian architectural styles. It is also in fact a memorial from the Mughal emperor Shah Jahan to his third wife Mumtaz Mahal. Now how’s that for love, gentlemen.

10 architectural masterpieces everyone should see in their lifetime

Stonehenge

OK, so it’s not Zaha Hadid, but its glorious location in the English countryside and incredible history is what makes Stonehenge worth visiting. Built 4000-5000 years ago using two different types of stone (one type weighing 25 tons, the other 4 tons), several theories persist on how one set were transported here from South Wales and whether it is an ancient astronomical observatory or a burial site. Pretty heavy, right?

10 architectural masterpieces everyone should see in their lifetime

The Rome Colosseum

Nothing could put you off travelling to Rome just to see this. If not for its countless appearances in many cinematic classics, then for its sheer size and the fact it was constructed from nothing but sand and concrete 2089 years ago. An essential sight in the capital, it’s a permanent reminder of the nation’s proud imperial past, captured in the latin aphorism: “Quando cadet colisæus, cadet et Roma; quando cadet Roma, cadet et mundus” or, in English, “when the Colossus falls, Rome shall fall; when Rome falls, so falls the world”.

10 architectural masterpieces everyone should see in their lifetime

Great Wall of China

“The journey of a thousand miles” said the Chinese philosopher Lao Tzu “begins with the first step.” It’s a statement that embodies this gargantuan feat of construction commissioned by emperor Qin Shi Huang to defend attacks from the ancient Yayun tribe and was built between 200 and 206BC. As the longest man-made structure on the face of the earth, it was given UNESCO status in 1987 and at more than 5,000km in length, we’d put money on the fact that Segway tour operators are probably making a killing.

10 architectural masterpieces everyone should see in their lifetime

Guggenheim Bilbao

You say masters of modern architecture, we give you Frank Gehry. From designing some of the most revered educational institutions and award winning institutions down to the lights at Sexy Fish, this museum completed in 1997 really is a must-see. Echoing the ebbs and flows of the nearby Nervión river with exterior materials consisting of titanium, stone and glass, it ensured that Gehry’s place in architectural history was sealed.

10 architectural masterpieces everyone should see in their lifetime

The Pyramids at Giza

You really can’t miss out on a world that has a triumvirate of three great structures like these all in the same area. The Pyramid of Menkaure, the Pyramid of Khafre and the Great Pyramid of Khufu. The latter is the largest and most intact, comprising of some 2.3 million stone blocks and standing at 147 metres high. Its use as a magnificent burial tomb for the ancient pharaohs is undeniable, while a big part in 1977’s “The Spy Who Loved Me” hasn’t harmed its reputation, either.

10 architectural masterpieces everyone should see in their lifetime

Christ the Redeemer

Featured in countless films and sweeping shots at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games, Christ the Redeemer is an epic and sublime (in the truest sense of the word) piece of architecture. Designed by Heitor da Silva Costa in 1920 in an Art Deco style and fashioned by French/Polish sculptor Paul Landowski, its construction took nine years using clay pieces which were shipped to Brazil and remodelled using reinforced concrete – which in itself, was a new technique at the time.

There’s even a chapel at its base, which would make a visit to Rio even more memorable…

10 architectural masterpieces everyone should see in their lifetime

Machu Picchu

This 15th-century Inca citadel in the Cuzco Region of Peru had lived under the radar until the early 20th century. Located on a vertiginous 2,430m above sea level, it nestles in the shade of the awesome Machu Picchu and Huayna Picchu mountains, and offers an inspiring glimpse into an ancient civilisation. The effects of mass tourism mean it’s constantly under review by the Peruvian government. Put simply – book your ticket now.

10 architectural masterpieces everyone should see in their lifetime

Burj Khalifa

Meriting inclusion solely because it’s currently the tallest building in the world, this structure designed by SOM architects in Dubai stands with priapic delight at nearly 830m above sea level. With 160 stories, 57 elevators and countless other record breaking accolades, we’re more concerned with the view from the penthouse or sipping champagne from its award-winning world’s highest nightclub on the 144th floor.

10 architectural masterpieces everyone should see in their lifetime

Terracotta Army

If you’re going to see funerary art, and travel all the way into mid-land China, it might as well be the most impressive collection in the world. Dating from 246 BC to mark the ascension to the throne of Emperor Qin and discovered in 1974, it’s estimated that there are 8,000 soldiers and 130 chariots with 670 horses in the numerous pits and special protective areas housing the sculptures. Ancient it may be, but its influence is undeniable, as modern-day parallels with Antony Gormley’s bathers attest.

Interested in knowing more? Here you can find examples of more modern day conceptual architecture.

Further Reading