Disaster and Architecture in 3D

A closer look at how fire, war, and other catastrophes have shaped some of the world's most famous buildings

By Google Arts & Culture

War And Conflict-Wwii (1940-12-29)LIFE Photo Collection

Some of the world's most iconic buildings have an incredible ability to survive, standing strong through centuries of political turbulence and both man-made and natural damage. These landmarks have a fascinating history - and the scars to prove it. 

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Parthenon - Athens, Greece

This ancient building was first erected in the 5th century BCE and has seen its share of disaster. Most notably when the Turks used it as a powder magazine during a Venetian siege in 1687. A Venetian bomb fell on the building, causing a huge explosion that destroyed part of the structure. 

Further damage was done at the beginning of the 19th century, when the British ambassador in Constantinople, Lord Elgin, took a large part of the sculptural decoration from the monument and sold them to the British Museum.

Victoria Tower, Windsor Castle, Windsor and Maidenhead, York and Son, 1870/1900, From the collection of: Historic England
President's House, Washington, D.C., 1807, Benjamin H. Latrobe, 1807, From the collection of: Thomas Jefferson Foundation at Monticello
Reims Cathedral (Cathedrale de Reims), Auguste Lepère, 1911, From the collection of: National Gallery of Art, Washington DC
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Windsor Castle, The White House and Reims Cathedral are all buildings that have suffered extensive fire damage over the years.

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Leaning Tower of Pisa

Leaning Tower of Pisa - Pisa, Italy

Perhaps no building in the world is quite as renowned for the disaster that has befallen it. But in the case of the Leaning Tower of Pisa, the damage has actually added to its cultural and architectural importance. 

The tower began to sink and lean during construction in the 12th century and worsened throughout the 14th century. Work over the last few decades has stabilised the lean and even reduced it by as much as 4 degrees. So, it's still standing more than 800 years after building began.

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St Paul's Cathedral

St Paul's Cathedral - London, England

Built between 1675 and 1710, St Paul's stood as London's tallest building until 1963, which is even more remarkable seeing as it survived the bombing of London during the Second World War.

Bombs rained down around the cathedral, one even pierced the domed roof and destroyed the High Altar, while another hit but did not explode. But the majority of the building miraculously remained undamaged, unlike much of the surrounding streets and neighbourhoods. 

Hans Wild, 1941, From the collection of: LIFE Photo Collection
Yugoslavia, Carl Mydans, 1963, From the collection of: LIFE Photo Collection
Reichstag In Ruins, Hulton Archive, 1945-01-01, From the collection of: Getty Images
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Coventry Cathedral, Stari Most in Mostar and the Reichstag in Berlin have all been partially or completely destroyed by bombs over the years, but all three have been rebuilt.

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The Alhambra - Granada, Spain

One of the most visited landmarks in Europe has really been through the wars over the years - both metaphorically and literally. It has had to survive dozens of earthquakes over the centuries too, with particularly bad tremors in 1431 and 1821 causing substantial damage. 

However, the most serious damage to the buildings was sustained in 1890, when a large fire ripped through several of the main structures. Other major damage included the destruction of towers during the Peninsula Wars of 1812. But the building still stands proudly after more than 600 years.

The Alhambra (2019-08-02/2019-08-02) by Dimitry B

Want to explore more of the Alhambra?

You can learn more about the world famous Red Castle here.

Credits: All media
The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
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