So, there is this international vote-on-the-web for the NEW seven wonders of the world. I have this memory from childhood that this was all decided some time ago, but that was probably by white European men so it is time to do it again. Egypt got its knickers in a bunch because the Pyramids at Giza (only surviving site from the Ancient Seven Wonders) were going to be subject to voting rather than an automatic.
I haven’t seen any criteria beyond “humankind’s heritage,’ so that is what I will use as I give you my take on each candidate.
Colosseum, Rome: Iconic, recognized, and pretty awe-inspiring in real life. Thanks to Pope Clement, there is enough of it left to get the original idea, and thanks to Mussolini every road leads to it. I give it a 7.
Kiyomizu Temple, Japan. Super temple complex at Kyoto, although I am a bit partial to Todai-ji at Nara, which I believe is the largest wooden building in the world. I’ll vote an 8.
Angkor Wat, Cambodia. This is a shoo-in. Totally awesome, at 500 acres the biggest religious structure in the world, and if you count the oodles of other temples in the park (Angkor Thom, Preah Khan, Bayon, Phimineakas, Baphuon, etc.,etc.) it rocks 400 years of history and the best of both Hindu and Buddhist architecture. 10.
Statue of Liberty, New York. As a symbol of the eternal bond between France and the U.S. the timing is odd, but I would have to say as one of only three “statues” on the list, it is our closest modern parallel to the Colossus at Rhodes. I give it a 8.
Kremlin and Red Square, Moscow. Haven’t seen this one, and if it beats Lavra in Kyiv, I suppose we need an Orthodox site and Hagia Sophia doesn’t quite fit that. Another 7.
Hagia Sophia, Istanbul. Another one I haven’t seen but I am voting 8 just for its role in architectural history. Squinch.
Alhambra, Spain. I must profess experiential ignorance again, but I know it is up there. Another 7.
Acropolis, Athens. Fourth in a row I haven’t seen but this is even easier. This one weighs on the whole of Western history and a lot more than just that. 9.
Neuschwandstein, Germany. A 19th century fantasy castle copied by Disney? Can’t we do a real castle for our German token? Or the Bauhaus? I’m sorry, but this is a 5.
Stonehenge, England. Okay, best stone circle and I have seen a few of those. A clear 8, inching toward 9.
Great Wall of China. The scope and breadth of 4000 years of construction history for a wall that never worked is impossible to ignore. Kafka wrote about it. The myth about seeing it from space underscores its importance – and the need to see it from a great distance. I say it’s in – 9.
Eiffel Tower, Paris. Interesting, we take a building from the modern culture capital that was hated by cultured Parisians when it was built. Sort of like Chicago’s Picasso. I’d say a 7.
Pyramid at Chichen Itza, Mexico. Certainly more ornate and elegant than Teotihuacan, but the latter even awed the Aztecs. Either one is worth an 8.
Christ the Redeemer Statue, Rio de Janiero. The mountain and bay make this site more than the statue itself. I’d say a 7.
Machu Picchu, Peru. Much better choice for our South American token. Great site, huge complex, elements of mystery like Stonehenge. I’d say 9.
Easter Island statues. Talk about elements of mystery. If “wonder” trumps actual heritage of humankind, these brow beaters are in. Overall, I’m voting 8.
Taj Mahal, India. I saw this 20 years ago and thought it was the greatest work of architecture I had ever seen. Angkor Wat runs with it, but it is still a 10.
Petra, Jordan. I’ve only seen it in the Indiana Jones movie. Arguably a better Roman choice than the Colloseum, but equally awe-inspiring? I’m going with a 7.
Pyramids of Giza, Egypt. I vote Zahi Hawass – this one is automatic, despite the fact that we know so much about it. 10.
Timbuktu, Mali. Sub-Saharn token? Pretty impressive, and beats Petra in the rising-out-of-the-desert category. I’ll say 8.
Sydney Opera House, Sydney. Oh, heck, it is an icon and locational shorthand like the Taj and Eiffel Tower. It out Gehrys Gehry a quarter century earlier, although like so much modern architecture, it fades up close. I’ll vote 7.
So, my seven are:
Now, for those left out:
Borobudur – come on guys! You rate China and India but leave out Indonesia? Learn to count! Since the Taliban whacked Bamiyan, this is the coolest Buddhist site.
Forbidden City – this is almost as big as Angkor Wat and while it is definitely younger, it is awe-inspiring. Maybe the Starbucks got in the way.
Empire State Building. You gotta have a skyscraper – if the ancients were making this list, it would consist ONLY of skyscrapers. Yes the mystery quotient is down, but these things are symbols and they are the culmination of 20 centuries of architecture. We could do the seven best: Empire State, Chrysler, Hancock (Chicago), Jin Mao (Shanghai), PSFS (Philly), Petronas (KL) and maybe Le Grande Arche at La Defense.
Golden Gate Bridge. You gotta have a bridge. That would’ve totally roiled the yarbles of the ancients. Other contenders: Sydney Harbor, Brooklyn. The ancients also would be all over the Chunnel.
Chartres, Beauvais or Salisbury. No Gothic cathedrals? You don’t get skyscrapers or bridges without Gothic cathedrals. Come on! Easter Island and Macchu Picchu are Komodo dragons – Beauvais is a Holstein. This is our cultural genetic inheritance, dudes, not some branch that dies off.
What about modernism and the 20th century? Sure it was the century of genocide, but it was also the only American century, and there was tons of cool architecture. My favorite modernist monuments would include: Weissenhofseidlung, Hook of Holland, La Defense, Chandigarh, Parliament at Dhaka. Mumbai Deco, Pudong, Brasilia, US Air Force Academy, New York Capitol, Marin County Courthouse, Salk Institute, IIT, Tel Aviv Bauhaus … out of time… talk to ya tomorrow