Yangzhou Zhongshuge: this Chinese library’s interior is designed to look like an infinite tunnel of books

We are in Yangzhou. The Chinese city is known for its graceful arched bridges, proximity to the Yangtze River and the Beijing-Hangzhou Grand Canal. Architects kept these local features in mind while designing Zhongshuge Yangzhou, a new bookstore that features something unique, and a real dream for every reader: black mirrored floors shimmer beneath arched shelves that stretch to the ceiling, creating an optical illusion that turns an ordinary, rectangular room into a cylindrical never-ending tunnel of books. A zig-zagging gap prevents the top of the shelves from touching. When…

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The Aqueduct of Segovia, a glorious Roman heritage in Spain

If we speak about architecture, the Romans are among the greatest builders of the world’s history. Some of the surviving Roman buildings and monuments are magnificient still today, many centuries after they were built. And one of such creations is the famed Roman Aqueduct of Segovia. The historic city of Segovia is located in north-western central Spain, in the autonomous region of Castile and Leon. This important city is rich in history and sights, as it is located on an important trading route between Merida and Zaragossa. In ancient history,…

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Temple of Valadier: a refuge for the souls in Genga – Italy

We are in Italy, in Genga, Marche region, near the magnificent Frasassi Caves dug in limestone by the Sentino river. Here an elegant octagonal church rises among the pointed and beveled rocks of a gorge between the mountains: it is the Temple of Valadier. The Temple, designed by Giuseppe Valadier (Rome, 1762-1839), cuts a striking neo-classical silhouette against the rough hewn edges of the surrounding natural cave walls, looking like the temple itself was trying to seek refuge in the cave. In reality it was the local population that has…

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Paronella park: a castle hand built by a Spanish dreamer in the Australian tropical jungle.

In Queensland, Australia, lies an old castle built by a Spanish immigrant that, for a while, had one problem after another. Abandoned for several years, it has now become one of the most popular tourist sites in Queensland. Its story began when a young native of Catalonia, Spain, José Paronella, moved to a nearby town and became a baker. He discovered it was much harder than he had imagined, and, when he saw an advertisement for work in Australia, he took a chance and arrived in Sydney in 1913 at…

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Gereja Ayam: the curious “chicken church” in the middle of the Indonesian forest

We are in the thick forest of Magelang, Indonesia. If you be trekking here, try not to be too alarmed if you stumble upon a massive building shaped like a chicken. Yes, a chicken. Known as Gereja Ayam (unsurprisingly, “Chicken Church”), this moldering, behemoth, bird-like building is an unexpected, pictoresque and whimsical sight to stumble upon. The church’s unusual design has inspired many debates and fan theories over the years, each one attempting to solve the mystery of why someone would spend money to build a chicken in the middle…

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Signal de Botrange: the highest point in Belgium is a staircase to nowhere

We are about 5km north of Ovifat, in Belgium. Signal de Botrange, the lowly remains of an ancient volcanic area once called de Hoge Venen, now doesn’t look like much little more than a big plateau. The area experiences stronger winds than the centre of Belgium, its average and extreme temperatures are usually lower than at any other place in the country and rainfall is much greater: there are over 200 days of precipitation per year. However, this rainy and seemingly flat landscape is actually situated 694 meters above sea…

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Berlin: The Return of the Cows

Dietrich-Bonhoeffer Strasse is a quiet street in Berlin, which lies on the lively edge of gentrified Prenzlauerberg’s encroachment into Friedrichshain. If you are in the splendid German capital, apparently there aren’t many reasons to visit an otherwise ordinary street. However, Sergej Dott’s whimsical public art installation, “Die Rückkehr der Kühe” (literally “The Return of the Cows”) just might make it worth the trip. Halfway down the block, if you peer into the empty lot (currently a building site) and look up, you’ll see a green field full of larger-than-life cows…

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Stephansdom Crypt – Vienna

In Vienna city center, the dark and imposing St. Stephen’s Cathedral (Stephansdom in German) draws thousands of tourists to gaze at its imposing architecture. It is arguably Vienna’s No. 1 attraction all round, certainly a marvel of gothic architecture, and it’s truly ancient: work began in the 12th century and the present structure was completed in 1511 (even though the north tower was never finished) and, in addition, It is Austria’s largest and most significant religious building. However, there is something to be seen below as well: just beneath the…

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The doomed city of Doel, Belgium

In the Flemish province of East-Flanders, there is a subdivision of the municipality of Beveren called Doel. Doel now is a belgian ghost town, located close to the port of Antwerp. However, in the very near future the little city will only exist in pictures and memories: it seems, in fact, that it is scheduled to be completely destroyed to make room for an expanding harbor. Even protest and the incredible street art in the abandoned town cannot stop its inevitable fate. For over 400 years, Doel stood near Antwerp…

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Tacoma Narrows Bridge: the most popular non-fatal engineering disaster in U.S. history~

The Tacoma Narrows Bridge at the time was the third-longest suspension bridge behind the Golden Gate Bridge and the George Washington Bridge, and was opened on July 1, 1940. A little more than four months later, on November 7, it collapsed into Puget Sound, the complex estuarine system of interconnected marine waterways and basins along the northwestern coast of the U.S. state of Washington. The Narrows Bridge, which spanned the Tacoma Narrows strait between Tacoma and the Kitsap Peninsula in Washington State, not far from Thornewood Castle of Lakewood and…

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A revolutionary war Sugar House prison window in downtown Manhattan

Hidden away on a wall of the New York City Police Department Headquarters there is a mysterious window. It is embedded in the wall, and made of an ancient brick which doesn’t match the ones surrounding it, and it is set with a row of ominous, rusted iron bars. It is thought that this is the remains of a terrible prison dating back to the Revolutionary War that stood on the same site: the infamously brutal Sugar House Prison. Now hundreds of New Yorkers pass it daily, hurrying to and…

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The old City Hall subway Station, New York.

The first New York City subway was built and operated by the Interborough Rapid Transit Company (IRT) and opened on October 27, 1904, to the joy of its inhabitants. City Hall was the ceremonial terminal, the place where the mayor could show off the subway built with the people’s money to benefit the greatest city in the country. The City Hall station on the IRT local track was embellished with fine architectural details, including a sharply curved platform, a Guastavino tile arched ceiling, brass chandeliers (blackened in World War II),…

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The “Indecent” little man on the church of St. James in Brno, Cze

On the southern window of Brno’s Church of St. James, the same church that houses Europe’s second largest ossuary, one sculptural element of the impressive structure seems somewhat out of place: an indecent little two-headed man cheekily displaying his bare butt to the world. This little guy is called “Neslušný mužícek” – the Indecent Little Man. There are two stories attributed to the little man, both involving the competition between the Church of St. James and the Cathedral of St. Peter and Paul on nearby Petrov Hill, to build the…

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