Buildings and Architecture in Europe
Few buildings are as iconic as the Heydar Aliyev Center in Baku. The masterpiece was completed in 2012 and is the brainchild of Iraqi-born British architect Zaha Hadid, who have also designed the BMW Central Building (Leipzig, Germany), MAXXI (Rome, Italy) and London Aquatics Center - just to mention a few. Most visitors to Heydar Aliyev just wander the massive grounds to take in the vast building complex from every angle, but the cultural center actually host various concerts in addition to the odd permanent exhibition of gifts received by Azerbaijan's presidents.
Mir Castle is a real 16th-century castle with towers, spires, courtyard and everything. It's one of the few UNESCO sites in Belarus and a must-do day trip from Minsk. The castle has recently been through a total makeover, so it once again is complete. The interior has been cleverly rebuilt so the new modern exhibition rooms morph together with the original structure. Existing castle rooms are set up as dining room, meeting hall, etc. like in the old days, with antique furnitures and paintings. Information is only in Belarusian, but you can make sense of most of the stuff without.
Another great sight in Mir is Mir village itself across the road. Colourful wooden cottages make up most of the village and there are some pretty churches too. It might be your only change to have a peek at rural Belarus.
UNESCO rarely gets it wrong. Amazing buildings, beautiful nature and cultural heritage fill the list of sites around the world. Nestled deep in the pristine Rila Mountains of South-western Bulgaria is the Monastery of Saint Ivan of Rila (aka Rila Monastery). There is little question to those that visit the nearly 1,000 year old site (rebuilt a few times), that the monastery is most worthy of its UNESCO honour. The beautiful building set with a dramatic mountain backdrop are the things that postcards were designed for. Some may dismiss it as touristic. But an overnight stay is well rewarded as the day-tripper leave the place virtually deserted once they head back the the capital. Serene, beautiful, cultural. It's what historical sites were meant to be.
Nyhavn means "new harbour" in Danish and is where the sailors came to shore back in the days when Denmark was big seafaring nation. It was a rowdy place with pubs, tattoo parlours, and strip joints. Today Nyhavn is still a popular place to have a beer or a traditional Danish open-faced sandwich. The restaurants are mostly used by tourists, since locals find them overpriced. Instead, the Danes just buy beers in a shop and sit at the quay. The row of colourful town houses, which make Nyhavn so iconic, are from the 17th century and H.C. Andersen lived here for many years.
From the outside Temppeliaukio Church doesn't look like much. Just a green copper dome ontop of a rocky outcrop in the middle of a residental area. But the church is hewn into solid rock. Inside it's a prime example of Nordic modesty. Natural light flows through narrow glass panels which hold the cobber string dome, making it surprisingly bright even during wintertime. The raw granite walls stand as bare as they were the day the church got hacked into the rock. Concrete balcony and minimalistic Finnish interiour in cool colours finish off this crazy architectural masterpiece from 1969. Temppeliaukio Church rank as Helsinki's number one attraction which it fully deserves, for it's truely an astonishing sight.
Berlin Modernism Housing Estates is a collection of estate houses, which were built in the 1920s in order to deal with the housing shortage after WWI. They were groundbreaking because they combined mass produced houses for people with low income with innovative architecture and urban planning. The same reasons they became an UNESCO World Heritage site. The estates are spread throughout Berlin, so it's unlikely that you will go and see all six groups. The six groups are Großsiedlung Siemensstadt (Siemensstadt Housing Estate), Siedlung Schillerpark, Großsiedlung Britz Hufeisensiedlung (Horseshoe Estate, pin on map), Weiße Stadt (White City), Wohnstadt Carl Legien and Gartenstadt Falkenberg, where Siemenstadt group is the biggest and most diverse.
Berlin is clustered with important historical buildings, but only three groups have made to the list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites, namely Berlin Modernism Housing Estates, Palaces and Parks of Potsdam and Berlin, and the Museum Island. The Museum Island (Museumsinsel) is an small island in Berlin’s River Spree with five world class museums all built between 1824 and 1930: Altes Museum (Old Museum), Neues Museum (New Museum) which holds the iconic bust of the Egyptian queen Nefertiti, Alte Nationalgalerie (Old National Gallery), Bode Museum and Pergamon Museum which holds the famous Pergamon Altar. During WWII the Museum Island got heavily damaged, and the Neues Museum was in ruins. Post 1945 the Museum Island was in East Germany and some reconstruction was done, but the reconstruction of Neues Museum wasn't completed until 2009.
Potsdam has always been an important and rich city and was the home for kings untill the beginning of the 20th century. During the 18th century Frederick the Great made it even more splendid by constructing Sanssouci Park. Besides flowers, terraces, and fountains, the huge park contained several palaces (including Sanssouci and the gigantic Neues Palais), temples and even a golden Chinese tea pavilion. Even more buildings were added under Frederick William IV. Sanssouci Park is, along with a group of parks and palaces in Berlin, enlisted as one UNESCO World Heritage site.
This house doesn't look like much, when you pass it on the beach. Hidden behind protective granite walls and not many windows, it looks exactly like its nickname "Le Petit Fort". But the house is 472 square metre, three-storey, with both outdoor swimming pool and a sauna. Due to its exposed location; first row and facing the Atlantic Ocean, it's designed to protects itself from the surrounding landscape and bad weather. For instance, the owner can only look out of the top windows, if they sit down. Of course, all this is lost to you, because it's a private home and off limits. The house featured in the British tv-show "Grand Designs - house of year 2016".
Since Riga didn't get as destroyed during WWII as Germany, it has today some of the finest examples of Art Nouveau architecture. These buildings got built in the late 19th century and early 20th century with heavy ornamentation. The elaborated facades can contain anything from flowers and pillars to semi naked women and grotesque faces stirring down at you from high above. While you probably need to be some kind expert to appreciate all the nuances, you can easily distinct the Art Nouveau from the concrete and even older wooden houses which it shares the neighbourhood with.