What are the most significant, most beautiful, or most interesting buildings of the past 1,000 years? Some art historians choose the Taj Mahal, while others prefer the soaring skyscrapers of modern times. There's no single correct answer. Perhaps the most innovative buildings are not grand monuments, but obscure homes and temples. In this quick list, we'll take a whirlwind tour through time, visiting the buildings our readers selected, plus some often overlooked treasures. Did we leave out your favorite building? Add to our list.
During the middle ages, builders were discovering that stone could carry far greater weight than ever imagined. Cathedrals could soar to dazzling heights, yet create the illusion of lace-like delicacy. The Church of St. Denis, commissioned by Abbot Suger of St. Denis, was one of the first large buildings to use this new vertical style known as Gothic. The church became a model for most of the late 12th century French cathedrals, including Chartres.
In 1194, the original Romanesque Chartres Cathedral in Chartres, France was destroyed by fire. Reconstructed in the years 1205 to 1260, the new Chartres Cathdral was built in the new Gothic style. Innovations in the cathedral's construction set the standard for thirteenth century architecture.
For nearly six centuries, great emperors of China made their home in an enormous palace complex known as the Forbidden City. Today the site is a museum with more than a million priceless artifacts.
In the late 1500s, Pierre Lescot designed a new wing for the Louvre and popularized ideas of pure classical architecture in France. Lescot's design laid the foundation for the development of the Louvre over the next 300 years. In 1985, architect Ieoh Ming Pei introduced modernism when he designed a startling glass pyramid for the entrance to the palace-turned-museum.
During the late 1500s, Italian Renaissance architect Andrea Palladio brought new appreciation for the classical ideas of ancient Rome when he transformed the town hall in Vicenza, Italy into the Basilica (Palace of Justice). Palladio's later designs continued to reflect the humanist values of the Renaissance period.
According to legend, the Mughal emperor Shah Jahan wanted to build the most beautiful mausoleum on earth to express his love for his favorite wife. Or, perhaps he was simply asserting his political power. Persian, Central Asian, and Islamic elements combine in the great white marble tomb.
The Industrial Revolution brought new construction methods and materials to Europe. Engineer Gustave pioneered the use of metal when he designed the Eiffel Tower in Paris. The French scorned the record-breaking tower, but it became one of the world's most beloved landmarks.
Louis Sullivan and Dankmar Adler redefined American architecture with the Wainwright Building in St. Louis, Missouri. Their design used uninterrupted piers to emphasize the underlying structure. "Form follows function," Sullivan famously told the world.