Beauvais Cathedral     Beauvais   France


(Designs That) Stinking Heights
For the benefit of all, Beauvais's St. Pierre Cathedral spire (c. 1570s) was the first building to exceed the height of the Great Pyramid at Giza, which until then remained the tallest building in the world. Unfortunately, the Beauvais spire fell after standing only approximately 75 years, however, the main vault of the cathedral is still the highest stone arch in the world.
One could then say that the Great Pyramid regained its "tallest" status, except by that time the second pyramid of Giza may have already been taller than the Great Pyramid (like it is today--this differential is due to great Pyramid's full point no longer being there).
the Great Pyramid was 480 ft tall
the second pyramid is 470 ft tall
Beauvais's spire was 500 ft tall
Regardless of whether the Great or second pyramid held the "world's tallest record," neither was surpassed until the 1850s when the Washington Monument reached the height of 555 ft. What I find most interesting is that after more than four millennia of the pyramids holding the world's tallest title, they were uncannily surpassed by another Egyptian form!

highs and lows of signature architecture
There is a pattern to the height of the world's tallest buildings. the first set, the pyramids, Beauvais, Washington monument, all were very close to 500 feet. Then, with the Eiffel Tower, Chrysler, Empire State, the height jumped approx. another 500 feet to level off at close to 1000 ft. Now, in our time, with the World Trade Center, Sears, Kuala Lumpur, and most of the others on the drawing board, the top level is close to 1500 feet. I'd say that for the next building attaining the status of world's tallest to really matter, it has to reach close to 2000 feet.

2003.06.20 16:15
tallest buildings
For millennia, the tallest building in the world was the Great Pyramid at Giza (roughly 480 feet), whose 'world record' was first beaten (by about 20 feet) by the tower of the Cathedral of Bauvais. Alas the Bauvais tower collapsed c. 1575 after maybe 50 years of being the world's tallest. So, then the Great Pyramid was again the tallest in the world, except at some 'point' the second pryamid at Giza became taller than the Great pyramid due to the second's tip still being there, while the Great's tip having somewhat crumbled away.
Funny how another ancient Egyptian form in 1855(!) finally superseded the Pyramids in height--the Washington Monument at 555 feet.
Now, making a long story short, the Eiffel Tower brought 'buildings' close to 1000 feet, and then the World Trade Center towers brought buildings close to 1500 feet. Given all that, seeing buildings at 2000 feet appears to be more than a stretch.
It is probably not at all outlandish to think that some day, perhaps in some millennia to come, that the pyramids at Giza will again be the world's tallest buildings.

2003.08.16 15:11
Re: pointers
There aren't that many comparative scale analyses of architecture being done anymore. Quondam has featured some: Giza, Beauvais before tower collapse 1575?, Washington Monument 555 ft., Eiffel Tower.
There is a very good scale comparison of "shopping" places, from Trajan's Market (110 AD) to Super K-Mart (1997) within the Harvard School of Design Guide to Shopping--this is for sure a continuation of Durand's method.
...a 1823 Italian edition of Durand's Recueil et Parellele... ...it is quite revealing to see how relatively smaller than Giza and St. Peter's all other historic (pre-1800) architecture is.

Köln was completed 1824-80 and at a height of 500 ft. does exceed both Giza and St. Peter's. The Washington Monument, built 1848-54 and 1879-84 reaches a height of 555 ft. It just might be that Köln was once briefly the tallest building in the world if the Washington Monument was not yet up to 500 ft by 1880.
Reference: most of the factual data pertaining to dates and heights comes from Fletcher's A History of Architecture on the Comparative Method, were ground cover area of certain buildings is also sometimes provided.




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