As one of the wonders of the world, the Egyptian pyramids are steeped in rich history and shrouded in mystery. Using their unparalleled resources to create structures on a scale that had never been seen before, the ancients used the pyramid shape to construct structurally resilient and visually powerful icons, surviving the ravages of time. Presenting a new definition in terms of monumentality, these architectural marvels remain a timeless and influential form for design concepts today.
Although its origins are historical in nature, this iconic structure is resurfacing in many architectural projects around the world, modern pyramid architecture for a range of different functions and applications. From sustainable building, museums, malls and residential structures, the pyramid typology is visually enthralling and can be constructed in a range of different materials and environments.
Rock n’ Roll Hall of Fame / I.M. Pei
The Rock n’ Roll Hall of Fame (1995) in Cleveland, US was designed by Architect I.M Pei and structurally engineered by Leslie E. Associates. Documenting the history of rock music and notable artists, producers and engineers, it was designed following his own successful application of pyramid architecture at the Louvre. The entrance of the major cultural institution seeks to visually entice, impact and remain recognizable, embodying the energy of rock n’ roll itself.
It was my intention to echo the energy of Rock n’ Roll. I have consciously used an architectural vocabulary that is bold and new, and I hope the building will become a dramatic landmark for the city of Cleveland and for fans of Rock n’ Roll around the world - I.M. Pei
The bold geometric form in steel and shimmering glass is reminiscent of the pyramids of Egypt,standing tall and monumental. Its facade is comprised of two triangular forms anchored to the top of the tower and glass walls supported by a metal grid system.
The Louvre / I.M Pei
Perhaps one of the most notorious and astounding contemporary pyramids, produced by Architect I.M.Pei and his firm Pei Cobb Freed & Partners is the Louvre pyramid (1989) in Paris, France. After launching a campaign for the renovation of cultural institutions throughout France, President Francois Mitterrand commissioned Pei for the reorganization of the main court of the Louvre museum in 1983. Regarded as an architectural rival to the icon of Paris, the Eiffel Tower, it is one of France’s most recognizable structural and cultural marvels, attracting millions of visitors every year.
The glass and stainless steel form inspired by the Pyramid of Giza was designed with the intention of creating a contemporary spin on its surroundings whilst acting as a central focal point. Rather than taking attention away from the historic fabric, it seeks to compliment it, remaining transparent to ensure the beauty of the classic architecture remains visible and intact. Pei’s vision was to have total transparency in the pyramid, a venture that proved difficult due to the faint green tint that glass tends to hold. To create this crystal clear glass, months of extensive research and planning was devised, resulting in the creation of a new laminated glass.
Muttart Conservatory / Peter Hemingway
Nestled in Edmonton’s river valley, the Muttart conservatory (1976) designed by Peter Hemingway in Canada, houses numerous botanical treasures displaying an abundance of international plant species. As Edmonton’s emblematic landmark, it is comprised of four distinct glass pyramids. Whilst three of the pyramids offer a temperate, tropical and arid climate, with flora biomes from across the globe, the fourth pyramid presents seasonal displays.
Designed symmetrically, with pyramids connected by a central court, they are designed according to the light requirements and the overall growth capacity of the specimens that reside there. The two larger pyramids are 7,000 sq ft in area and the two smaller models are 4,400 sq ft in size. Their identifiable structure attracts much popular attention, with their distinctive presence emerging from the cityscape.
The Luxor Hotel & Casino / Veldon Simpson
The Luxor Las Vegas pyramid (1993) is a casino and hotel complex located on the Las Vegas strip. A prime example of Postmodernist architecture from the 90’s, the spectacular creation is complete with its very own replica of the Great Spinx of Giza. Named after the city of Luxor (Ancient Thebes), its Egyptian influence is deep rooted and very prominent in its design.
Offering the largest atrium in the world with 30 storeys and 120,000 sq. ft of floor space and the Luxor sky beam (the strongest beam of light in the world) it is an instantaneous attraction for visitors all over the globe. Visible from several hundred miles away, the intense beam of light is projected into the sky, a monument constructed in reinforced concrete and steel. In terms of influence from the original pyramids, its scale is immense, as one of the tallest pyramids in the world even surpassing all but two of the ancient pyramids.
Nima Sand Museum / Shin Takamatsu
The Nima Sand Museum (1991) built upon the concepts of sand, time and the environment, was designed by architect Shin Makamatsu in Oda, Japan. Featuring six pyramids of varying sizes, the complex accommodates the world’s largest hourglass as recorded by the Guinness World Records in 2015. Located within the center of the largest pyramid, it measures the duration of the entire year.
A nearby beach, Kthahama, is famous for having ‘singing sand’. With this in mind the local mayor decided this was a sufficient enough reason to open a unique museum devoted to sand. With its sand orientated theme it is no surprise that the architecture itself is heavily inspired by that of the pyramids of Giza; a shrine swathed in sand...
Slovak Radio Building / Štefan Svetko, Štefan Ďurkovič & Barnabáš Kissling
The Slovak Radio Building (1983) is one of Bratislava’s architectural landmarks, constructed during a period of time when socialist realism was the official architectural style in Czechoslovakia. Consciously avoiding the prevailing tall, block buildings of the time, the architects sought to create an inverted pyramid design, challenging the traditional balance of the pyramid typology.
At 80 meters high, offering a 522 seat concert hall, it is one of the first key buildings in Slovakia to utilize a steel frame, rather than prefabricated concrete. There were some issues with the initial construction of the building. However, it still remains a cultural heritage monument, although receiving divided public opinion in terms of its appearance and aesthetic.
Sunway Pyramid Shopping Mall / AJM (Akitek Jururancang Malaysia)
The Sunway Pyramid Shopping Mall (1997) in Malaysia, is the first themed shopping and entertainment mall in the country. Designed visualizing the Ancient Egyptian style, the complex features a giant lion and multiple pharaoh statues in its vicinity, an elaborate, impressive and unique shopping experience for visitors around the world.
Complete with pseudo-hieroglyphic decorative features, its gross floor area totals 4,300,000 sq ft., as one of the largest shopping centers in Malaysia. The complex offers numerous retail outlets, an ice skating rink, bowling alley, cineplex and a convention center.
The Memphis Pyramid / Rosser Fabrap International
The Memphis Pyramid (1991) in Tennessee is a 20,142 seat arena named both after its location and the Ancient Egyptian city of Memphis, due to the design parallels between the classical pyramids and the contemporary model seen here. Clad with stainless steel panelling it is said that there is a metal box welded upon the top containing a crystal skull, fueling much local discussion and interest.
At a towering 98 meters, the shimmering pyramid in steel and concrete originally hosted multiple basketball games. After lying abandoned for eight years, the Memphis Pyramid was reopened in 2015 as a Bass Pro Shops sporting megastore. Along with retail outlets, the structure now offers a hotel, restaurants, a bowling alley and archery range.
VIA 57 West / Bjarke Ingels Group
Via 57 West (2016) is a residential building in downtown Manhattan, New York. Designed by the Danish architecture firm the Bjarke Ingels Group, the structure resembles a distorted pyramid, presenting a steeply sloped facade. With a floor area of 862,000 sq ft. the site offers both retail and residential amenities, attractive views and reduced traffic sound.
Featuring skewed balconies, employed at a 45-degree angle, the structure is integrated within a green plaza connecting the block to the waterfront and Hudson River Park. Receiving the Emporis Best Skyscraper Award in 2016, the site remains a popular architectural piece, described as a amalgamation of a traditional Manhattan high-rise and a European perimeter block.
Palace of Peace & Reconciliation / Norman Foster
The Palace of Peace & Reconciliation (2006) also known as the ‘Pyramid of Peace and Accord’ is a 77 meter pyramid structure located in Astana, Kazakhstan. Specially designed and constructed to host the Congress leaders of world and traditional religions, it offers numerous accommodations for varied faiths including: Christianity, Islam, Buddhism, Judaism etc. As a global symbol for religious understanding and human equality, the pyramid offers a national museum of culture, a 1,500 seat opera house, library, research center and a University of civilization.
Composed of five storeys of 12m triangles, the lower partitions are clad in a pale granite. The upper rows form a glazed apex, including stained glass designs decorated with doves, a universally recognized symbol of peace, freedom and love. Constructed with a steel frame skeleton and concrete foundations, engineers had to ensure the building was able to withstand extreme expansion and contraction due to significant temperature variations, resulting in 30 cm expansion.