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Modern Lighthouses of Alexandria

Can the Lighthouse of Alexandria be seen today? The short answer is no. But even though the great Pharos collapsed centuries ago, it remained an iconic figure of architecture, art, and the imagination. It is no surprise that people have continued to draw inspiration from it. Whether purposely or subconsciously, countless buildings replicate the unique shape and structure of the Pharos. The Lighthouse of Alexandria can no longer be seen but many of its “descendants” can. Below is a list of my three favorite structures (not direct replicas) which resemble the Pharos and which can be visited today.

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What better place to start than with another ancient lighthouse? The Tower of Hercules (Torre de Hércules) is an ancient Roman lighthouse located near the town of  A Coruña in northwestern Spain. It stands 187 feet tall and is the oldest Roman lighthouse still in use today. The shape of the lighthouse (square base, octagonal mid section, and round tip) directly mimics the shape of the Pharos in Alexandria. In fact, up until the 20th century, the Tower of Hercules was known as the Farum Brigantium. The word Farum is a direct descendant from Pharos. Although less than half the height of the Lighthouse of Alexandria, the Tower of Hercules is the only surviving ancient lighthouse which was so directly inspired by the Pharos.

lighthouse of alexandria

 

The George Washington Masonic Memorial in Alexandria, Virginia resembles the Pharos least out of the buildings on this list. Ironically, it’s the only structure here which has been publicly inspired by the Lighthouse of Alexandria. The reason for the inaccuracy in its construction is due in part to the architect’s use of paintings as inspiration for the memorial. Many paintings of the Pharos depict the lighthouse with evenly spaced tiers, columns throughout, etc. These elements are reflected in the memorial. Additionally, the memorial is more than 100 feet shorter than the Lighthouse of Alexandria. Despite the historical inaccuracies, its still a great site to visit. I think it’s wonderful that modern architecture can continue to draw on ancient inspiration.

 

lighthouse of alexandriaPerhaps the best modern representation of the Pharos lies right beside the river in the heart of Chicago, IL. Known as the Jewelers’ Building (or 35 East Wacker), it was completed in 1927. Out of the structures on this list, the Jewelers’ Building is the closest in height to the original Pharos (only about 20-70 feet taller than the original) and most accurately replicates its shape. Although the mid-section should be octagonal, the proportions of the three tiers are closest to the original Pharos. The architects of the Jewelers’ building never revealed the source of their inspiration, but it’s hard to look upon the structure without seeing the ancient Lighthouse of Alexandria. And just as Alexandria was a bustling metropolis in the ancient world, this is the only “descendant” of the Pharos which can still be appreciated within a busy city.

 

 

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