Think of any city in the world, and chances are you immediately call to mind an iconic skyline or building--the pyramids of Egypt, Gaudi's Sagrada Família in Barcelona, the Taj Mahal in India, the Inca citadel of Machu Picchu in Peru. This cultural uniqueness is called “genius loci,” which means the “spirit of a place.”
While some elements of culture are purely aesthetic, architecture is often both a work of art as well as a practical, utilitarian affair, offering not just beauty but durability and function.
And while some types of cultural manifestations exist as stand-alone products to be admired on their own merits, architecture is in most cases seen in the context of its environment -the Sydney Opera House, the Parthenon in Athens, and the Golden Temple of Kyoto are structures that are informed and enhanced by their surroundings.
Vernacular architecture, like a Mongolian yurt, an Inuit igloo or a southern African rondavel, are indigenous to a certain time and place, use local materials and reflect the area's climate and resident's lifestyle--whether communal, nomadic, agrarian or island. Not surprisingly, where we live, work and consider "home" bears the imprint of our cultural identity.
Archaeology is the study of human history and prehistory through the excavation of sites and the analysis of artifacts and other physical remains. Despite its focus on the past, archaeology beings to life themes as relevant today as they were several millennia ago: identity, sense of place, community, ritual, power, awe, and connection.
Read on for perspective on challenges and opportunities facing leading contemporary architects, and to learn some of the enduring truths and eternal mysteries revealed by some of the world’s most fascinating archaeological sites!
There is no better way to understand the history of Old Quebec than through its unique architecture, which reveals the story of the city’s diverse cultural influences that include French, British, Romantic and Art Deco. Vieux Quebec was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1985—close to half of its buildings were built before 1850 and it is the only walled city in North America. This historic center represents just five percent of Quebec proper—but the architectural gems of it’s 333 acres will enchant visitors for days. Enjoy Emilie’s tour!
Belize offers stunning lessons in both life’s diversity and universality: A population that encompasses Mennonites, Mestizos, Garifuna, Arabs and Chinese; an ancient Mayan site that reveals a common thread among man throughout millennia; an abundance of bird and plant species co-existing in harmony. Let naturalists Miguel and David share the secrets of Belize!
Scotland is the land of castles. With arguably the greatest concentration of them in Europe there is something to appeal to everyone – windswept and desolate Highland strongholds, magnificent royal fortresses on city-topping rocky crags, fancy baronial tower houses, and everything in between. Get the “Must-Sees’ from Caste Connoisseur David Weinczok!
The villagers of San Juan Chamula in Mexico's Chiapas Highlands are skilled textile artists and practice a faith that that mixes Mayan mythology with Catholic tradition. Get a virtual introduction to Chamulan beliefs, which include a strong commitment to community service & tradition that considers pine to have sacred properties. Saint John the Baptist church is a spiritual home for the devoted residents who put no price tag on their beliefs. Travel opens our eyes to both the cultural differences between us and others, as well as the bond of human connection.
The phenomenon known as hygge is considered the spiritual foundation of Denmark. How hygge is defined is personal and hard to pin down. Join BCD in a quest to understand the meaning of hygge through a visit to Skagen, a former artist’s colony at the northernmost tip of Denmark. Skagen is home to the Rabjerg Mile, an expanse of sand dunes 12 stories high, and a 1.5-mile headland called the Grenan that is the dividing line between the Baltic and North Seas. Meet some locals who share their concepts of hygge!
Ile d'Orleans is just 15 minutes from Quebec but once over the Pont d'Ile, you are transported to a pastoral, by-gone existence that is a microcosm of traditional Québecois culture. Making the loop on the island's “Royal Road" takes you through Île d’Orléans’ six parishes and its "New France" history.
Join BCD for a virtual tour of the geological & cultural wonders of Scotland's Isle of Skye, including Kilt Rock, MacLeod’s Tables, Three Chimney's Restaurant & Neist Point. Learn the lore & legends behind some of Skye's most distinctive landmarks. Get a local's view of the landscape from the co-owner of award-winning Three Chimneys Restaurant. Behold the breathtaking sight of Neist Point Lighthouse and discover its connection with Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde! Be reminded of the exhilarating freedom that travel offers!
Here's the story behind Motif Number 1, America's most-painted building, a red shack located at the end of Bradley Wharf in Rockport, Massachusetts. Originally built in the mid-1800s to store fishing gear, by 1900, the building became a frequent subject of the painters who had begun spending their summers in Rockport.
In this lively Q&A, let Irish archaeologist Isabel Bennett introduce you to the rich culture and heritage of Dingle Peninsula. She is the museum curator of the West Kerry Museum, housed in an old schoolhouse in the village Baile an Fheirtéaraigh, built in 1875. Enjoy Isabel’s virtual tour of her favorite historic sites along the spectacular drives on the Wild Atlantic Way and the Slea Head Route. BCD's insightful reporting gives you the lay of the cultural landscape in a way no other site does.
Are you an armchair archaeologist intrigued by ancient architecture? Then two must-see Bronze Age sites in Scottish Highlands are Clava Cairns on the River Nairn and the Grey Cairns of Camster. These mysterious ancient stone structures are sure to inspire questions & conjecture about the Neolithic residents who built them. Resting place? Astronomical observatory? Place of fertility rituals? Let local amatuer sleuth Dougie Scott and Historic Scotland expert Dr. Kirsty Owen share their theories on the origins and purposes of these moody and intriguing dimensions of the Scottish cultural landscape!
Be transported back in time by the community at the Scottish Crannog Centre. Take in the authentic reconstructions of ancient loch-dwellings that every year play host to an Iron Age Halloween pagan ritual. Meet archaeologist Barrie Andrian & get a tutorial on crannogs & the history of life on the lochs of Scotland’s Highland Perthshire. Join in the Crannog’s Centre’s raucous celebration of the Gaelic Festival of Samhain! BCD's insightful reporting gives you the lay of the cultural landscape in a way no other site does.
Take a tour of Lafayette Cemetery # 1 in the Garden District with local Sarah, who offers a primer on unique New Orleans' traditions like the ‘second line'. BCD found Lafayette Cemetery # 1 to be unexpectedly fertile ground for fresh ways to look at life. Read on for how New Orleans celebrates & inspires individuality.
In powerful Q&A, meet archaeologist Dr. Reuben Grima and get the lowdown on Malta's megalithic legacy. Learn how Malta' ancient architecture reveals themes of identity, community and ritual. Get insight into how the ancient city of Valletta manages to balance preservation and sustainable growth.
The Mayan ruin of Tikal in Guatemala is not easy to get to but the bumpy ride to the remote location is worth it! This 222-square mile archaeological park is a UNESCO World Heritage site and home to abundant wildlife and many massive ancient monuments that are simply awe-inspiring! Let BCD give you the cultural lay of the land and guide you through Tikal’s major archaeological ruins.
Travel to Paphos in Cyprus, a treasure trove of ancient art and archaeology, recognized as an UNESCO World Heritage site. Paphos has over 2,000 years of history and features Roman villas, Byzantine Monasteries, the Temple of Aphrodite, and the Neophytos monastery with spectacular ancient Orthodox Christian iconography. Let BCD introduce you to Cyprus' culture before you travel!
Meet archaeologist and former director of Cyprus Department of Antiquities, Sophocles Hadjisavvas through BCD's insightful interview. Let him share with you the highlights of the nation's 11,000 years of history. Immerse yourself in Cyprus' heritage through his expert eyes! Learn how Sophocles solved the mystery of the monoliths and why Cyprus is called the "El Dorado"of Antiquity.
Get the scoop on Croatia's deep history from a local expert! In this interview, meet Domagoj Perkic, archaeologist and curator of the Dubrovnik Archaeology Museum. Domagoj gives you insight into Croatia's history as a cultural crossroads and sites like a 3rd century Roman necropolises, ancient Illyrian cave, and underwater Medieval shipwrecks. Immerse yourself in Croatia's heritage...and be moved by what Domagoj reveals about his experience during Croatia's War of Independence.
Explore Bogota's La Candelaria neighborhood, both traditional and hip! Meet locals who share their impressions & memories of living in such an alluring place, full of contrasts. Let BCD offer you a unique encounter with Colombia's cultural and heritage before you travel!
Meet Bogota resident, Simon Velez, who shares his views on eco-architecture & politics of building with "poor people's wood" or bamboo. Let Velez, a native of Manizales, offer you insight into the landscape and cultural heritage of Colombia's coffee region.