Architecture has ways in which it can help us experience a new place we are visiting, whether by telling us a story through its design, aging process, and use; or by showing us how an individual building belongs to that particular context by fully embracing it and the history of the place. Buildings that achieve this are considered architectural wonders, and the United States has hundreds of these. Here, I'm going to highlight five American architectural wonders you should see at least once in your life.
Architect: Frank Lloyd Wright
Fallingwater, also known as Kaufmann Residence is a house designed by the famous architect Frank Lloyd Wright in 1935. One of the peculiar design features of the house, which gives it its name, is the waterfall located right under the structure.
Fallingwater is one of Wright's most famous buildings and according to Time Magazine; it is Wright's "most beautiful job." The houses design plays with offset cantilevers that seem to float over the waterfall, almost as if the structure was weightless.
Today the house is a museum, and despite its remote location, it still receives over 150,000 visitors annually.
Empire State Building
Architect: William F. Lamb
Location: New York
Based on the American Institute of Architecture (AIA), the Empire State Building is the crowning building in their America's Favorite Architecture list. Without doubt, most people can recognize this building, which is now one of the icons of New York, the Empire State.
Built in 1931, the building stood as the tallest in the world until 1975, when the original World Trade Center took the title. The Empire State Building also became the first building to cross the 100 floors mark (102 floors total) and it broke the record of construction time, finishing ahead of time and under budget.
It took only one year and forty-five days to build this Art Deco masterpiece, considering it was built during the Great Depression. Actually, it is said that the Great Depression was partly the reason why the project was finished under budget and ahead of time, since people needed jobs and were willing to work hard to earn anything.
Architect: Thomas Jefferson
This list wouldn't be complete without including Monticello, the primary plantation of Thomas Jefferson, the third President of the United States. What is even more interesting is that, starting at the age of 26, Thomas Jefferson himself designed Monticello following neoclassical principles described in the books of the Italian Renaissance architect Andrea Palladio. Even during his presidency, he continued working on the villa to include design elements popular in late 18th-century Europe.
In 1987 Monticello and the nearby University of Virginia, also designed by Jefferson, were together designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Jefferson is currently buried on the grounds of Monticello.
Washington National Cathedral
Architects: George Frederick Bodley, Henry Vaughan and Philip H. Frohman
Location: Washington DC
This cathedral, which is currently the sixth largest in the world, was designed in the Neo-Gothic style, closely modeled after the English Gothic style of the late 14th century. Even though it follows 14th century design ideals, construction began (with the laying of the first foundation stone) in 1907 during Theodore Roosevelt's presidency, and finished (with the placement of the final finial) in 1990 during George H. W. Bush's presidency. But still, decorative work that included the carving of statues and other interior details, lasted until 2011.
Inside the cathedral, one of the most impressive sights is the west rose window, which was dedicated in 1977 in the presence of Queen Elizabeth II and President Jimmy Carter.
Grand Central Terminal
Architects: Reed and Stem; Warren and Wetmore
Location: New York
Modeled on a merger between a Roman triumphal arch and a roman bath, the Beaux Arts facade and interior concourse of the Grand Central Terminal present a strong symbol that mixes antiquity with the industrialization occurring in 1903 - the date when the building was finished. It symbolizes the triumph of the railroad and it was envisioned as a gateway to the city and a portal to reach destinations outside it.
The terminal has undergone several transformations throughout the decades, but to this day the interior concourse retains its beautiful astronomical ceiling and other features reminiscent of the early 20th century.
Outside the station, the 13-foot (4 m) clock in front of the Grand Central facade facing 42nd Street contains the world's largest example of Tiffany glass, surrounded by beautifully placed sculptures of Minerva, Hercules, and Mercury.
What do you think, should there be another American architectural wonder on this list?
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