LIBRARY OF ALEXANDRIA
Ptolemy’s takeover of Egypt in the fourth century BC brought with him a wealth of ancient wisdom, which turned the city into an epicentre of mental stimulation. Ptolemy was a man of steel will and intelligence. He embraced a circle of influential scholars advanced in the fields of literature, philosophy and science. And under the patronage of the Ptolemaic dynasty they built the first large research institution in the ancient world. At its height, the Royal Library of Alexandria housed more than half a million volumes. It proved the viability of the old dictum: knowledge is power. And its legacy lives on as a testament to the influence knowledge has on the advancement of humanity. It was there that the Greek mathematician Euclid, laid down the principles of geometry and perspectives. Hero of Alexandria - the greatest experimenter of antiquity - invented a steam-powered device called an aeolipile. He also invented a wind wheel, considered to be the earliest example of man’s attempt to harness wind power on land. It is not known why these early Greek innovations were not put into production. But we can assume that there was no immediate economical need for the discoveries, as labour was cheap and abundant. Evidently, 900 years later during the great industrial revolution the steam locomotive finally came into production. It was developed into an efficient transportation system, that changed and connected the world. Alexander the Great’s tutor Aristotle - the ancient Greek philosopher - has always emphasised to the young warrior that: “Educated men are much superior to uneducated men. And the fate of empires depends on the education of youth.”
Today, the power of knowledge has harvested a modern society steeped in intellect, sophistication and confidence. It has given birth to aspirations and a constant strive for self-reinvention. Proudly, it is responsible for a breed of contemporaries who continue to invent, improve and evolve. Here we look back at the past to try and shape the future. Along the way we hope to find answers to the most crucial questions of our time: How do we balance the fertility of the earth against the ferocious demands of civilisation? And how do we steer the tides of dynamic economies in the face of aggressive urban expansion, in a world that is in constant motion? The aim is to understand the steps human progression has followed including the evolution of science, and the impact of innovation and collaboration, while challenging the many misconceptions people have about ancient history. Choosing a list of the world’s most fascinating urban centres to study was an exhilarating experience. We hope to showcase a spread of the world’s most exciting metropolitan areas, while revealing the stunning architectural masterpieces created by revolutionary minds. Buildings that redefined how we saw and thought about a city, and buildings that captivated the imagination of medieval man and inspired him to construct unimaginable landmarks. Also, buildings that became an architectural emblem for the advancement of humanity. In short, urban eye-catchers that truly transformed the way the world perceived urbanisation, spatial design and engineering.