The thought of constructing buildings out of gold may seem like a ridiculous conjecture, but history reveals that this absurd notion is not only a reality of a time past, but that constructing structures of gold in modern times is more tangible than ever. Although many religious structures throughout history contain decorative elements and even domes which have been leafed in gold, none of these structures rival the Bupaya Pagoda and Sripuram Temple in scale. The Bupaya Pagoda located in Pagan, Myanmar is entirely adorned in gold leaf. The spectacle of the pagoda is only outdone by the fantastic Sripuram Temple which is located in India. The temple is the largest gold structure in the entire world and is constructed of 1500kg of gold! Gold has signified wealth and prosperity since the 700BC when the first gold coins were struck. Today modern technology has permitted the re-exploration of gold as a viable treatment for structures throughout the world.
Figure 1.1 The Bupaya Pagoda (left) and Sripuram Temple (right) are historic examples of the development of the golden tower throughout history.
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The obvious choice for golden architecture would be a city that is symbolic of pure wealth and excess, Las Vegas. The casinos and gangsters of Las Vegas have come to represent a lifestyle and culture extreme luxury and excess. Las Vegas is a city that exists for no other reason than to generate wealth. Although there are many architectural anamolies in Las Vegas, there are two structures that best represent the spirit of the original Las Vegas visionaries. The first US casinos would be established in Las Vegas and Reno, when Nevada would legalize gambling, and Nevada’s lead would not be followed until 1978 when New Jersey would finally follow suit.
Figure 1.2 The Mirage and Trump Tower are examples of the modern rendition of the gold tower, which makes use of gold dust in the glass tinting process as opposed to gold leafing as was the traditional method for implementing the precious metal in construction.
Although many people equate Donald Trump with wealth and success, few equate him with Las Vegas. It was necessary for Trump to create a structure of excess that exudes the golden monuments and aspirations of the past. Unfortunately for trump, his tower lacks the elegance and simplicity of the far more famous Mirage Casino. The Mirage was the most expensive hotel in the history of Las Vegas at the time of construction, costing $630 million dollars. The structure’s glass gets its unique tinting from actually using gold dust in the tinting of the glass. In modern architecture gold leafing is traded in for gold tinted glass. The proportions of the Mirage and the crispness of the white and gold rhythmically alternating horizontal bands creates a distinguished presence on the strip. The intersection of the two wings from the strip are accentuated by a vertical reveal of golden glass that firmly centers the entrance to the casino. Even though the structure was built in 1989, the building’s design still maintains a stately timeless presence on the strip, as if it had always been in Las Vegas.
Figure 1.3 Rendering of Gold Tower 42 (left) which is currently under construction in Cambodia, and a photo of the model developed for Paul Newman’s classic Towering Inferno (right).
Where will the next golden architecture be constructed? Dubai? China? Not quite. If Cambodia has their way Gold Tower 42 will be constructed in Phnom Penh. Oddly enough Phnom Penh is neither a wealthy nation, nor in need of a 42 story tower, but the renderings of the structure look striking enough to surpass the visionary conceptual tower for the golden tower in the Paul Newman classic The Towering Inferno. Even if Cambodia developers are able to pull off the feat, it is hard to image any structure in the world constructed out of gold in a city other than Las Vegas.