Christian Crosses where they weren’t meant to be

Two interesting (though not entirely uncontroversial) stories of accidental (?) use of religious symbolism in model architecture.

1. The Burj al Arab (Dubai)

Construction of the Burj al Arab (or just ‘the Burj’ to most),  began in 1994, with the building being designed to look like the sail of a dhow, the boats on the back of which the region built its original strength as a trading power.

According to Wikipedia, the architect Tom Wright said “The client wanted a building that would become an iconic or symbolic statement for Dubai… It needed to be a building that would become synonymous with the name of the country.”

The entire building faces across the water, in the direction of  Mecca – the most religious of Muslim sites.

Some people have also noticed that the entire building also looks a lot like a giant Christian cross, in fact the largest Christian cross in the Middle East.

I do see their point, the dark elevator shaft that runs up the spine of the building,  and the cross beam of the windows of what is a very funky restaurant and bar, do certainly look rather cross like. Apparently this is why you never  see official photos of the Burj from the water-side.

Intentional or not, I imagine that this would not have gone down particularly well in a country which is finds the banning of religious symbolism so important that it requires big, black plastic stickers to hide the cover art of Buddha Bar CD’s on display shelves in shops like HMV and Vrigin.

Incidentally, given the above, if anyone can tell me how the actual Buddha Bar in Dubai gets away with having a massive statue of Buddha sitting in its venue, I’d be grateful!

2. Fernsehturm (Berlin, Germany)

Moving onto the second unintentional cross.

In the 1960’s the communist party of the then East Germany (who in terms of their religious views were fundamentally agnostic, and had had crosses removed from some churches) commissioned a symbol to tower (literally) over the west, and demonstrate the East’s might and engineering prowess.

Cue the Berlin Fernsehturm (or TV tower).

It was to be (much) taller than any other structure in the city (including the Cathedral), and able to be seen from everywhere, east and west.  So far so good, and for anyone who has been to Berlin, you will agree that you can see this thing from literally everywhere.

So you can imagine the surprise of the polit-chiefs when they saw that the suns rays cause a massive Christian cross to appear clearly on the sphere, regardless of the time of day or angle.

and a close up of the same:

The East German government apparently implemented various initiatives (paint, various kinds of polish, moving the tiles) to stop the cross appearing. All to no avail, and what has now become known as “the Pope’s Revenge” continues to reflect boldly (though of course now much less controversially) across the city.

Good things come in three’s, and I really wanted to write about another hidden cross, but could not find one… anyone?

Copyright 2010 Caspar Schlickum

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Categories: Design

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