5 Facts You Didn’t Know About 5 Buildings You Do Know

Think you know everything about your favourite buildings in the world. Even we were shocked with some of the information we found out upon investigation.

1. Buckingham Palace has Secret Underground Tunnels

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Buckingham Palace

Although the Sydney Morning Herald’s travel blog described Buckingham Palace as the most disappointing British tourist attraction, The Queen’s house has secret underground tunnels!

There are secret tunnels under the streets of London connecting Clarence House to Buckingham Palace, and the Houses of Parliament. Apparently the Queen Mother found a mysterious stranger in the basement when exploring the lower levels with King George VI.

He wasn’t employed in the palace, but said he was “a friend of a friend” who had been living there for some time. The only details about the man the Queen Mother recalled, was that he was “a Geordie” and “very courteous”.

However, since the public obviously does not have access to these tunnels, it still probably makes for a bit of a dull tourist spot.

2. The Empire State Building was designed for dirigibles

Empire State Building

You know, I’ve always liked that word – “dirigible”. So rarely do I have an opportunity to use it in a sentence…

The current top observation deck is enclosed, but the building’s 17-storey spire art deco spire was designed to be a mooring mast and depot for dirigibles.

In 1930, the 103rd floor was originally a landing platform with a gangplank, where passengers loaded on and off trans-Atlantic dirigibles parked over midtown

However, after high winds nearly led to disaster, the plan was abandoned.

Although in the 2004 film Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow, the top of the building serves its original purpose of being a docking station and the Hindenburg III docks at it on its maiden voyage.

3. Tower of London had Lions and Tigers and Bears, Oh my!

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The Tower of London

For over 600 years there was a royal menagerie in the Tower of London. Founded by King John in the early 1200s, the Tower of London was filled with exotic animals that were given as royal gifts for the entertainment of the court.

The first animals to arrive were lions, an elephant and a polar bear. The polar bear would actually hunt for fish in the Thames on a leash, which is not only amazing but kind of adorable. Later tigers, kangaroos and ostriches were added to the menagerie.

Animal remains found in the tower confirmed that the medieval big cats were male Barbary lions, which is a now extinct subspecies from North Africa.

In 1835, the menagerie was closed by the Duke of Wellington and the animals became the basis for London Zoo in Regent’s Park.

4. The Freedom Tower could’ve been really weird

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The Freedom Tower

During the World Trade Center Site Memorial Competition in 2003, the contest received 5,201 entries from 13,683 registrants, making it the largest design competition in history. Understandably, there were some pretty interesting designs that were submitted…

William Pederson’s entry

For example, William Pederson of Kohn Pederson Fox Associates put in a proposal for a huge building that would have a literally placed a giant bridge running about 90 meters on top of the existing buildings of midtown Manhattan, just to connect it to the Statue of Liberty ferry terminal.

Peter Eisenman’s Entry

Peter Eisenman, submitted a project that would pretty much turn the New York skyline into a series of hashtags:

“The two buildings comprised of five vertical sections and interconnecting horizontal floors, represent a new typology in the tradition of innovative skyscraper design”

This design was actually favoured early on until relatives of 9/11 victims spoke out against this architectural experiment, although it still became a finalist and was nearly chosen.

The Wolf Prix firm’s entry

Though the The Wolf Prix firm of Vienna, Austria, is definitely the weirdest, with a design that included three buildings that would support a giant hourglass-shaped building in the middle.

Contest judges liked this idea, but eventually gave up on the design when they learned that nothing like this had ever been attempted before. Perhaps for obvious reasons.

Lebbeus Woods’s entry

Also there’s this entry. Which is just… What is happening here?

Luckily, the competition winner was Michael Arad and Peter Walker‘s Reflecting Absence, and David Child’s more conventional design was used to build the Freedom tower. The madness ended.

5. St. Paul’s Cathedral survived more bombs than Nicholas Cage’s career

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St Paul’s Cathedral, London

In September 1940, during the wide-spread bombings of the Blitz, a bomb inevitably hit near St. Paul’s Cathedral. However, instead of turning the site into Cathedral-shaped-crater, the bomb failed to explode, and just kind of landed there.

A British bomb disposal unit came out and, despite knowing that the bomb could go off at any moment, the team spent three days digging it out. Which was fortunate since the bomb was later detonated at a remote location, and when it went off it left a 100-foot crater (30.4 square metres).

Then only a couple of months later, 28 incendiary bombs fell around the cathedral, one of the bombs punctured through the Cathedral’s lead dome and lodged into its roof timbers.

At the time, an American journalist reported that St. Paul’s was burning to the ground, but then the bomb dislodged from the ceiling and fell to the nave below, where it was easily put out by firefighters.

Then in 1942, another bomb fell on the cathedral, but the most damage was to a vault over the crypt. Which in the grand scheme of things was pretty great, considering anyone that the bomb hit wouldn’t have been bothered by it at all.

So despite all the close calls, St. Paul’s Cathedral still stands strong today as one of London’s most iconic buildings.

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