Page C1.1 . 11 April 2007                     
ArchitectureWeek - Culture Department
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Saving the Taj Mahal

by Ian Morley

Cities are often symbolized by their prominent buildings. For example, it is hard to contemplate Sydney without thinking of the Opera House by J°rn Utzon or Barcelona without recalling the works by Antoni GaudÝ.

In Asia there are three outstanding examples of entire countries being symbolized by a single structure. In Cambodia it is Angkor Wat, a temple dating from the twelfth century. In China, it is the Great Wall, a fortification stretching for almost 4000 miles (6400 kilometers). And in India, it is the Taj Mahal, the 17th-century mausoleum globally recognized for its incomparable splendor.

Described by Nobel laureate Rabindranath Tagore as "a teardrop on the cheek of time" and by English poet Sir Edward Arnold as "not a piece of architecture, as other buildings are, but the proud passions of an emperor's love wrought in living stones," the Taj Mahal (literally Crown Palace) is today considered an eighth wonder of the world.

It was erected by order of Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan following the death of his second wife, Arjumand Banu Begum in 1631. The building has an ivory tone, owing to the marble mined in Jaipur, 155 miles (250 kilometers) away, and is decorated with precious stones of varying colors that shimmer in the sunlight. Its visual effect is spectacular and overwhelming.

Despite this beauty, any visitor to the Taj Mahal, in the tourist-crowded city of Agra, is quickly made aware of the building's fragility and the damaging effect people and air pollution have had on it. The two million visitors per year must now remove or cover their shoes before approaching the building to reduce the trampling effect.   >>>

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The Taj Mahal is under threat from environmental pollution.
Photo: Ian Morley

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The Taj Mahal enshrouded in smog.
Photo: Ian Morley

 

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