In this piece, we attempt a listing of some of the most popular monuments, building and structures around the World that readily identify their cities. This is in no way, exhaustive. The listing has been restricted to only ten and is not presented in any particular order.
White House – Washington DC, USA
Washington District of Columbia (DC) is the capital of the USA and the very center of American power and politics. No structure does more justice to the heritage, symbol and identity of this great city more than the White House. Not the Capitol building, the Lincoln Memorial or even the very tall Washington Monument. The White House has served as the official residence of the POTUS since November 1800. Whether it is West Wing, the Oval Office, the Rose Garden, the 132 rooms, the Presidential Emergency Operations Center (PEOC or the Bunker), or whatever, everyone knows something about the White House. Anybody with a decent following of American politics or even movies can write a one-pager on the White House. And why not? It is perhaps, the most popular Presidential Palace in the World.
NB: In case you don’t know jack about this building, go and watch White House Down or Olympus has Fallen.
Christ the Redeemer Statue – Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
At the very peak of the Corcovado Mountains in central Rio de Janeiro stands a 30m tall Statue of Jesus Christ (officially called cristo redento in Portuguese). This iconic structure, completed in 1931, gives the City of Rio de Janeiro its distinct identity.
Roman Catholicism has very wide following in South America’s largest and most populous country with about 65% of Brazilians as adherents, according to the CIA World Factbook. Cristo redento stands tall as a symbol of the Catholic Religion in Rio, Brazil and the entire World.
Statue of Liberty – New York, USA
Which city comes to your mind when you see the statue of Liberty? New York! The Statue of Liberty is a sculpture of the Roman goddess of Liberty (Libertas) bearing a torch on her right hand while clutching a slate (bearing America’s date of independence-July 4 1776- in Roman numerals) with the left. The structure built in Paris, was dismantled, shipped to the USA as a gift from the people of France and reassembled upon arrival. It arrived America in 1885 and was dedicated (or what we call ‘launched’ here) following year.
While New York has many unique structures of immense significance – Empire State building, Twin Towers, Times Square and the lots, none identifies this iconic city more readily like the Statue of Liberty!
Eiffel Tower – Paris, France
From Paris with Love.
The French Capital, every Lovers’ dream city, is easily identified by one of the most recognizable structures in the world- The Eiffel Tower.
Standing at 324m high in the 7th arrondisement area of Paris, the massive structure is ‘the most visited paid monument in the World’, according to Wikipedia. Construction was completed in 1889 after two years, and in time for the 1889 art exposition in France.
Gustave Eiffel, a French Civil engineer and architect, is credited with its design and construction.
Burj Al Arab – Dubai, United Arab Emirates
Unlike the previous four, Dubai is very much a modern city as symbolized by its modern structures and status as a renowned destination for tourism and hospitality. It was a tough choice picking just one structure that readily identifies Dubai and all it stands for. But we have settled for one of the most popular in recent history at least by image, if not by name: the Burj Al Arab (Tower of the Arabs in Arabic).
The Burj Al Arab is a big time, seven-star luxury hotel completed in 1999 at the cost of about 1 billion USD! It is shaped like the mast of a massive ship just under water surface. The Burj has come to represent everything Dubai is known for today; foresight, ambition, modernity and tradition all at once, and of course, class!
Sydney Opera House – Sydney, Australia
Australia’s pride, no doubt.
Sydney Opera House in images looks like a set of giant sea shells placed above one another looking towards the sky from the Sydney Harbour. In reality, it is a set of multiple performance venues and theaters, hosting around 1500 performances annually. According to statistics, this structure hosts more than eight million people and is toured by close to four hundred thousand people annually. Construction was completed in 1973, and it has been a UNESCO world heritage site since 1997.
Taj Mahal – Agra, India.
What makes the World go round today? Love or money. The Lovers have it!
In the 17th century, it was probably both. What else would make a man shell out around 32 million Indian Rupees (INR) in 17th century money (or INR 52.8b or USD827m in present day cash) to construct a mausoleum for his darling wifey? History has it that the Taj is a mausoleum housing the tomb and resting place of Mumtaz Mahal, the darling wife of Emperor Shah Jahan. Jahan was the fifth emperor of the Mughals who reigned from 1628 to 1658.
Taj Mahal has been a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1983, and attracts around 8 million visitors a year. For many, a visit to India without a peek at the Taj Mahal is inconceivable. Forget the Eiffel tower and all that talk about Paris being the city of love. If there ever was a structure that symbolized the strength of love and affection, it was the Taj Mahal.
Tower Bridge – London
Usually confused with London Bridge which lies some 800m ahead, Tower Bridge readily identifies London, with its iconic design, history and beauty. It is arguably the most popular suspension bridge in the World. Perhaps, the most interesting thing about the Tower Bridge is how it opens up for ships sailing the River Thames to pass through.
Tower Bridge was completed in 1894 and cost around GBP 1.1m (GBP 124m) in today’s money.
Kremlin – Moscow, Russia
Kremlin is to Moscow, what the White House is to the USA. It symbolizes Moscow as the seat of power and authority of the Russian Tsars and the Soviet Union of those days, and the Russian Federation, of present days. The Kremlin’s imposing and colorful structure does justice to its status and history.
Today’s Kremlin is a very colorful, fortified complex close to the Moscow River with five reception halls and around 700 rooms!
National Arts Theater – Lagos, Nigeria
Situated in Iganmu, a suburb of Lagos is this iconic structure completed in 1976. It was constructed by the Military regime of that era to host the 1977 Festival of Arts and Culture. The building has an exterior shaped like a large bowl with an inwardly curved top layer. Now not in the best state aesthetically, the National Arts Theater, represents the lost glory of Nigerian Arts and still gives Africa’s most populous city a distinct identity.