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Nunavuter Jun 6, 2007 6:41 AM

Grand Designs- The word in concrete, stone and glass

I'm rather new to posting to the Skyscraper Page, although I have been a visitor for about six years. Shame on me.

I'm Not sure if this belongs here, but hey, almost everybody who posts to this site will see their own city by the time I am done.

Let's just say that I wish to contribute to the urbanist dialogue, and I expect any and all locals of the municipalities I mention in this thread to correct any errors that appear.

I care more about accuracy than my ego.

'nuff said.


This is a multi-part thread that may be of interest to lovers of things grand and immense.

Great Pyramid of Giza

AKA: Pyramid of Khufu, Pyramid of Cheops

Location: Giza, Egypt (near Cairo).

Year Built: Constructed over a period of 20 years, likely completed around 2560 BCE.

Height: 455 feet (The pyramid was likely 480 feet tall when built, loss of height due to theft of stones and erosion).

Claim to fame: Largest pyramid ever built, and world’s tallest structure for 3,800+ years.

Status: Only Wonder of Ancient World that still exists. Still crumbling away, but should hang around a few more centuries at least.

Nunavuter Jun 6, 2007 6:50 AM

Lighthouse of Alexandria

AKA: The Pharos of Alexandria

Location: Formerly Island of Pharos, which is now inundated; parts of structure lie under harbour of Alexandria, Egypt

Year Built: Completed between 285 and 247 BCE.

Height: estimated to have been between 383 and 440 feet

Claim to fame: Tallest structure in the ancient world that was not a pyramid, and thus is the first true building in human history to achieve “skyscraper” status.

Status: Fell down in an earthquake in 1375 CE.

Lincoln Cathedral

Location: Lincoln, England

Year Built: Completed between 1092 and 1311 CE

Height: 525 feet when first completed in 1311, but the lead-encased wooden spire collapsed in a storm in 1549. (see diagrams below)

Claim to fame: If records are correct, the spire of Lincoln Cathedral was the world’s tallest structure from 1311-1549 CE. This 238-year record as the tallest is surpassed only by the Great Pyramid.

status: The current cathedral is 271 feet tall, and was used as the stand-in for Westminster Cathedral in the film The Da Vinci Code.

St. Olaf’s Church

AKA: St. Olav Tallinn

Location: Tallinn, Estonia

Year Built: Completed in 1519, the spire of St. Olaf’s Church stood 522 feet tall.

Claim to fame: The spire of St. Olaf’s served as a beacon for the port of Tallinn, and could be seen miles out to sea. When the spire of Lincoln Cathedral blew down in a storm, the title of world’s tallest building went to the 522-foot St. Olaf’s. It held this distinction until 1625, when it was struck by lightning and burned down.

Status: After 76 years at the top, St. Olaf's settled into obscurity. The reconstructed spire (seen in current photo) was “only” 406 feet tall, and thus the title of world’s tallest building passed to Notre Dame de Strasbourg.

Notre Dame de Strasbourg

Location: Strasbourg, France

Year completed: 1439

Height: 472 feet

Claim to fame: Although it was shorter than both the original Lincoln Cathedral, Old St. Paul’s, and the original St. Olaf’s, the 472-foot spire of Notre Dame Cathedral was built out of masonry rather than wood, and has survived all disasters to the present day. It held the record as world’s tallest building from 1625 to 1847 – a total of 222 years.

Status: Still one of the tallest Cathedrals on Earth.

See height comparisons below:

(The SkyscraperPage served as my source for these images. On this site, I'd like atribute the artists. On the site i originally presented this information, they wouldn't have cared who created what. Context is everything.)

Nunavuter Jun 6, 2007 7:04 AM

St. Nikolai's Church

AKA: St.-Nikolai-Kirche

Location: Hamburg, Germany

Year Completed: 1847,* Constructed between 1846-1874

Height: 482 feet

Claim to fame: St. Nikolai was originally constructed starting in 1355, just after the Black Death swept through Hamburg. The Cathedral went through a number of additions and modifications over the centuries; work began on the current spire in 1846 after part of the roof collapsed in a fire a few years before. The frame of the current spire was put into place in 1847.

*Some purists will argue that Notre Dame held the height record until 1874 when the spire of St. Nikolai was finished. However, the frame that was installed was the height of the current spire and is still present inside the masonry that was added over the next 27 years. Depending on viewpoint, St. Nikolai held the record for either 30 years or just two.

Status: Whatever the case, when the spire was completed in 1874, its height of 482 beat Notre Dame’s by 10 feet, and took the title of world’s tallest structure. St. Nikolai would only hold the record for two years after its completion. St. Nikolai survived allied bombing in 1944, but was heavily damaged.

Rouen Cathedral

Location: Rouen, France

Year Completed: 1876

Height: 495 feet

Claim to fame: The original Cathedral and spire at Rouen date to 1220. The present spire, however, was completed only in 1876. The spire was the world’s tallest structure from 1876 to 1880.

Status: The cathedral was bombed in 1944, taking several direct hits that narrowly missed destroying key pillars. During a later restoration, a 23-foot gilded antenna was added to the top of the spire that increased the total height to 518 feet. (This addition is not integral to the structure, and is not usually counted as part of the Cathedral's height.)

Cologne Cathedral

AKA: Kolner Dom

Location: Cologne, Germany

Height: 516 feet

Claim to fame: The tallest structure in the world between 1880 and 1884, the spire of the Cologne Cathedral is notable for having the largest facade of any cathedral ever built. (See diagram below for size comparison of the largest churches in history)

The Cologne Cathedral was also the last cathedral to ever be the tallest structure in the world.

Nunavuter Jun 6, 2007 7:17 AM

The 1880s were a busy time for architecture, to say the least. Never again would a cathedral be the tallest structure on Earth.

However, the true successor of the cathedral was yet to emerge when the Kolner Dom (Cologne Cathedral) was topped off in 1880.

At the time, nobody could conceive of a built form that owed nothing to the Ancients or ideas conceived in the Middle Ages. Indeed, the large-scale architecture from the 18th Century up to the early 20th Century tended to incorporate concepts that had been around for untold centuries.

The Parthenon in Athens is imitated by hundreds of banks and libraries, and the Roman Forum, the Pantheon and the Hagia Sofia are imitated by state capitol buildings in the USA and Australia and basilicas such as St. Peter's Basilica in Rome and St. Paul's Cathedral in London.

It is perhaps fitting then that the most ancient type of structure of them all had a "last hurrah" before the techniques of the industrial world kicked in and changed the very concept of what a building could be.

In 1884, the world's tallest building — a cathedral — gave up its title to a pyramid.

Washington Monument

Year completed: 1884 (construction began in 1848)

Height: 555 feet

Claim to fame: The Washington Monument is a stone obelisk (an elongated pyramid) topped by an aluminum cap that sometimes reflects light, but usually blends right in with the granite and marble that the rest of the structure is made of. It was the first structure in this list since the Great Pyramid to have had a "final design," unlike the ever-changing configurations of Midieval cathedrals. It was also the first structure on this list never to become shorter over time due to erosion or disaster.

It is alsothe first structure on this list to surpass all of its predecessors in height from day one. Most notably, it surpassed the height of the famed spires of Lincoln Cathedral (destroyed in 1549) by thirty feet — and perhaps more if the scholars are wrong about how high those were.

Having been completed in "just" 36 years despite numerous delays (including the builders running out of money and the US Civil War causing work to be suspended), the Washington Monument required considerably less time to build than any cathedral.

Also, like the Great Pyramid, the Washington Monument commerates a specific person. Thankfully, George Washington was not disinterred and reburied under the obelisk as some suggested at the time.

Status: The Washington Monument remains the tallest obelisk in the world, and the laws in Washington DC that limit the height of buildings to the width of the street they are on, plus 20 feet, likely mean that this monument will remain the tallest building in the US capital.

The Washington Monument is the last of the historic tallest structures that supports its weight with masonry walls as all ancient buildings did.

Nunavuter Jun 6, 2007 7:25 AM

By the late 1880s it was pretty bloody obvious that industrialization and new technology had changed the world immeasurably from the way it had been just decades before.

We're used to things changing decade by decade, but this has not been the usual pattern in human history. Indeed after the Fall of Rome things went downhill for a thousand years give or take. Talk about a slump.

It wasn't until the 1700s that people began to realize that the technology of the Roman Era had been surpassed in most of Europe.

It wasn't until the 1880s when the phrase "Industrial Revolution" began to catch on to describe what was happening in Western Civilization.

Eiffel Tower

Location: Paris, France

Year completed: 1889

Height: 984 feet to the top of the uppermost observation deck, 1,063 feet to the top of the antenna.

Claim to fame: Built to commemorate the Centennial of the French Revolution and to serve as the ceremonial entrance to the World's Fair held in Paris in 1889. The tower is actually designed to be easily disassembled because it was meant to be temporary. Indeed, there were calls several times after the Exposition of 1889 to tear "the monstrosity" down. In 1902 the tower was struck by lightning (see above), causing the lights and elevator to short out. To prevent damage from lightning from harming the tower, the upper 300 feet were almost completely rebuilt.

Novelist Guy de Maupassant hated the tower with a passion. It is said that he often ate at a restaurant on the first deck, because it was the one place in Paris he didn't have to look at the thing.

Status: Over the objections of many Parisians, designer Gustave Eiffel received a permit for the tower to stand for 20 years, afterwhich it was expected to be dismantled (that would be in 1909). However, by then the tower had become the most popular tourist attraction in Paris and was also serving as an excellent place to instal radio transmitters and big electric advertisements for products such as Citroen cars! The City of Paris voted to leave the tower up.

When Hitler visited Paris after the Nazi occupation, he was unable to go up the tower because the elevator had been sabotaged and he didn't feel like walking up all those stairs. Hitler also ordered the tower destroyed in 1944 as the German Army retreated from Paris. The Nazi commander in Paris didn't have the heart to do this, and disobeyed.

At the time of its construction, no structure ever built had used so much structural iron, and nobody has built a taller iron structure since (the perfection of steel girders pretty much doomed iron in buildings anyway).

The Eiffel Tower dwarfed all other structures of the day (see below) and would remain the tallest structure in the world for 41 years. But it isn't about height is it? The Eiffel tower is also rather strikingly beautiful in its industrial minimalism.

Nunavuter Jun 6, 2007 7:34 AM

The structure that inherited the title of world's tallest from the Eiffel Tower requires a bit of a backstory.

Just as Blue Whales did not emerge from dinosaurs but rather from fuzzy little mammals, the skyscrapers of today did not emerge from the lineage of pyramids or cathedrals.

Rather the ancestor of the skyscraper was a small building in Chicago that doesn't exist anymore. When it was built in 1885 it wasn't all that out of place in Chicago. There were already taller buildings in the city

Home Insurance Building

Year Completed: 1885

Height: 138 feet initially, increased to 180 feet in 1890 when two floors were added.

Claim to Fame: The Home Insurance Building was different.

It was the fuzzy little mammal whose descendants would dominate the skyline of cities from Boston to Bangkok. The masonry dinosaurs were on the way out just as stoneworking had reached its ultimate glory in Hamburg and Rouen.

The Home Insurance Building was just ten storeys tall, but it was the first office building whose weight was supported by a steel frame rather than the walls of the structure. Because the walls did not have to support the weight, they were actually made of a thin layer of brick called a "curtain wall" that just cladded the frame and held up nothing but itself. The architect was engineer William LeBaron Jenney.

Curtain-wall construction meant that the Home Insurance Building weighed only one-third as much as a stone building of the same size would have. Chicago officials were so concerned that this new way of building might be unsafe (its walls are too thin! It will fall down!) that they halted construction for almost six months in 1884 while they investigated the safety of the building.

^From small beginnings: The 180-foot tall Home Insurance Building was never even the tallest building of Chicago, but it was the ancestor of all skyscrapers to come.

At the time the Home Insurance Building was built, few apartment and office buildings were more than five storeys tall, although there were some buildings as tall as seven or ten storeys in Amsterdam and other crowded cities in Europe.

The cheap apartments were on the higher floors, because walking up so many stairs was a chore.

But the main limiting factor on height was the weight of masonry. The taller a building was, the thicker the masonry at the base had to be. The great Cathedrals solved this problem by enclosing huge open spaces with arches and then filling the gaps between the arches with stained glass windows. Even then, buttresses had to extend out to the sides of cathedrals to distribute the weight.

This concept is fairly useless for a multi-storey building, because cathedral design cannot support floors running through the big central space that can hold any weight. The side walls of the cathedral can only hold up themselves. This is why cathedrals can be tall, but they are also mostly hollow.

So other than clock towers (mostly based on cathedral design anyway) the tallest structures in every city were always church steeples.

As fate would have it, Chicago is home to the tallest building ever built that does not have a metal skeleton:

The 17-storey Monadnock Building stands 197 feet tall, and was built in two stages between 1889 and 1893. To support the weight of the building, the walls at the base are more than six feet thick!

This is as tall as anyone ever bothered to build a load-bearing office building. (But Philly City Hall is the all-time record holder for a large masonry building)

In contrast, the 180-foot Home Insurance building had walls that were less than two feet thick from the bottom to the top. And they didn't have to be even that thick anyway. You could cover the steel skeleton with paper mache if you felt like it, since they didn't have anything to do with holding up the building.

By combining curtain walls and a steel frame with new technology such as elevators and pumps to provide water to the higher floors, the sky became the limit. Within a few years of the Home Insurance Building opening, other skyscrapers appeared in Chicago and, of course, New York City where land was so very scarce.

The first New York skyscraper in the "Chicago style" was the 16-storey (187-foot) New York Times Building of 1889.

Not to be outdone, the New York World newspaper commissioned a giant structure to dwarf the head office of its rival:

New York World Building

Location: New York City

Constructed: 1890

Height: 309 feet to the top of the dome, plus a 40-foot spire for a total of 349 feet.

Claim to Fame: With twenty storeys, the World Building had more floors than any other building... in the World. Including the spire, it was almost twice the height of the Home Insurance Building in Chicago, and from here on the tallest buildings on Earth would all be in New York City.

It should be noted however, that although it was the tallest office building, it was not the tallest structure in New York City when it was built. The 338-foot spires of St. Patrick Cathedral and the caissons of the Brooklyn Bridge were actually taller.

Still, the skyscraper had arrived.

Status: The World Building was demolished in 1955 to allow an expansion of the car ramp leading to the Brooklyn Bridge. The Home Insurance Building also no longer exists, having been demolished in 1931 to make way for a larger office building.

Nunavuter Jun 6, 2007 7:42 AM

After the World Building, skyscraper design improved and problems such as where to locate stairwells, elevators and all that were tackled. The early fears about safety were overcome, and more adventurous designs began to appear.

The 530-foot spire of Ulmer Munster Cathedral in Munster, Germany — still the tallest cathedral in the world — was completed in 1890, so cathedrals were still holding their own as far as city skylines went. None of the early skyscrapers posed any challenge to them.

Manhattan Life Insurance Building

Location: New York City

Year completed: 1894

Height: 348 feet (18 storeys)

Claim to fame: The Manhattan Life Insurance Building was the first skyscraper to pass the height of St. Patrick's Cathedral, and thus became the tallest structure in New York City.

Status: The building was demolished in 1930 to make way for the Irving Trust Bank Headquarters.

Nunavuter Jun 6, 2007 7:48 AM

Park Row Building

Location: New York City

Year completed: 1899

Height: 391 feet (30 storeys)

Claim to fame: Tallest office building in the world from 1899-1908, the Park Row Building is probably the first "real" building to surpass the height of the ancient Lighthouse of Alexandria. (That is, it is a building in which there are many floors, unlike the case with the Great Pyramid, the cathedrals and the Washington Monument).

Status: Unlike the other early skyscrapers, the Park Row Building is still standing. Yay!

Moreover in 2000, a $30-million renovation of the structure converted the floors above the 11th into 210 rental apartments. The most unique (and expensive) apartments are two made out of the pair of three-story cupolas at the top. The floors below the 11th remain commercial and office space. Thus, the Park Row Building is now a "mixed use" building that combines offices, retail and residential units.

The building was within the restricted area following the WTC attacks of 2001, but escaped damage.

Philadelphia City Hall

Location: Philadelphia, PA

Year completed: 1901

Height: 548 feet

Claim to fame: The City Hall of Philadelphia began construction in 1871, but took 30 years to finish. Originally, it was designed to be the world's tallest building, but by the time it was completed it had already been surpassed by the Mole Antonelliana in Turin, to say nothing of the Washington Monument and the Eiffel Tower.

I include it here because it was the largest non-cathedral ever to be undertaken when work began, and even after a 30-year delay the Philly City Hall still placed fourth tallest overall, and its spire was taller than any of the office buildings in New York or Chicago at the time. It is often forgotten in the history of tall buildings, and this is unfair.

Status: A fine example of Second Empire architecture, and still one of the tallest buildings in the City of Brotherly Love.

Singer Building

Location: New York City

Year Completed: 1908

Height: 612 feet (47-storeys)

Claim to Fame: The Singer Building (it was the headquarters of the sewing machine company) was the first building to surpass the height of the Washington Monument, and take over the number two spot among all structures on Earth. (See comparison chart below). As such it was also the first office building to be higher than the tallest cathedrals, and it exceeded the Park Row Building by 221 feet!

The base of the building covered an entire city block, rising 22 storeys. This podium was then topped by narrow 25-storey tower. This was an early attempt to limit the shadows caused by the height of a tall building by setting the tallest parts back from the street.

The Singer Building was demolished in 1968 as it was considered "obsolete." The floors in the graceful and slender tower portion were only 65 feet on each side, making them too small for modern office operations. The US Steel Building (a shapeless black box) was built where the lovely Singer Building used to stand.

The Singer Building was the tallest building ever demolished until September 11, 2001. It is still currently the tallest building ever legally demolished by its owners, as opposed to being destroyed in a terrorist act.

^size comparison of the Eiffel Tower, Singer Building and the Washington monument — the three tallest structures in the world in 1908. Philadelphia City Hall (which would be fifth in 1908) is included to show how impressive it really is.

Nunavuter Jun 6, 2007 7:57 AM

The Singer Building did not spend much time at the top.

Metropolitan Life Building

Location: New York City

Completed: 1909

Height: 700 feet (50 storeys)

Claim to Fame: A year after the Singer Building opened, the 700-foot Met Life Tower was added to the original 11-storey office building that had served as the insurance company's headquarters since 1893. The influence of cathedral and clock-tower design is still strong in early skyscrapers (people go with what is familiar, I guess). In fact, the Met Life Building is a scaled-up version of 340-foot St Mark's Campanile (the bell tower of St Mark's Basilica) in Venice, located in the piazza of the same name.

The builders of the Met Life building took the blueprints for the bell tower in Venice and doubled all of the dimensions. Instead of bells as in the original, each side of the tower is faced with a 26.5-foot-wide clock.

Status: The Met Life Building was sold in 2005, and is no longer the headquarters of the Met Life insurance company.

Nunavuter Jun 6, 2007 8:04 AM

Woolworth Building

Location: New York City

Completed: 1913

Height: 792 feet (57 stories, plus outdoor observation deck)

Claim to fame: The Woolworth Building was bought by "nickels and dimes" spent at the five & dime stores that company operated. Indeed, construction of the $13.5-millon building was paid for in cash. It is by far the largest building ever built that never had a mortgage. The structure remains the tallest structure on Earth built in the neo-gothic style inspired by Midieval cathedrals. (Indeed, the Woolworth Building was dubbed "a cathedral of commerce" by the presiding reverend at its opening ceremony. The resemblance is rather intentional.) The floodlights that illuminate the tower at night were turned on at the opening ceremony by President Woodrow Wilson, with Wilson flipping a switch at the White House connected to New York City by a telegraph line.

Status: Almost 94 years after it opened, the Woolworth Building is still one of the twenty tallest buildings in New York City. The Woolworth Company sold the building for $155 million in 1998 to help pay down debts, as the "big box" retailers such as Wal-Mart had seriously cut into its operations.

The observation deck on the 58th floor was closed in 1945.

^In 1914 the tallest buildings in the world were all in New York City.

The building on the far right is the New York Municipal Building, a massive 600-foot (41-storey) structure that houses much of the government agencies of New York City. This structure was opened in 1914.

Nunavuter Jun 6, 2007 8:11 AM

After World War I, the idea of building skyscrapers had spread from Chicago and New York City to every major city in the United states, Canada and even London, England.

London is not famous for skyscrapers, but several buildings of more than 200 feet in height were built in the 1880s and 1890s. This early start came to a crashing halt after Queen Victoria expressed displeasure that the new buildings were obscuring her view of the church steeples in London, and a law was passed that would preserve the clock tower of the Parliament Buildings and the dome of St. Paul’s Cathedral as the champions of the London skyline until well into the 1960s.

By the late 1920s, other sizable buildings in New York City included the 615-foot New York Life Building and Bankers Trust Building and the Equitable Building, both 538 feet tall.

Chicago finally started building larger structures, and had several buildings taller than 500 feet in height by 1930. This would likely have continued had Chicago City Council not passed a bylaw later in the 1930s limiting the height of new buildings in the Windy City to no more than 400 feet.

Detroit boasted the 664-foot Penobscot Building, which was the tallest building outside of New York City when it opened in 1928. Columbus, Ohio had the 555-foot Leveque Building. The 496-foot-tall Custom House Tower was built in Boston, Massachusetts, and the tallest building in the British Empire was opened in 1930 in Toronto – the 476-foot Commerce Court North.

By the time the stock market crashed in 1929, there were 34 structures taller than 500 feet in the world. Nineteen of these were in New York City alone, with Chicago following with seven. No other city with such a structure had more than one.

40 Wall Street

AKA Bank of Manhattan Trust Building, Trump Building (since 1996)

Location: New York City

Completed: 1930

Height: 927 feet (70 storeys)

Claim to Fame: 40 Wall Street is perhaps the greatest ‘also-ran’ in skyscraper history. Having become the first building to dethrone the Woolworth Building after a reign at the top lasting 17 years, 40 Wall Street would hold the title for the shortest period of all historic tallest buildings. The building was completed in April 1930, only to be surpassed in height six weeks later.

Its height of 927 feet was just 57 feet shorter than the height of the observation deck of the Eiffel Tower, and was decided on just for a lark. In a moment of “inspiration” the builders took the 792-foot height of the Woolworth Building and just flipped two digits around.

I kid you not.

40 Wall Street lost out in another way. As it is located in the middle of its block rather than on the corner of two streets like other major skyscrapers in New York, much of its visual impact is lost to surrounding structures and it can actually go un-noticed at street level.

(Only in New York could a building over 900 feet tall “blend in" and go unnoticed.)

Still, 40 Wall Street was the first of the giant office towers of New York City that incorporated some Art Deco style along with Gothic elements rather than taking its design inspiration strictly from cathedrals or Renaissance structures in Europe.

Status: A US Coast Guard Plane crashed into 40 Wall Street in 1946, killing five people. This makes the building one of five in New York City that have been hit by an airplane.

Donald Trump bought the building in 1996 and plastered his name on it. Donald Trump is a very naughty man.

muppet Jun 6, 2007 8:29 AM

There's alot missed out from the East:

the Potala Palace in Lhasa is 656 ft tall. It comprises a 384 ft high 1000 room palace on a massive 272 ft base of stone and brick dug into a hollowed hillside. Its 1180 ft long and was rebuilt in 1645

There is also a 510ft high pagoda in Chanzhou, the fabled Tianning Pagoda destroyed 5x in the last 1,350 years and rebuilt each time - once again completed last year. Nanjing also had one of 500 ft, now destroyed:

smaller pyramids disguised:

the worlds largest pyramid is also rumoured to be in Qin Lin county in a 'forbidden zone' of China, estimated at nearly 1000ft high and made of impounded earth and clay, and holding vast tombs (note the Terracotta Army tomb, that will take 80 years excavate is only one of 900 still remaining). The Chinese govt have long denied the existence of 100 or so pyramids though the increasing tourism to the Xian tombs area is threatening the secrecy with tourists climbing the 25-100m pyramids for themselves. The govt has planted trees on them to disguise them too. After outright denying their existence, the govt finally admitted to the existence to New Zealand author Bruce Caithie of some 'trapezoid tombs', however the fabled white pyramid has only ever been seen by a few Westerners this century. Heres an excerpt from a book:

satellite photos:

"I was searching for a pyramid which was said to have been, once, many millennia ago, multicolored, and to now be a dusty white. This was a pyramid which, legend has it, rises to the astonishing height of 1,000 feet - four-fifths the elevation of the Empire State Building. Not only was this extraordinary structure said to be the largest pyramid in the world (the Giant Pyramid of Egypt, by comparison, rises a mere 450 feet); but, in the valleys surrounding it, there were said to be dozens of other pyramids, some rising to an elevation almost as great.

Until recently, Chinese officials have rebuffed all questions about these pyramids and all requests to view them. And yet, over this century, a certain mythology has grown up around them. An American trader, stumbling upon these amazing structures in 1912, asked his Buddhist monk-guide about them. He was told that 5,000-year-old monastic documents not only contained informa-tion about these pyramids, but said the pyramids were extremely old when these records were made.

The trader, Fred Meyer Schroder, observed several smaller pyramids in the distance. He wrote in his travel diary that his first sight of the giant pyramid, along with its smaller cousins, rendered him almost speechless. "It was even more uncanny than if we had found it in the wilderness," he wrote. "But those [ pyra-mids) were to some extent exposed to the eyes of the world—but still totally unknown in the western world."

In the Far East in the spring of 1945, though Japanese troops were still fighting in China, the U.S. Army and its allies were well on their way to pushing the Japanese off the mainland. One day, U.S. Air Force Pilot James Gaussman was returning to Assam, in India, after having flown the ‘Burma Hump’-ferried supplies to Chungking, China, from India-when engine trouble forced him to descend temporarily to a low altitude over China. As he later wrote:

"I flew around a mountain and then we came to a valley. Directly below us was a gigantic white pyramid. It looked as if it were from a fairy tale. The pyramid was draped in shimmering white. It could have been metal, or some other form of stone. It was white on all sides. What was most curious about it was its capstone: a large piece of precious gem-like material. I was deeply moved by the colossal size of the thing."

When Gaussman arrived back in Assam, combat duties pushed the sighting from his mind. Photographs he had taken of the giant pyramid would not be published for another 45 years. Till then, even his report would be buried in the Secret Service files of the U.S. military

Two years later, in 1947, another U.S. aviator, Maurice Sheahan—this time flying over Shaanxi Province, not far from Xian-- caught sight of a giant pyramid in the misty landscape below and rapidly snapped pictures. This time, several U.S. newspapers, in-cluding the New York Times for March 28, 1947, published ac-counts of the airman’s sighting. But Chinese archaeologists con-tinued to deny the existence of such a structure, even though Sheahan’s photographs suggested it was higher than any pyramid in Egypt. "

could this be it?

Nunavuter Jun 6, 2007 9:05 AM

Do these structures have diagrams here? It would be awesome if they did.

BnaBreaker Jun 6, 2007 10:00 AM

Fantastic thread, and great information on the Chinese pyramids muppet. Are they really in Xi'an? I was there but had I known I would've looked for them. I figured they were in the far western chinese desert.

There is also what was recently discovered in Bosnia and is being called the "Bosnian Pyramid of the Sun" that is absolutely astounding. Apparently it was always thought to be a mountain until someone discovered symmetries not found in nature. I don't know if either of you have heard of it or not. Here is a website all about it:

And here are a few aerial shots of it from the above website:

muppet Jun 6, 2007 11:13 AM

more! more!
I thought this was just a hoax story I came across as I was skimming info on the Chinese pyramids. :cheers:Is the last pic excavatory evidence of a structure that I think it is?

muppet Jun 6, 2007 11:24 AM

oop, just checked it out on wikipedia, says its a hoax :(

BnaBreaker Jun 6, 2007 3:57 PM


Originally Posted by muppet (Post 2880805)
oop, just checked it out on wikipedia, says its a hoax :(

That's unfortunate, if true. It must be the most elaborate hoax in history though because there are all sorts of photos and videos (some that include the town in the background) of what appear to be excavated pathways and walls and whatnot. Hmmm. I'll have to check into this more.

ColDayMan Jun 6, 2007 4:11 PM

What a fantastic thread!

MayDay Jun 6, 2007 5:11 PM

"Detroit boasted the 664-foot Penobscot Building, which was the tallest building outside of New York City when it opened in 1928. Columbus, Ohio had the 555-foot Leveque Building. The 496-foot-tall Custom House Tower was built in Boston, Massachusetts, and the tallest building in the British Empire was opened in 1930 in Toronto – the 476-foot Commerce Court North."

One big omission in the above quote... In 1930, Cleveland's Union Terminal Tower (now simply "The Terminal Tower") became the tallest building in the world outside of NYC at 708 feet/216m. It held that title until the Lomonosov University building was constructed in Moscow in 1953. It was the tallest in the States outside of NYC until 1967 when Boston's Prudential Center was constructed.

Nunavuter Jun 6, 2007 8:35 PM

Indeed. I neglected to mention the Terminal Building. My entries are very chronological, and thus far the only sidebar stops I've made were providing some back story on Philadelphia's City Hall and some early skyscrapers that were shorter than Cathedrals. The Terminal Building got lost in the shuffle. My Bad. This is why input from people familiar with historic structures is essential.


At this juncture it might behoove me to mention that height alone is not the deciding factor in determining the significance of these structures.

Nobody cares if one cathedral is ten feet taller than another. The Home Insurance Building was never the biggest, or the most beautiful. The story of 40 Wall Street is a case in point. Nobody visits it if they don't work there, and nobody has written a poem about it or cast it in a film. When Donald trump changed its name, few noticed or cared.

A few of the structures on this list are icons, however. The Great Pyramid is one. So is the Cathedral of Notre Dame, and the Eiffel Tower. I could include the Leaning Tower of Pisa, "Big Ben," the Brooklyn Bridge, the Sydney Opera House and many others.

For me, the Singer Building was a lovely building, perhaps the only 600-foot structure in history that I'd describe as pretty or adorable. It saddens me that I'll never be able to visit it.

The next structure, however, is my favourite building of all time.

Chrysler Building

Location: New York City

Completed: 1930

Height: 1,046 feet to the spire (77 storeys)

Claim to Fame: 40 Wall Street was 135 feet taller than the Woolworth Building, and indeed it was designed to be two feet taller than automobile tycoon Walter Chrysler's proposed new headquarters.

However, the designers of the Chrysler Building quietly changed the projected height of their building after 40 Wall Street neared completion in April 1930.

A 125-foot spire was covertly assembled in the building's crown in strict secrecy. Overnight on May 27, 1930 this spire was welded together hoisted into place, and the Chrysler Building was the tallest office building in the world when the sun rose over the East River.

The roof of the 77th floor is 925 feet above the sidewalk below, making it technically shorter than 40 Wall Street by that measure. The spire, however, is not some "tacked-on" addition, but rather a work of art in its own right, resembling an engine grill or a old-style radio depending on your view, and is an integral part of the overall design. The antenna on top of the Eiffel Tower is only 17 feet higher, and it is not much more than a flag pole.

But the Chrysler Building has much more than height going for it. It has class, and opulence. The level of detail and attention that went into its design are phenomenal. The building is an Art Deco masterpiece.

The corners of the 61st floors feature eagles that are giant replicas of 1929 Chrysler hood ornaments. Corner ornamentation at the 31st-floor level are replicas of Chrysler radiator caps. This building celebrates industry and modernity with no apologies.

It is perfect.

^The main lobby

^the inside of an elevator

Status: Taller buildings have been built since, but none is as sexy as the Chrysler Building. If you disagree, look deep into yourself and try to find out why you are so wrong.

In 2005, the Skyscraper Museum asked one hundred architects, builders, critics, engineers, historians and scholars to choose their 10 favorite buildings.

90% of them placed the Chrysler Building in their top 10. The other 10% probably needed somebody else to fill out the questionnaire for them.:)

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