One of the most iconic architectural achievements of all time is the discovery of pyramids by humanity. The discovery of pyramids gave a whole new definition to monumentality and opened a new direction for the people to build. Built a thousand years ago, these architectural marvels still attract people and serve as an important site of tourist attractions. These structures later inspired many architects to create their variations w, which led to the new design being a trendsetter. Today, we are digging deep into one of the most basic yet influential structures in architectural history, pyramids.

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Reimagination of Pyramids. _©https://www.arch2o.com/architecture-ancient-pyramids-infographic/

The birth of Pyramids

The pyramids of Giza – famously known as the first-ever man made pyramid in world history, were not built in the first attempt. The attempts at making the Great Pyramid of Giza are living proof that failure is the stepping stone to success. The Pyramids were the burial tombs of the kings of Egypt. The other high-ranking officials were buried in Mastaba tombs, where the burial chambers were buried more deeply into bedrock level. These tombs were then topped by rectangular mud-brick buildings where people provided offerings and prayed. 

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Mastabas in Egypt_©Jon Bodsworth – www.egyptarchive.co.uk

The first attempt at the pyramid was five to six mastabas stacked one upon another for King Djoser, also known as The Stepped Pyramid. It was very monumental in scale compared to the other mastabas and gave the idea of pyramids to others. After this, the Medium pyramid was yet another attempt at pyramids, which was another iconic step pyramid. The shape of pyramids began to be visible in the Bent Pyramid of Dahshur. There are many theories for the change of slope in the pyramid. Some stated the early death of the pharaoh required fast-paced construction. 

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Stepped Pyramid in Djoser_©https://www.ctvnews.ca/sci-tech/egypt-reopens-ancient-step-pyramid-after-renovations-1.4840664

Finally, the significant milestone that was built, which later became the world’s first true pyramid. Today, what remains of it are just the stones; it would have been covered in limestone casting stones in its days. Later though, naturally, we may expect the later pyramids to be bigger than this one, but other pyramids began to start getting smaller and smaller in size and grandness. The depletion of local materials used in pyramids and shift in Egyptian culture slowly contributed to the decrease in size of the later pyramids.

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View of all the pyramids_©https://www.ctvnews.ca/sci-tech/egypt-reopens-ancient-step-pyramid-after-renovations-1.4840664

The typical pyramid complex

The burial system and its concept emphasize the sun and moon signs and give a significant mark to the dead Pharaoh. The entry of the pyramid starts with a causeway, followed by a corridor that leads to the courtyard. They’re also used to be a small cult pyramid that was meant for the king’s soul. The mortuary temple had a false door just in front of the offering hall, which allowed the king’s soul to take the offerings. The interior of the pyramid had air shafts with both king’s and queen’s chambers. The pyramid also had a Grand Gallery and other passages.

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Cross section of the Great Pyramid._©Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc./Patrick O’Neill Riley

Modern-day influences

Even in today’s architectural era, the pyramid’s shape shows how timeless the form is. Today these pyramid structures might not be the burial tombs of people, but they are no less significant. Modern architects find the slanting edges fascinating and inspiring for their design concepts, and these pyramids never fail to surprise us. The Louvre pyramid designed by I.M. Pei attracts tourists worldwide to gasp at its beauty. The controversial work perfectly represents the Louvre itself, an amalgamation of old and modern artworks. The structured glass pyramid is one of the most striking features of the Louvre. 

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The Louvre Pyramid._©Hteink. min – commons:File: Louvre Pyramid.jpg

Many other pyramids work like the Walter pyramid or The Palace of Peace and Reconciliation; Kazakhstan also shows the pyramid’s importance as a geometry. The shape gives the building a monumental dominance in its society. The Bolz Conservatory, which Stuart Gallaher designs, creates a greenhouse effect by using glass panels in a pyramidal shape. It is not just a pyramid structure; instead, it has become a temple to inhabit nature and its grace.

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The Bolz Conservatory _©https://www.wikiwand.com/en/Olbrich_Botanical_Gardens

Some of the iterations include inverted pyramids in structures. The Hanoi Museum in Vietnam involves the use of inverted pyramid structures. Though the form looks very different from the original pyramids, one can easily spot the initial inspirations from the stepped pyramids. Many other designs include the combination of these pyramids and their variations. The Tempe Municipal Building and the Tokyo Big Sight have direct visible inverted pyramidal forms. The Tokyo Big Sight involves the use of four enormous inverted pyramids in states.

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The Hanoi Museum  _©https://www.archdaily.com/251694/hanoi-museum-gmp-architekten/5018bddd28ba0d5d5d0006f9-hanoi-museum-gmp-architekten-image

The fundamental shape of pyramids remains to influence the architectural style across the world to date. What started as a burial spot for the kings to create their significance is now being transformed into structures of various typologies. Pyramids, even today, continue to attract people’s attention and establish their monumentality.

Author

Currently in her 3rd year of Architecture at IIT Roorkee, Muskan believes that architecture has the potential to shape this world and its future. Being a keen observer, she always finds connection between architecture and human psychology. Besides this, she also loves art, music, movies and connecting with others.

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