Stephen Travels

And he's ready to take you with him.


Leave a comment

Bodies of Work

Jenners Department Store, Edinburgh, ScotlandIf you feel like the weight of the world is sometimes pressing down on you, imagine if an actual building were doing the same thing. Since the sixth century BC in ancient Greece, stone women have been supporting entablatures on their heads; their male counterparts came along a little later, in the Greek cities in Sicily and southern Italy. These caryatids and atlantids not only served a practical function, as a column or pillar to support the weight of a structure, but they also added impressive panache. Read about the top five atlantids and caryatids >


Leave a comment

No Need to Go Far in Fargo

Great Northern Railway Depot, Fargo, North DakotaI was ending my two-week trip around the Dakotas with a one-day stop in Fargo. It didn’t seem a sufficient amount of time for North Dakota’s most populous city, but, fortunately, most of the highlights—including its most beautiful buildings—are located in a fairly concentrated area of one square mile. Read about the top five buildings in Fargo, North Dakota >


Leave a comment

How Great Thou Arch

Queenstown War Memorial, New ZealandThey seem simple: vertical curved structures that span an open space and may, or may not, support weight above it. Of course, arches are much more complicated than that, a complex balance of compression, stress, thrust, bracings, and transference. The Mesopotamians got the jump on them four thousand years ago, but it was the Romans who used them systematically in a wide range of structures, leading eventually to a worldwide adaptation of this most beautiful form. Read about the top five arches >


Leave a comment

Crossing Paths With Swiss Crosses

Lausanne Cathedral, SwitzerlandAlthough freedom of religion is a fundamental right in Switzerland, enshrined in its constitution, the number of people employing that freedom continues to plummet. More than one-quarter of all Swiss have no religious affiliation (compared to a negligible 1 percent in 1970). Those who do, no matter what their denomination, have strayed from regularly attending services today. Yet they can still look back at what their more devout ancestors left behind—a legacy of beautiful churches that used to be the core of their societies. Read about the top five churches in Switzerland >


Leave a comment

Superb Structures in the “City of Soul”

Standard Life Building, Jackson, MississippiThe capital of Mississippi was within easy striking distance from my accommodations in Vicksburg, the wonderful Baer House Inn. In less than an hour, I had pulled into Jackson and was wandering its peaceful streets. In this city that is celebrating its 200th birthday this year, I found very little of its pre–Civil War built environment, thanks to its nearly wholesale destruction during that bloody conflict. However, a handful of survivors and some newer additions, all concentrated in a small walking distance, keep the city architecturally interesting. Read about the top five buildings in Jackson >


2 Comments

The Best Buildings in Bergen, Norway

Bratten Building, Bergen, NorwayBergen throws the best Norwegian Independence Day festivities, or so I was told when I arrived in this coastal city two days before the holiday on May 17. I was glad I had timed my vacation so well, but parades, music, and fireworks weren’t the only things that attracted me here. The gorgeous natural setting on a fjord harbor with a mountainous backdrop, one of the world’s top five aquariums, and a welcoming, self-deprecating populace make this a fantastic destination. In between it all, Norway’s second city is a delight to stroll around and take in its attractions as well as some impressive architecture. Read about the top five buildings in Bergen, Norway >


Leave a comment

Cleveland’s Architectural Glory Days

Soldiers' and Sailors' Monument, Cleveland, OhioSpending a long weekend in February in Cleveland, Ohio, seemed, in retrospect, a bit odd. It’s cold, it’s gray, it’s dreary, and even the animals in the Cleveland Metroparks Zoo looked lethargic and in desperate need of spring. But even in the dead of winter, this lakeside city offers some fine diversions, such as the second-largest performing arts district in the United States, a market that celebrated its 100th birthday a few years ago, and excellent museums. It also boasts some outstanding architecture from the era when the city was one of the 10 largest in the United States. Read about the top five buildings in Cleveland >


Leave a comment

The Curious Castle of Manitou Springs

Miramont Castle, Manitou Springs, ColoradoI couldn’t decide if it was beautiful or an eyesore, the creation of an imaginative designer or a lunatic. Either way, it most definitely was unusual. In Manitou Springs, Colorado, Miramont Castle stands as its oddest yet most irresistible attraction — a fantastic mansion, or the setting for a movie director’s spine-tingling chiller. With a convoluted history and a schizophrenic architectural style, I found it impossible to categorize what Miramont was. But I was most definitely glad that I saw it. Read about Miramont Castle >


Leave a comment

The Superior Structures of Salzburg, Austria

High Salzburg FortressJulie Andrews’ romp through Salzburg, Austria, in The Sound of Music while singing “I Have Confidence” and toting her luggage and guitar case is unarguably one of the city’s best unintentional promotion pieces ever produced. How could it not be? Fountains, a gorgeous Alpine backdrop, and the mountaintop fortress are all on full display, tempting you to immerse yourself in this most Austrian of cities. You’ll certainly come here for the music, whether it’s the campy Sound of Music singalongs or the higher-echelon concerts of Salzburg native Mozart. But you’ll also come here for the architecture, much of which miraculously survived the bombings during World War II. Read about the top five buildings in Salzburg >


Leave a comment

French Flair in North America

Maillou House, Quebec CityA French enclave on an English-speaking continent, Québec is a wonderful anomaly. Although Montreal is the Canadian province’s economic powerhouse, Québec City is its solid, more obvious connection to its French past, and its present — French is still the native language of more than 90 percent of its half-million citizens. Roaming its streets and alleys of low-rise stone houses, magnificent churches, and tempting cafés, I couldn’t help but feel transported to 18th- and 19th-century France. Among its beautiful edifices, there’s one building that’s so iconic to the city that it’s impossible to think of one without the other, and that you’re anywhere but in the capital of Québec. Read about the top five buildings in Québec City >