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What Makes a Building Iconic: Quality or Typology?

In contemporary architecture, there have been debates about the factor that makes a building iconic. Despite the varying views that have been raised, one fact that even the most cynical debater cannot deny is that architecture is very important and significant. In fact, there are great architectures which have been regarded as the identity of their respective cities. Some of these wonderful buildings are:

  • The Eiffel Tower in Paris;
  • Opera House in Sydney;
  • The ‘Gherkin’ and the ‘Walkie Talkie’ Tower in London;
  • The Chrysler Building in New York;
  • St. Basil’s Cathedral in Moscow;
  • La Sagrada Familiain Barcelona; and
  • Burj Al Arab in Dubai.

But what is so special about these buildings and others not mentioned? What makes them iconic? Is it their quality, beauty, longevity or typology? Why do they pop in our head any time we think of the cities where they are located? Are there no other ‘good’ buildings in their urban landscapes? Most people are always wont to say the answer is architecture but the truth is that the definition of ‘good architecture’ is subjective. However, since these buildings are widely known and acknowledged, especially for their distinctive excellence, we can derive the answer from the factors common to them.


Buildings are considered great and historically-significant because of the qualities they possess. These qualities are achieved right from the initiation stage of the project to the completion stage without compromising on any.

  • Choice/Quality of Materials
  • One of the factors that contributed to the iconic status of the buildings mentioned is the choice and quality of materials used. The choice and quality of materials in the exterior and the interior is very important to the design of a building. A design is not considered superior if it is not implemented properly. Hence, careful attention must be given to implementation. This should start with a search for the best contractor who has intensive expertise in constructing the kind of building you have in mind.

    Choosing the right materials, which are of high quality, is quite crucial for safety and long-term investment. Quality should not be compromised, especially for building materials like TMT iron rods, wire rods, nail wires, flats rolling and others. Many homeowners and contractors compromise on product value in order to recover expenses. This is why operating with a good contractor is important as they will not only ensure that quality materials are used but also certify that the materials consent to construction laws and statutes.

  • Longevity/Endurance
  • This is another factor shared by these iconic buildings. They have endured a good number of natural and man-made disasters such as earthquakes, flood, and fire. These disasters had little or no effects on them as they were made ages ago but are still standing. This is one of the benefits of using quality materials. The design of an iconic piece of architecture comes with the use of materials that enhance its endurance. If you are in the process of designing a building, you should use the best materials so that your design will stand the test of time.

  • Aesthetics
  • Aesthetics is another quality that is common to iconic buildings. Although beauty is a subjective concept, the beauty of the architectural masterpieces is undeniable. This is another reason they appeal to our sight and emotions. So as you consider the strength of your building, you should also put this in consideration. It is possible to achieve both by making your building symmetrical.

  • Technology
  • Iconic buildings are built with the technology trending at the time of their construction. This has turned many of them to tourist centres and made it possible for them to host many visitors who can focus on their experiences. Most of the buildings adjust to accommodate their visitors by precooling their internal spaces. Surveillance and energy-saving also ensures safety for all visitors and preserves these buildings.


Building typology is the study and documentation of buildings which have similarities in their functions or forms. Iconic buildings are also similar in their functions and form.

  • Functionality
  • A building must serve its purpose. The fancy designs of most of the ageless buildings in the world were not just created as hype or a deviation from what is obtainable in their locations. It serves the purpose for which they were designed and they remain as popular today as they were when they were first constructed for this reason. So, if you are interested in enhancing the longevity of your design, focus also on its functionality. Functionality should not be sacrificed for aesthetics as such a decision may have negative impact on the quality and longevity of the design.

  • Architecture
  • The architectures of the buildings have classic features and set new standards as most of them defiled norms when they were created. An example is the Sydney Opera House. The arches, columns, domes and spires define skylines.

Final Words

From the foregoing, it is clear that a building is not considered great just because it towers over everyone or other buildings around it. The quality of the building, which can be determined by the choice and quality of materials used, its longevity/endurance, aesthetics, as well as its ability to meet the needs it was designed to cater to, are the factors that determine a great building.

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