What can buildings tell us about the history of the world?

The Guardian takes us on a wild ride across the globe and back in time for a brief history of cities as told through 50 buildings. Beautiful photographs of buildings each come with a snippet and full length article detailing the significance of the building, the city where it’s located, and the social/political/economic highlights of times past and present. Pictured above, a public housing unit Habitat 67 in Montreal, Canada built by an ambitious and idealist architect. An excerpt from the snippet:

The other pavilion to live on is Habitat 67 – the young Israeli-Canadian architectMoshe Safdie’s wildly ambitious, government-sponsored attempt at reimagining apartment living, and one of the most important buildings of the 1960s. It was while travelling across North America as a student that Safdie surveyed grim apartment high-rises and unsustainable suburban sprawl. He returned home to Montreal with a mission: to “reinvent the apartment building”. He longed to create, as he put it, “a building which gives the qualities of a house to each unit – Habitat would be all about gardens, contact with nature, streets instead of corridors” (each cube has access to a roof garden built atop an adjacent cube). Read more

There are plenty other buildings included in the series like the first ever Starbucks in Seattle, WA, the Citadel fortress in the world’s oldest city in Syria, the beautifully modern Guggenheim in Bilbao, Spain designed by world-renowned architect Frank Gehry, and even the Havana Libre hotel in Havana, formerly a Hilton Hotel before the Cuban revolution (picture and excerpt below). Buildings tell stories and I have no doubt that you might discover something interesting about a building you’ve encountered in your travels, or buildings that might inspire you to travel. Either way, it’s worth clicking through and exploring to your heart’s curiosity content.

Habana-Libre-Hotel-Cuba-002Once a playground for American tourists, after Fidel Castro’s revolutionaries marched on Havana this grand Hilton hotel was recast as a symbol of changing allegiances and ideologies. “Latin America’s tallest, largest hotel” was the Habana Hilton’s slogan when it opened in Cuba’s capital in 1958. Eight months later, Fidel Castro and his revolutionaries marched into this unapologetic icon of capitalism to begin their socialist rule of Cuba. Soon, the hotel was nationalised and renamed Habana Libre (Free Havana); throughout its existence, Habana Libre has charted the turbulent relationship between Cuba and the US. Read more


[inquire] Are there any buildings on this list that you ave seen in your travels? Any that you want to add to your ‘must-see’ list? Do you tend to notice architecture when you’re out and about at home or on travel? What surprised you about the stories told about any one of the buildings?

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