The seven wonders of the ancient world having now disappeared, save for the Pyramid of Giza, it was high time we named seven new wonders. According to completely biased criteria. Seven wonders, seven fascinating places worthy of the cinema.
Nekoma Pyramid - Dakota, USA
Ancient wonder: Great Pyramid of Cheops in Giza, Egypt
This splendid relic of the Cold War with its decapitated peak reminds us of a Mayan funerary temple. In appearance at least. Because the Stanley R. Mickelson Safeguard Complex was built to launch hundreds of anti-ballistic missiles capable of intercepting Soviet rockets. The powerful beam of its electronic scanning radar, in the form of a white eye, allowed multiple targets to be followed at the same time. Put into operation in 1975, the brand new site was decommissioned during a vote by Congress stopping the Safeguard Program, just 24 hours after it had reached full operational capacity. For a short period after its deactivation, the buildings making up its barracks were transformed into a youth camp, until the Reagan administration cut the funding. What wonderful memories this vibrating playground must have given the young and lucky chosen few. Abandoned and then sold by the State in the 1990s, the paciﬁst religious group called Hutterites who lives 400 kilometers away, repurchased the site at auction for $530,000 in order to extend their colony. Apart from a few crops of rapeseed, the group has never made use of the magniﬁcent pyramid, suspected to be haunted after a mysterious death. Keep in mind that the Hutterites are offering to sell the complex for the sum of $3.5 million. A ﬁxed price that they stubbornly refuse to negotiate.
● Date of Construction: 1975 ● Height: 24 metres
Garden of Cosmic Speculation - Dumfries, Scotland
Ancient wonder: Hanging Gardens of Babylon, Iraq
This large cosmic park, nestled in Scotland just south of Edinburgh, is one of the most fascinating green spaces in Europe. The fantastic décor, worthy of a Tim Burton ﬁlm, is the work of the great theorist Charles Jencks, founder of the concept of postmodern architecture, and his wife, landscape architect Maggie Keswick. Eight artiﬁcial hills have been shaped and impregnated with the feng shui philosophy and symbols as strong as the pull of space into a black hole. And so it spreads out to the ‘garden of the senses and DNA’, the Snake Mound or even the Snail. Everything is metaphors, spirals, fractals, galactic benches, and swirling ponds. A profound stroll through the cosmos. “It is something that people have been doing well before Stonehenge,” notes Charles Jencks, “so why not today? It is just a meditation on life and death.” A reﬂection that takes on full meaning, his wife Maggie having succumbed to cancer in 1995. Since then, his internationally renowned architect friends, such as Frank Gehry, Zaha Hadid, and Richard Rogers, designed Maggie’s Centres, drop-in cancer care centres in the United Kingdom and Hong Kong. Charles Jencks has continued his work in honour of his beloved late wife. A miracle of greenery which opens its doors to the public one day every year.
● Date of Construction: 1980 - 2000 ● Size: 16 hectares
Hachikō Statue – Tokyo, Japon
Ancient wonder: Statue of Zeus in Olympia, Greece
We could have chosen a giant Buddha, the highest in the world measuring 128 metres and whose big toe is the size of a bus stop. But a more ‘kawaii’ giant has won our hearts. Located outside Shibuya sta-tion in Tokyo, the moving statue of Hachikō the dog has all the graces of a divinity. In 1924, a lonely professor at the Imperial University of Tokyo got an Akita dog and named him ‘Hachikō’, which means the ‘eighth prince’ (because he was the eighth puppy in the litter). One year later, the professor had a cerebral haemorrhage during one of his lectures and died. Hachikō continued to go to Shibuya Station every day to wait for his master. At the beginning of the 30s, the dog’s loyalty became known throughout Japan by a series of press articles written by a former student of the professor who got the idea to follow the dog. To celebrate the animal, a bronze statue was then erected in honour of the canine, the guest of honour at its inauguration, a year before dying in the baggage hall of the train station. Since then, the site where Hachiko waited for his master every day for 10 years has become a meeting place for lovers who want to declare their loyalty to each other. In 2009, a ﬁlm with Richard Gere, Hatchi, tells the adventures of this faithful dog, whose stuffed mortal remains can still be seen in the Natural History Museum of Tokyo.
● Date of Construction: 1934 ● Height: 64 centimetres
King Abdulaziz Center for World Culture - Dhahran, Saudi Arabia
Ancient wonder: Temple of Artemis in Ephesus, Turkey
This strange rock formation rises out of the Saudi Arabian desert like a hallucination. The new King Abdulaziz Center for World Culture, in the east of Saudi Arabia, was designed by Snøhetta, the Norwegian firm who also did the new library of Alexandria, the Bibliotheca Alexandrina. These five monumental stones are wrapped in 360 kilometres of stainless steel tube façade that acts as a thin metal skin around the superstructure of the building, surrounding its windows and doors. Designed for the oil company Saudi Aramco, these rounded menhirs house a cinema, library, museum, exhibition hall, archive centre, and auditorium, whose acoustic panels are covered in Kvadrat fabric with patterns specially commissioned by Norwegian textile artist Heidi Winge Strøm. Ithra, the centre’s real name, is a branch of the philanthropic Misk foundation and has plans to create an unprecedented cultural exchange programme between Saudi Arabia and the United States. The prime goal is to present the best contemporary art from Saudi Arabia and the Middle East. Needless to say that new Warhol Wahhabis are expected to adorn the walls!
● Date of Construction : 2007 - 2017 ● Tower height / Area : 98 metres / 100 000 m2 ● Cost : €330 million
African Renaissance Monument - Dakar, Senegal
Ancient wonder Colossus of Rhodes, Greece
The African Renaissance Monument stands on one of the volcanic hills nicknamed the ‘two udders’, overlook the capital of Senegal. This colossus of copper and bronze is larger than Rio’s Christ the Redeemer and the Statue of Liberty. Built for the 50th anniversary of Senegal’s independence, the statue represents a couple and their child, reaching up at the sky to symbolise ‘Africa out of the bowels of the earth, leaving the obscurantism to go toward the Light’. The initial plan was created by President Abdoulaye Wade himself (under intellectual property rights, he also gets 35 per cent of the revenue generated by the sale of entry tickets and lift that goes up to the head). Ousmane Sow, chosen at the outset and then withdrawn, commissioned Senegalese architect Pierre Goudiaby Atepa and Romanian sculptor Virgil Magherusan, for a style that is both social realism and somewhat Stalinist. The juggernaut was erected by the North Koreans, via the Mansudae Overseas, a company specialised in monumental art. Due to its ruinous cost, it was given to African land and sold at the price of gold. Unquestionably solid, the Senegalese Minister of Culture has predicted that the monument will last for 1,200 years.
● Date of Construction : 2002 - 2010 ● Height : 52 metres ● Cost : €23 million
Trump Tower – New York, USA
Ancient wonder: The Lighthouse of Alexandria, Egypt
At 33, Donald Trump bought the elegant Art Deco building housing the Bonwit Teller department store on Fifth Avenue, demolished it and then built the ﬁrst ‘super-luxury high rise’. The ﬁrst skyscraper to have luxury apartments, shops and offices, it was the ﬁrst move in Trump’s Empire. Modernist architect Der Scutt and design ﬁrm Swanke Hayden Connell carried out its splendid accordion façade. It “may well be the most pleasant interior public space to be completed in New York in some years. It is warm, luxurious and even exhilarating,” wrote the very respected architecture critic of the New Yorker, Paul Goldberger, while praising the merits of the stone which adorns the vertiginous ﬁve-ﬂoor central atrium. It also used Breccia Pernice, an Italian marble with a delicate blend of pink, peach, and orange. This interior space was allegedly designed by Trump’s ﬁrst wife, Ivana, who said that after 240 tons of marble was imported to the atrium, Italy had one less mountain. In the hall, the only thing missing is portraits of the tower commissioned to be painted by Andy Warhol in black, silver, and gold with a pinch of diamond dust. This special wish of the tycoon was let go in the end. It is therefore not surprising that Warhol called the future American president a ‘butch guy’ in his diary.
● Date of Construction : 1983 ● Height : 202 metres ● Cost : €80 million
Columbus Lighthouse - Santo Domingo Este, Dominican Republic
Ancient wonder: Mausoleum at Halicarnassus in Caria, Turkey
This futuristic mausoleum enclosing the remains of Christopher Columbus, located in the suburb of Santo Domingo, was inaugurated in 1992 to celebrate the 500th anniversary of America’s discovery. The bones of the famous navigator were housed previously within the Basilica Cathedral of Santa María la Menor in Santo Domingo. He died in Valladolid in 1506 and his dead body has almost travelled as much as when he was alive. Due to wars, his remains had previously been in Seville, Havana, and then the Dominican Republic. In 1931, under the leadership of the United States government and people, an architecture competition was set up with a jury of famous names such as Horacio Acosta y Lara, Eliel Saarinen, and Frank Lloyd Wright, who chose winner Joseph Lea Gleave and his memorial in the form of a Latin cross from among more than 400 participants from 48 countries. Lack of funding delayed the project until 1986, when construction began using the original plans of the Scottish architect. At present, the building is also a ﬂagship office, which with its 157 beams of light, can be seen to 200 kilometres from Puerto Rico. In addition to ‘the illustrious and distinguished Don Colon, Admiral of the Oceans’, the museum also contains Colombian jewellery, the robes of Pope John Paul II, and a pope-mobile.
● Date of Construction : 1986 - 1992 ● Length : 210 metres ● Cost : €70 million