Cyber-Touring the World's Best Buildings: Glass, Steel and Stone Lets You Explore the Pantheon in Rome, the Great Wall of China, and the Leaning Tower of Pisa

By Pack, Thomas | Information Today, July-August 2004 | Go to article overview

Cyber-Touring the World's Best Buildings: Glass, Steel and Stone Lets You Explore the Pantheon in Rome, the Great Wall of China, and the Leaning Tower of Pisa


Pack, Thomas, Information Today


The Vontz Center for Molecular Studies is a staid name for a building that looks like a fun house. Walls bulge and windows tilt at crazy angles. Located at the University of Cincinnati Medical Center, the building has been called "an island of disharmony in a largely homogeneous complex."

The inside of the structure is unique too. The laboratory space is open, which encourages scientists to work together. The labs are also modular, so they can be reconfigured to meet various research needs.

But one scientist told The Cincinnati Enquirer, "My windowsill is at such a great angle that I haven't figured out how I could use it."

You can find out more about that building and hundreds of others at Glass, Steel and Stone: Architecture of the World (http:// www.glasssteelandstone.com). It's just one of several sites that offer information on notable architectural projects around the globe.

Architecture Through the Ages

Glass, Steel and Stone is run by photographers who provide not only pictures but also the stories behind hundreds of buildings. There, you can learn about Houston's Wells Fargo Bank Plaza, which "was built to say 'money,'" according to the site. "The architects achieve this through a unique structure. From the ground, the building appears like any other glass-clad rounded monolith. But from the air, you can see it is formed from two semicircles arranged to mimic the shape of a dollar sign."

The site also lets you explore architecture through the ages because it covers such structures as the Pantheon in Rome, the Great Wall of China, and the Leaning Tower of Pisa.

You can search Glass, Steel and Stone with keywords or by choosing one of the many alphabetical indexes. The site is so well-organized and easy to navigate that it offers an excellent lesson on how to arrange a large collection of online information.

You can browse a simple alphabetical list of building names or an index with small photos and brief details for each structure. In addition, you can search a list of buildings by date of completion or type of construction. And that's not all. You can also use indexes that list buildings by nation and city, city only, U.S. state, or Canadian province. There's even a list of haunted buildings, which includes the U.S. Capitol and Cinderella's Castle in Walt Disney World.

For each building, the site provides basic details such as the location, completion date, and cost (when known). You also get a photo and several paragraphs on the history of the structure and its architectural details.

Don't leave the site without looking up the Longaberger Basket Co. building in Newark, Ohio. It's a seven-story structure that looks like a giant basket. The realism is remarkable. "Never before has such whimsy been put forth by corporate America," says the site.

Mastering Space

Architect Walter Gropius said, "Building is merely a matter of methods and materials," but architecture is the "mastery of space."

You can find information on a thousand structures that have mastered space at the Great Buildings Collection (http://www .greatbuildings.com), a "gateway to architecture around the world and across history," according to the site's editors.

Great Buildings is cross-linked with online magazine Architecture Week (http:// www.architectureweek.com), so you can get "up-to-the-moment coverage of the latest buildings, designers, ideas, and trends," the editors say.

The Great Buildings Collection provides separate search engines for names of architects, buildings, and places. An advanced search engine lets you construct queries with additional criteria such as location, type of building, and construction system. You also can search the Great Buildings site and the archives of Architecture Week simultaneously.

Users can browse the Great Buildings database through alphabetical indexes of buildings, architects, and places. …

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