Worth the Flight? Rebuilding Historical Buildings

I write this as Notre-Dame facing its demise from a fire. Sadly, the spire collapsed through the famous rib-vaulted ceiling that we in the architecture community has studied in university, finding inspiration from the old world’s masters. Hard to imagine what will happen to the 13th-century world landmark. How far will the damage go? Will they rebuild the rib vault ceilings? What will happen to all the artwork? Will the medieval masonry work save the overall structure from complete annihilation? This led to a discussion I had with a co-work of whether it is worth going to these historic sites and if they live up to their hype with as many tourists flood them, making them hard to navigate without bumping shoulders with countless other people. If so, why?

As much as I would like to say that, they all absolutely live up to their expectations. I can’t. It is a matter of personal preferences and what you look for in your travels. Some people travel for cultural experiences, some for architecture, some for food, and some for festivals of sorts. I myself have traveled for all these reasons. As you are reading this in an A/E firm’s website, it is safe to say I am going to speak on the architecture side. Having been blessed enough to have visited a good number of World Heritage Sites, I can say that if you are on the fence about travel to visit a notable building or site, DO IT. Even if the site or building is not a World Heritage Site, but it is something that you want to see, DO IT!

Why You Should Go

Construction methods

I am a sucker for masonry work. It is safe to say that in modern construction, that they are full masonry walls or old world stonework details. Several historic structures are worth seeing while you can, sites and building that were built using techniques that are dead in modern construction. Yes, we see some older buildings in our areas that have wonder old work construction methods that aren’t used today, but these are still considered new when you compare it to something like the Tower of London that was built in the 11th century or even The Great Pyramids. I believe in a lot of industries that it is essential to know where you have come from so that you can improve the future. Will one of my peers or I ever be asked to design a medieval tower? Probably not. Construction methods are continually changing, which is why it is important to see architectural works while you can. Here is a short list off the top of my head that have lived up to their hype:

  • Colosseum
  • The Acropolis
  • Delphi
  • Meteora

The grandeur

Something that we often forget about, especially in a city like Denver where construction cranes are becoming the new state bird, is that new buildings used to be a big deal such as churches, government buildings, executive residences, and monuments. These structures would take decades, sometimes centuries to be completed using money from the citizens, the state, and from the monarchs. So, you can be sure that what was going to be built would be awe to all that would see it. Some of the most ornate that come to mind are places of worship. I am not talking about the video church at the edge of your suburb that used to be a Wal-Mart. I am speaking of structures like St. Peter’s Basilica, Hagia Sophia, and the Parthenon. The grandeur of these places can on be put into words, nor can a photo explain how you would feel in these places. Masters of their times had spent decades of their life decorating and designing these spaces. That is worth seeing. It is far and in-between that the majority of projects take an ambitious approach to master planning, unlike the places of the old world. Which I believe is a missed opportunity. The approach and the surroundings are part of the architecture, just ask designers of The Louvre or the US Capitol. A few sites with grandeur to spare that are worth seeing are:

  • Peter’s Basilica
  • The Louvre
  • The Abbey
  • Hagia Sophia
  • The Blue Masque
  • Notre-Dame


The roof is gone. The fire has moved down, the flames final burning low enough for fire hoses to reach. Tomorrow is never promised. If today tells us anything is that you never know what is going to happen. If given 1,000 guesses of what will happen today, I would have never guessed Notre-Dame would catch fire. Many World Heritage Sites have already changed the way that visitors experience the sites due to the distortion that is caused by high traffic and security concerns from people and groups. Some examples of this include; no longer can you lay under the Eiffel Tower, parts of the Vatican are roped off because of people with hammers, you can no longer walk through the Parthenon, and the presence of heavily armed police. Who knows what changes will be made in coming years, that will restrict the interactions with the buildings? Here are some places that have changed in a 4-years between my visits and some places that will continue to changes their interactions:

  • Eiffel Tower
  • Statue of Liberty
  • The Louvre
  • Peter’s
  • Empire State Building

Great Design

There are many places that are worth seeing in every part of the world and probably even the city that you live in. Tulsa has one of the largest collections of Art Deco architecture in the country, who knew! It is a misconception that you must travel a great distance to see renowned architecture. Here are some noteworthy works here in the US that you probably haven’t thought about but are worth a visit.

  • Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth – Fort Worth, TX
  • Pulitzer Foundation for Art – St. Louis
  • Kauffman Center- Kansas City, MO
  • Gas Works Park – Seatle, WA
  • Klyde Warren Park (Pritzker Row in Dallas, all of it) – Dallas, TX
  • Louis Arch – St. Louis, MO

This all being said, if you have the means go! I look forward to watching the development of new roof designs for Notre Dame and seeing how the winning design changes this monument to architecture.




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