Thursday, 17 January 2013

Seven Non-Existent But Nationally Appropriate Wonders of the World

One of the things that has become very apparent during my studies about and travels to see World Wonders is how much a really distinct building can become a national symbol for the country it is in. An iconic building becomes a visual representation of its nation. This is a significant boost in raising the profile of any country; you could almost go as far to say that a country's greatness is, in part, defined by its icons. France has the Eiffel Tower, England has Tower Bridge or the Houses of Parliament, India has the Taj Mahal, America has the Statue of Liberty or perhaps the Empire State Building, China has the Great Wall, Australia has the Sydney Opera House, and you can scan down my list of countries and Wonders on the right hand side of this page for many more.

But it's also become apparent during these travels that some countries are conspicuous by their absence. Either they don't have anything on my list that's immediately and uniquely recognisable to them, or their lack of major icons means I'm not planning to visit them at all. These are countries with a high world profile, but a lack of visual identification and wow factor; countries that have plenty of culture and associated charms, but not slam dunk of a must-see World Wonder. In terms of the somewhat single-minded focus of my travels, these are countries that underachieve. And so here I intend to make a few suggestions to redress the balance. Architects, city-planners, and governments of the world: take notice. Adopt these, and see your country's profile soar. These are my Seven Non-Existent Wonders of the World.

Holland - "The Windmill"

Monday, 14 January 2013

A Few More Iconic Cities

I had an article - 7 Iconic Skylines That Almost Looked Ridiculous - published today on, one of my favourite websites. As the article name suggests, it featured seven familiar world cities and their skylines that could have been very different had certain plans gone otherwise. Cities, their layouts, and their buildings exist through a combination of chance and deliberate action - tweak these just a little and the city can turn out very different. My article highlighted what might have been. is a carefully edited website which a distinctive style, and I was not at all surprised to see my own article edited, both to fit its style and for length. It's very interesting to see how they changed what I submitted, making it punchier, funnier, but still getting the message across, and I was especially impressed with a few extra pictures they managed to dig up. The first incarnation of my article was focussed simply upon iconic buildings - very much the headline feature of this site and my travels - but an editor suggested to me it would work better with the focus on entire cities; this was tweaked at the very last stage to focus on skylines.

I came up with eight in total, but this is too much for a Cracked article, and I'm very pleased they kept seven of them, cutting only Moscow. Here, those interested, is what I had for Moscow.

The World Trade Center: Alternative Designs

I’ve been to New York City three times. Once was for a weekend in 2000, another for ten days in 2003, and most recently I visited in October this year, for half a day, to register for an offshore pass/permit, and then fly back to Scotland.

That most recent visit, as you might imagine, didn’t leave much time for sightseeing, although as the permit office was just opposite Penn Station, I managed to find an hour to drink some coffee, eat a croissant, and wander by the Empire State Building. But the earlier two visits were all about the sightseeing. The 2000 visit was very fortuitous: a few friends and I had won a Tennent’s sponsored national pub quiz final, and the prize was a long weekend in New York, hotel and prize money included. Not bad, we all agreed. Age 21, it was the first time I’d ever been abroad by myself (i.e. not on a family holiday) and I’d never seen anything like New York before. Everything was big.