When we admire amazingly crafted buildings and awe-inspiring designs it's only normal that a range of powerful emotions shake our core within. What many of us do not spare a thought for, however, are the countless lives that have been lost in pursuit of great architecture. From the past to the present, the Pyramids to the world-beating skyscrapers of Dubai, human beings have died to manufacture what we so often take for granted. Using just two examples, this is a reminder of the darker side to architecture; the side that makes the buildings we behold even more precious and powerful.
The Great Pyramid
Amongst the greatest architectural wonders, the Pyramids remain a mystery and still inspire those lucky enough to even catch a glimpse. While we mention much about the Pharaohs and lavish rulers who ordered their construction, little consideration is given to the actual hands which built the wonders.
On estimation, some 20-25,000 labourers built the Great Pyramid. Though some of these workers were well looked after and lived together with their families, most worked three-to-four-month shifts and lived in less comfortable conditions.
Rations were given as wages to these lesser cared for manual labourers, which were but a small fraction of the pay those higher up in the workforce hierarchy received. To make their task even harder, many workers fell to death while building and died on site.
Modern Day Ancient Egypt
The plight of those poorer workers who built the Great Pyramid may seem like a testimony to the cruelty of the ancients and indeed it is. However, it is not an indication that the world and more precisely human morality, has much changed since.
The hands that built Dubai suffer from exploitation just the same as the destitute workers who constructed the Pyramids. Deaths from falling off scaffoldings are certainly not uncommon, while pay is little, living conditions overcrowded and appreciation scarce.
In fact, builders of the world's tallest building, the Barj Dubai, have died with no recompense for their families.
These labourers are the real heroes behind the world's great architectures. Their work entails skill, determination, relentlessness, strength (mental and physical), teamwork, unity, courage and a sense of contentment which doesn't require seeking recognition for what their hands made and for what the rich seek appraisal for without lifting a brick.
The next time you stop to look at a great building, pay a thought or two to the lives sacrificed for its construction.