Grand scales – A case study in megalomania

Some places are so grand they borderline insanity. Designed by individual leaders and authoritarian regimes, they represent the largest buildings ever constructed. Driven by a deep rooted pursuit for wealth, political power, and international recognition, it’s a fascinating case study in megalomania.

1 Tempelhof, Berlin, Germany. Designed under the direction of Albert Speer, the sweeping building of Tempelhof resembles a flying eagle. As the major airport of Berlin, Tempelhof was thought to be the gateway to Germania, the future capital of the Third Reich. Miraculously escaping damage during the bombings in World War II, the airport played an important role during the Cold War when Western allies sought to provide West Berlin with supplies, known as the Berliner Luftbrücke.

2 Government District, Astana, Kazakhstan. After the dissolution of the USSR, Kazakhstan continued a Soviet-led tradition of large squares, clean boulevards, and grand monuments. They just made it bigger. Walk through the government district of Astana and you suddenly feel very small. Designed by Japanese architect Kisho Kurokawa, the president palace is flanked by two golden towers, covered in reflective gold. Turn around and you face the Baiterek Tower, a 105 meter tall structure holding up a gold-mirrored sphere, symbolizing the independence of the country.

3 President Palace, Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam. With a rooftop helicopter pad, a 40-seat cinema, and a basement bunker, the president palace of Ho Chi Minh City, known as the Reunification Palace, was the ultimate hideout for the Viet Cong president. Built by Ngo Dinh Diem, the first president of South Vietnam, no expenses were spared as the palace transformed into the most extravagant home in the country. Up until 30 April 1975, when a North Vietnam army bulldozer crashed through its gates, forcing the president to escape, ending the Vietnam War.

4 Victory Museum, Moscow, Russia. When Russians speak about World War II, they don’t refer to it as the Second World War. They call it the Great Patriotic War. For Soviet, it was more than just a battle of territory. It was about the survival of the entire culture. Something you understand when you enter the Victory Museum in Moscow. Designed by architect Anatoly Polyansky under the Gorbachev era, the 20,000 square meter building holds over 75,000 war items, showcasing the war like few other places.

5 Grand Hotel, Taipei, Taiwan. When Chiang Kai-shek escaped China to became the leader of independent Taiwan, he needed a place to cater international guests and ambassadors. The solution? A traditional 14-storey Chinese palace with vermilion-painted balconies aligned in perfect symmetry. With an interior design full of objets d’art, wall panels, and dragon motifs, the hotel was a way of promoting Chinese culture to the West, attracting guests such as Richard Nixon, Margaret Thatcher, and Bill Clinton.

6 Ceaușescu Palace, Bucharest, Romania. Like a monument from ancient times, the Ceaușescu Palace in Bucharest is the largest building in the world. Nicolae Ceaușescu just didn’t want to shine on the scene of international politics, he wanted the palace to stand out like no other. The result? 365,000 square meters of pure extravagance, 1,100 rooms, and the largest carpet ever made. The rise of the communist leader was as steep as his coming fall.

Written by Erik Ekberger. Photography: Erik Ekberger

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