Architecture has always been seen as a measure of man’s progress and the state of his technology. The use of buildings as expression or art is a long tradition and is sure to continue in the future. Obviously utilitarian considerations are significant as well, and the blend of these with artistic achievement defines the very greatest architecture. Below is my list of the best non-religious buildings. Some are included because they were trail-blazing in their time, others for their historical or cultural significance, and still others which are simply the epitome of architectural design. I have deliberately left out private homes and mansions as well as towers, such as the CN Tower in Toronto and the Space Needle in Seattle (these will be discussed in a separate posting). The list is not published in any special order. A photo album should follow soon.
1. Taj Mahal, Agra, India – This incredible monument to the power and glory of love is perhaps the most stunning architectural gem in the world.
2. Great Pyramids & Sphinx, Giza, Egypt – These five thousand-year-old structures are the last remaining of the original "Seven Wonders of the World."
3. Eiffel Tower, Paris, France – This "temporary" structure, which was built for the World Exposition in 1889, has emerged as the single most important symbol of Paris and also of France.
4. Empire State Building, New York, New York, USA – Even though it is far from the tallest building in the world today, this art-deco masterpiece will remain near and dear to all Americans and will continue to be a symbol of New York, one of the world’s most dynamic and important cities.
5. Sydney Opera House, Sydney, Australia – The unusual shape and appearance of this well-known building has become the major symbol of the "land down under" and its emergence onto the world scene.
6. Golden Gate Bridge, San Francisco, California, USA – This iconic structure serves as entryway into one of the world’s most important and most beloved cities.
7. Big Ben & Parliament, London, England – This exquisite complex of buildings is an appropriate testimony to the power of Great Britain and its influence around the world.
8. Forbidden City, Beijing, China – A testament to the grandeur and technological significance of the Chinese culture, this complex is overwhelming in size and scope.
9. Burj Al Arab, Dubai – Here is a fairly new structure which has focused the entire world’s attention on the Arabian peninsula and seems to be a harbinger of things to come for this previously overlooked region.
10. Colosseum, Rome, Italy – This iconic structure symbolizes the Roman Civilization which dominated Europe, the Near East and Northern Africa for hundreds of years.
11. Parthenon, Athens, Greece – This temple is both incredibly beautiful and also symbolic of the Greek civilization which signaled the start of Western Civilization as we know it. Not really secular, this structure began as a temple to the Greek Goddess, Athena, but has come to represent so much more.
12. Kremlin, Moscow, Russia – This fortress and residence of the Tsars is a fitting tribute to the power and wealth of the Russian nobility prior to the onset of Communism.
13. El Castillo, Chichen Itza, Quintana Roo, Mexico – This beautiful pyramid showcases the skill, power and glory of the Mayan civilization. It is also remarkably symbolic and revealing about the central themes of this culture.
14. Cliff Palace, Mesa Verde National, Park. Colorado, USA – This and other cliff dwellings like it made creative use of rock niches for comfort and for protection.
15. Petra, Jordan – This ancient city and necropolis is hollowed out of the the sandstone to create a surreal scene.
16. Grand Palace, Bangkok, Thailand – Exquisite buildings abound here, from Wat Phra Kaew (the Temple of the Emerald Budhha) to the Throne Halls, to the palace itself, everything is gilded and tiled and spectacular.
17. Alhambra, Granada, Spain – The incredible Moorish architecture here is a testament to the expertise of the artisans at the time. Even the Generalife Gardens skillfully blend the beauty of the plants with the utilitarian use of water for cooling and irrigation.