Buildings with Amazing Stories

Discover the story behind the storeys of these iconic buildings

By Google Arts & Culture

La Sagrada Familia 4 (2019-06-09/2019-06-09) by Alejandro Rodríguez

While some buildings come and go in the blink of an eye, others survive long enough to see hundreds or even thousands of years of human history. As a result, many of our most iconic structures have truly extraordinary stories. Here are some favorite examples.

Hall of Supreme HarmonyThe Palace Museum

The Forbidden City

Built in the early 15th century, The Forbidden City is a sprawling temple complex in the heart of Beijing. Between 1420 and 1924, The Forbidden City was the Imperial Palace and winter residence of the Chinese Emperor.  Today, it’s one of the country’s most iconic attractions and a symbol of Chinese culture. 

The largest collection of preserved ancient wooden structures in the world, The Forbidden City has seen an incredible 24 emperors rise and fall over the years. As well as numerous palaces and temples, the site also incorporates a number of beautiful parks and gardens.

Peking, China (1946) by Dmitri KesselLIFE Photo Collection

Every single element of the Forbidden City, from the color of its roof tiles to its layout, was meticulously planned in order to enhance the good fortune of both the occupants and the country they ruled over. Priceless artworks can still be found throughout the palace and history oozes from every room and structure in the attraction. 

Belém Tower - aerial view (16th century) by Francisco ArrudaTower of Belém

Torre de Belém

Built to guard the mouth of the Tejo River and protect the city of Lisbon, the Torre de Belém is one of Portugal’s most famous sites and a symbol of the country’s Age of Discovery. Constructed in the early 16th century,  the tower has housed troops from Napoleon’s army, received taxes from ships returning from the New World and been used to imprison political opponents.

Queen Stephanie arrival at the Tagus river (1859) by Joao Pedroso Gomes da SilvaNational Palace of Ajuda

The ornate carvings and beautiful Manueline style of the tower belies its history as a defensive outpost and many visitors don’t realize just how important it was in protecting both the Portuguese capital and Portuguese interests. Measuring 12m wide and 30m tall, the compact tower is a small but fascinating Iberian landmark.

Sagrada Familia (1905/1905) by Baldomer Gili i RoigMuseu d'Art Jaume Morera

The Sagrada Familia

One of Barcelona’s most famous attractions, construction started on the Sagrada Familia way back in 1882. Over the years, work on the Gaudí-designed basilica has been halted for a number of reasons including war, fire, and vandalism. As a result, the building is yet to be completed, almost a century and a half after building first began.

La Sagrada Familia 5 (2019-06-10/2019-06-10) by Alejandro Rodríguez

Part of the reason for the decades-long timescale is the intricacy of Gaudí's plans. The original design called for an incredible 18 spires. As of 2021, just 9 have been completed. Once all have been built, the Sagrada Familia will be the highest church building in the world.

La Sagrada Familia 7 (2019-06-12/2019-06-12) by Alejandro Rodríguez

Today, building works on the Sagrada Familia cost around €25 million per year. Luckily, the end is finally in sight with the church scheduled for completion in 2026, the 100th anniversary of Gaudí's death. 

Architecture Of Antonio Gaudi - Churchy Of The Holy Family Barcelona, Spain (1951) by N R FarbmanLIFE Photo Collection

Find out more about Gaudí here.

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