Every human on earth, rich or poor, must find shelter against the forces of nature. The first structures our ancestors built kept the sun out and predators at bay. With each successive generation, we stacked stones, wood, mud, and straw slightly higher or wider. Today, 1,000-foot-tall skyscrapers serve the same function as simple huts, even if they cost billions of dollars more, affording us protection, com- fort, and a place to call home. Architecture represents a unique art form because of how it must blend science, engineering, and mathematics to create a structure that will not just look good but will also endure the elements. Nobody wants their house to collapse upon them, but nobody wants to live in an ugly cube either. This forces architects to carefully choose design factors such as construction materials, location, height, and usage of any building so that it can be built without delays, survive earth- quakes or high winds, look good, and even turn a profit for ownership. No human achievement can compare in scale to modern architecture. The larg- est building on the planet, the Burj Khalifa of Dubai, soars over 2,000 feet (609 m) into the sky, with the steel in its foundation weighing more than three blue whales. The city of Hong Kong tops the world record list with over 300 separate sky- scrapers. As the world’s population increasingly urbanizes, architects must create more buildings in less space, resulting in new designs and innovations to tackle the challenges of life in the twenty-first century. Yet the majority of the world’s people do not live in ultramodern skyscrapers, and many must be their own architects. Mongolian nomads live in yurts—simple felt tents that can be set up and broken down in just an hour. The Batammariba people of Togo live in towers, two or three stories tall, constructed of mud. The Inuit lack even these basic building blocks and instead construct igloos from snow and ice to give them shelter from the fierce Arctic temperatures. The history of architecture dates back further than history itself. Archaeol- ogists suggest that early humans may have built shelters at the same time as the discovery of stone tools, some 2 million years ago. The first great civilizations built their own monumental structures, like the Egyptian pyramids and Mesopotamian ziggurats, to demonstrate their prowess in design and construction. The Great Wall of China, built over the span of centuries, indicates the dedication of the human race to improve upon our physical surroundings. Many of the structures described in this book fall into one of several catego- ries. Ancient structures, like Greece’s Parthenon or Mexico’s Teotihuacan, date so far back in the past that we are struck with awe that people could have built colossal pyramids or columns with hand tools of stone. Medieval buildings, like the Great Mosque of Timbuktu, indicate how architects met the challenges posed by the local environment, demanding specific design changes to better stand tall. Colonial churches and fortresses, like the castillos (castles) of Puerto Rico, reflect



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