The iconic Empire State Building, the first construction to have more than 100 floors, went on to define the modern concept of the skyscraper. These images—originally published by HomeAdvisor—allow us to indulge in the brief folly of what the Empire State Building might have looked had it been conceived under a variety of easily recognizable architectural styles.
A classic of Art Deco design, it’s so iconic that it is hard to imagine it looking any other way. But what would it look like as a Renaissance or Gothic construction? Discover this iconic landmark in 9 different architectural styles.
1. Ancient Roman
Roman architecture followed classical orders such as the Doric, Ionic, and Corinthian. Despite this reverence towards the legacy of Ancient Greece, Roman architects were great innovators and developed new construction techniques of their own. They were the first civilization to use arches to support their structures, as seen in many iconic structures such as triumphal arches and amphitheaters. To give their buildings a traditional look, the Romans continued to incorporate columns even after they were no longer structurally necessary.
Renaissance architecture originated in Florence in the early 15th century. Architects of the time rejected Gothic style intricacy, instead opting for a return to the simplicity and balanced-proportions of Roman classicism. Rounded arches and domes were revived, and architects strived to create structures which would appeal to both emotion and reason. Buildings such as the Florence Cathedral and the Basilica of San Lorenzo prove that they succeeded in their ambitions.
Originating in northern France in around 1140, the Gothic style produced some of Europe’s most beautiful, and impressively engineered buildings. Gothic cathedrals and churches can be identified by their pointed arches, ribbed vaults and flying buttresses. Constructions such as the Notre-Dame in Paris and London’s Westminster Abbey. Rib vaults, flying buttress and pointed arches were all designed to increase natural light in the soaring spaces of the buildings.
4. Art Nouveau
Starting around 1890, the Art Nouveau movement produced some of the most beautifully-crafted buildings in history. Architects throughout Europe and America made use of materials such as glass and wrought iron to create elaborate curved lines and shapes inspired by natural forms. Perhaps the best known examples of this style can be found in Barcelona, thanks to the legendary Antoni Gaudí who designed many of the city’s landmarks.
5. Traditional Japanese architecture
Steeped in tradition and emphasizing harmony with nature, Japanese architecture, aka 日本建築 Nihon kenchiku, has a very long history. Structures were usually elevated slightly off the ground, with sliding doors instead of walls, allowing the space to be customized for different occasions. Many of the country’s spectacular shrines and temples built in this style are still standing. Japanese buildings were traditionally built with wood because of the abundance of timber at the time, but also due to the material’s resistance to earthquakes.
6. Postmodern architecture
In the late 1960s many architects began to question the modernist outlook that architecture had the power to remedy societies’ problems. They wanted to move away from the formality and lack of variety of modern architecture. This new-found freedom resulted in a style that’s impossible to define because many postmodern architects resist classification.
Over the years, Brutalism has been demonized and celebrated in equal measure. The term was coined by the British architectural critic Reyner Banham in 1955 to describe the work of architects Peter and Alison Smithson. From the 1970s on, these fortress-like, concrete monoliths became immensely unpopular. They only rose in popularity recently when new admirers started to praise buildings like Preston Bus Station and Park Hill in Sheffield as architectural landmarks. While Brutalist buildings were obviously not the first to use concrete, they were the first to use it for the construction’s facade. Before this, concrete was usually hidden beneath the surface.
Like postmodernism, deconstructivism doesn’t revolve around one coherent ideology. It’s more about breaking traditional architectural rules. Deconstructivist architects are strongly opposed to the idea that a building must look consistent and organized. They, instead, design structures that are broken into seemingly unconnected components. The Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao is perhaps the best-known example of this mind-bending style. Deconstructivism was born out of the philosophy of Derrida, who sought to undermine preconceived beliefs around reason and logic.
9. "Sustainable" architecture
Sustainable architecture is on the rise in today’s eco-conscious world. Natural and renewable materials such as concrete, wood and rock, along with recycled glass and lumber and even living plants are used. In our re-imaging, a frame attached to the middle of the building allows for the planting of a ‘green-wall’ consisting of thousands of plants. Sustainable architecture isn’t just about materials though. Designers also focus on how energy will be used in the structure. The Shanghai Tower has wind turbines at the top which power its outer lighting.