Human-made landscapes that left you feeling awed.

Further to the Nature that left you feeling awed thread, I’m starting one for the city mice, because I often get the sensation by looking at a beautiful cityscape what other people seem to get from nature. I find cities and the buildings in them often of exceptional beauty.

Here are some:

  1. Mom and I are in Paris. We’ve gone out to watch a concert at the Institut Polonaise, which we unfortunately missed, so we went wandering for awhile along the Champs Élysées. It’s after dark, and by and by we decide to make our way back to the hotel. That involves taking line 6 of the metro towards Nation from where we are. Anyway, we’re riding along, and just as we leave Passy metro going towards Bir-Hakeim, the train shoots out of the tunnel onto an elevated bridge over the Seine. All of a sudden, the Eiffel Tower heaves into sight, blazing in the night and reflecting on the waters of the fleuve as we speed westward. An image of tremendous power and serenity. Awestruck, we keep watching the Tower until it disappears from view as the train moves away from it.

  2. The other day, I was at McGill University where I study, and I was walking towards the Arts Building. I was struck by the grace and stateliness of that building’s classical lines. Here’s a picture from the McGill website.

  3. My metro fetish is already well known around here. What’s especially wonderful is when I catch a glimpse of a particularly beautiful point of view I haven’t seen before. I’m fortunate in that my daily commute takes me through two particularly attractive and complex stations, Place-Saint-Henri (my home station) and Lionel-Groulx (where I have to change lines), so I see new views fairly frequently as I wait for my trains. I find the sight of a train speeding away from the platform at Lionel-Groulx, a sheer wall above it and a tremendously high ceiling above, a sight of indescribable beauty.

  4. The Mother Of All Cityscapes, to me, is this one. Few people know of it.

There’s an island in the Saint Lawrence River just south of downtown Montreal, called Île Sainte-Hélène, where Expo 67 was held. You get to the island (there’s a metro stop on the island, but for these purposes, it’s better to go to Papineau metro and walk across the Jacques-Cartier Bridge - a beautiful sight in its own right). Anyway, when you get to the island on the bridge, you walk down the footpath, veering to the right. This eventually brings you down to a pond. Just across the pond is a steep slope that leads up to a ridge, and above the ridge to a hill. On the hill is the Tour de Lévis, a guard tower, and on the ridge below it is the Blockhaus, a burned-out wooden structure. Both of these were built to guard the city from the Americans in the War of 1812.

At any rate, find the path to go around the slope and up to the blockhaus. When you get up to the blockhaus, you’ll see it’s surrounded by a stone parapet above a sheer drop back down to the lake. You sit on this parapet, and look out back across the St. Lawrence - and there is the most beautiful view of the city. You can see City Hall, the silver domes of Bonsecours Market and the Palais de Justice; the office towers, 1000 de la Gauchetière, Place de la Cathédrale, Place Ville-Marie, the IBM tower, and the CBC building; the mountain and its cross; and possibly even Saint Joseph’s Oratory on the other side of the mountain.

If you get there just at sunset, the colours of the light change the colours of all the buildings; the coloured glass of the office towers changes colour prismatically, and the silver domes in the Old City change to blazing gold.

It’s the most spectacularly beautiful scene I can conceive of. It feels holy to me.

I find Central Park to be an amazing place. It’s not really natural but a mix of nature and man made landscaping.
A few weeks ago I went to Washington D.C. for the first time. I didn’t get to spend much time and I only actually visited the Iwo Jima Memorial. But from there is a rather spectacular view.

I’m surprised matt_mcl didn’t mention the Montreal Olympic stadium - a rare engineering feat in it’s own right. It’s shaped almost exactly like a hospital bed pan with a large handle.

One truelly unbelievable engineering feat was the construction of a mall underneath an old church in Montreal on St. Catherine street. They did not want to destroy the church in the process so they excavated around and underneath the building and supported it on metal gerders. At one point the entire Church was suspended in mid air on nothing but steal spikes with all the plumbing hanging cut off underneath the building. It was as if some force ripped the entire building whole from the earth. It was surreal, hanging there above a giant deep whole in the ground.

Me, I was most impressed by St.Paul’s cathedral in London, England. Dare I say, it’s an almost religious experience.

It’s cliche, I know, but the Golden Gate bridge is a wonderfull site especially if you get the opportunity to cross it in a convertable car with the top down. Looking up at the two towers is just an amzing site. I got a chance to fly a rented Cessna over the top of the bridge as well at the lowest permissible altitude. Truly unique experience. Also, not as often mentioned but equally impressive is the Oakland Bay bridge. When living is S.F. I’d wake up in the morning and look out my window at the Golden Gate bridge and then drive to work and back across the Bay Bridge. Wonderfull structures.

I like huge, overblown Beaux Arts stuff.

Paris is great for this. I’m very fond of the Pont Alexandre III, and the colossal statue of St. Michael stomping the Dragon right were the Boul Mich hits the Seine. The statuary of the Gardens of Versailles also give me a woody.

St. Peter’s in the Vatican, the Biggest Fucking Church in the World, knocked me into a state of awe. The Roman Pantheon, too. Descending the scale into ecclesiastic kitsch, I’m also delighted by the scarily grandiose Cathedral of St. Paul in St. Paul, Minnesota, the Other Twin City.

I love driving on the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway between the Brooklyn Bridge and Atlantic Avenue: the view of the lower Manhattan skyline is breathtaking. I hope this stupid new Frank Gehry-designed museum doesn’t ruin it for good.

Here’s mine:

Cairo, 1988, I’m 21 years old.

On a package tour with my mom. We’re in a bus filled with tourists on our way to the pyramids.

The bus is noisy, filled with people excited about their trip.

Suddenly it goes quiet and I look up to see what causes the change.

The Great Pyramid has been there all the while, we just hadn’t noticed. In the distance it looks grey and yellow, just a few shades different than the sky. It dominates the skyline, taking a quarter of the horizon.

It leaves me in awe that I’m a member of a species that could do such a thing.

Simply amazing.

Here’s one:

About 2 1/2 years ago I made my first visit to New York to visit my sis. She lived on Staten Island, and we took the ferry over to Manhattan. I couldn’t tear my eyes away from the World Trade Center, it just kept getting bigger, and bigger, and bigger…
Oh, and standing underneath the Statue of Liberty was something too.

I must say that the Hoover Dam made my jaw drop. It’s sort of the opposite of a skyscraper. It’s not it’s beauty or grace that floored me, it’s just really weird to be looking down at such an amazing structure. You’re used to looking up at things, but there are people at the bottom of this giant hole that look so tiny. It’s an amazing feat of engineering and man-power.

I also love that they still had all the art deco signs and statues around. At least they did a few years ago.

I’ve only seen a couple of things in my life that have made me stand back in awe and wonder. One of these sights is the pyramids/sphinx at Giza (as mentioned by Jonathan Chance.) This is going to sound kind of lame, but I really didn’t think they were that big until I saw them IRL.

You may be interested to know that Montreal contains St. Joseph’s Oratory, the Second Biggest F.C.I.T.W.

Quick, re the Big O: This is about things that make you feel awed, not nauseated.
As for Promenades de la Cathédrale, yup, it’s there and it’s cool. The building just behind the church (Christ Church Cathedral, the seat of the Anglican diocese) is also gorgeous. The church with the big modern building behind it is this great symbol of Mtl that’s on all the photo albums.

They aren’t pretty in any traditional sense but I find open pit mines to awesome sights. I work for a company that has the largest copper mine in Morenci Arizona but others are much more visible to the public.

My favorite elegant thing is the Hoover dam. Deskmonkey, they sill have the statues and an awesome new visitor center. I find it so awesome because of its vastness and that it was done with '30s technology.

Sometimes small things are nice too.

In Camden, Maine there’s an ampitheatre next to the library. There’s terracing, stone fences, beautiful acoustics, lots of trees… It’s one of my favorite, most peaceful places in the world. Whenever I visit my grandparents I spend hours at a time there.

I always imagine whoever designed it thinking “In 20 years, this place will be beautiful.” And it is.

I know it is probably cliche, but the view of DC from across the river in Virginia is impressive. You can see the monuments and the Capitol dome – it is postcard perfect.

I lived in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania for about two years, and I made a few trips to Philadelphia. I lived two blocks from the train station in Harrisburg, and since I didn’t really know my way around Philly I figured taking the train would be the easiest way to get there. The station in H-burg is great. It should be in black and white, with steam billowing out of the locomotives and servicemen and their girls-back-home pressing their hands to the windows and promising to write every day. Then the train trip goes through Lancaster and lots of farm country. And then as it starts getting in to Philadelphia. I don’t know which is the wrong side of the tracks, but what you see from the tracks is not good, abandoned buildings and broken windows and graffiti (which was actually kind of pretty). Then the train pulls into the darkness underneath the station. I got off the train onto the platform and it was nothing special, but then I went up the stairs into one of the most beautiful rooms I’ve ever seen. There were ninety-five foot ceilings, marble and brass and old wood benches. It was just a stunningly grand way to enter the city. Really makes me sorry I nver got to see New York’s Penn Station in its glory days.

And while I’m mentioning Philadelphia, the art museum there is fantastic. I grew up near Seattle. I’d just never seen anyplace so monumental, at least not dedicated to works of art. It felt good to see it all housed in a building that felt so permanent, like the foundation was drilled all the way to the core of the Earth.

Keeping the Pennsylvania theme, I also went to Fallingwater. It’s a great place to visit, but I don’t think I’d want to live there. The main room has a stone floor, and the lower sections have a wax to mimic the wet stream bed outside. But I like to take off my shoes when I’m home, and I’d be constantly stubbing my toes. If there’s one place that ties the natural and man-made threads together, that’s it.

Chicago skyline. Lord, I love that sight…

It not quite up to Paris or the Pyramids, but the view of the Pittsburgh skyline when seen from the Fort Pitt tunnel at nighttime when the city is all lit up is pretty spectacular. You’re driving in this confining tunnel when it suddenly opens up and you see a beautiful city appear right in front of you.

Flying at night, over any city! My God! It’s GORGEOUS!

Walking the last few feet of pathway/viewing area to the lip of the Bingham Canyon copper mine pit. Even with literary preview your mind is just not prepared for the sight of a hole that large! Scaling is also difficult as the vehicles they use to haul the ore exceed most anything you have likely seen. All this compounded by an eerie pool of the deepest blue water (copper residue?) at the very bottom of the pit. If you are in the Salt Lake City area make a side trip to the pit, nice little museum in Copperton too!

I think I visited St. Joe’s with my folks when I was a mere boy, about nine or ten years old. Too young to really get into the right sort of awe, not having seen enough churches yet.

Isn’t there a miracleworker associated with the place? “Brother Andre” or something like that? I remember a wallful of crutches and pacemakers and iron lungs and all that sort of stuff from people he cured by laying his hands on 'em.

Andygirl: I know the place you’re talking about; it’s gorgeous! I always liked the statue of Edna St. Vincent Millay, too…that slightly-more-than-lifesize modernist work that gives her a kinda squarish head. She used to be on the top of the hill, looking out over the harbor; now she’s shoved in among the trees way off to the east side of the park.

I asked one of the Camden shopkeepers why she’d been moved, and he told me that the local high schoolers used to get drunk and drag her downhill, so eventually the town council decided to make a less appealing target of her. Oh, well.

That’s pretty much what I thought when I saw the model at the original Guggenheim a few weeks ago. I believe my exact quote was “that monstrosity will be a blight on the New York City skyline for years to come.” That no less than the impeccable Ukulele Ike agrees with me is pretty much vindication of my thoughts.

Personally, I think New York City in general qualifies as simply awing me. My favorite spot is Pine street, between the Equitable Building and another one. It’s like being in a man-made canyon. Also, Battery Park is simply beautiful, but that’s largely due to the natural part as well.

As a libertarian, I feel kind of guilty, but I love large public works projects. The Kansai International Airport is certainly awe inspiring, and rather beautiful for an airport. Of course, there’s something to be said for being in a mile-long terminal in a foreign country trying to find out where your gate is that’s kind of overwhelming. And the Big Dig in Boston never ceases to amaze me, although at about $2 BILLION per mile, I would expect the roads to be paved with gold.

That’s the one. He was made a blessed a few years ago and there’s an ongoing petition to have him canonized. Anyway, do you remember what else you enjoyed in Mtl?