Hôtel de Ville, Paris, France

The Hôtel de Ville in Paris, France, is the building housing the city’s local administration. Standing on the place de l’Hôtel-de-Ville in the 4th arrondissement, it has been the headquarters of the municipality of Paris since 1357. It serves multiple functions, housing the local administration, the Mayor of Paris (since 1977), and also serves as a venue for large receptions.

In July 1357, Étienne Marcel, provost of the merchants (i.e. mayor) of Paris, bought the so-called maison aux piliers (“House of Pillars”) in the name of the municipality on the gently sloping shingle beach which served as a river port for unloading wheat and wood and later merged into a square, the Place de Grève (“Strand Square”), a place where Parisians often gathered, particularly for public executions. Ever since 1357, the City of Paris’s administration has been located on the same location where the Hôtel de Ville stands today.

Hôtel de Ville was rebuilt in the 1870s in its original French Renaissance style inspired by the Châteaux of the Loire Valley. Reconstruction of City Hall lasted 19 years and was directed by architects Théodore Ballu and Édouard Deperthes, who had won the public competition for the building’s reconstruction.

Armenian Apostolic Church, Church of St. Catherine, Saint Petersburg, Russia

Armenian merchants and artisans appeared on the banks of the Neva River immediately after Saint Petersburg was founded. First written evidence on the activities of the Armenians in Saint Petersburg is dated to 1708. In 1711, Peter the Great gave the following instructions to the Senate: “The Armenians must be treated nicely as much as possible and facilitated where it is proper, in order to motivate them to arrive in greater numbers.”

On 2 May 1770, granting a request made by Ivan Lazarev (1735–1801), the head of the Armenian community and an important statesman and enlightener, Catherine the Great allocated a lot for a construction of an Armenian church, on the north side of Nevsky Avenue. The community immediately started fund raising. The construction of the church and the adjacent parochial buildings was supervised by the author of the design, Saint Petersburg’s major architect Georg Friedrich Veldten (1735–1801). After 8 years, in 1779, opposite the then not yet completed Gostiny Dvor, a slender and smart church emerged; later, an ensemble of the Armenian community’s buildings formed around it.

The Buen Retiro Park, Madrid, Spain

The gardens were extended in the 1620s, when Gaspar de Guzmán, Count-Duke of Olivares, Philip IV’s powerful favourite, gave the king several tracts of land in the vicinity for the Court’s recreational use. Olivares determined to build, in a place that the king liked, a royal house which should be superior to those villas that Roman nobles had been setting up in the hilly outskirts of Rome during the previous century. Although this second royal residence was to be built in what were then outlying areas of Madrid, it was actually not far from the existing Alcázar or fortress residence, and the location in a cool, wooded area proved to be ideal.

The Alcázar of Seville, Spain

The Alcázar of Seville is a royal palace in Seville, Spain, originally developed by Moorish Muslim kings. The palace is renowned as one of the most beautiful in Spain, being regarded as one of the most outstanding examples of mudéjar architecture found on the Iberian Peninsula. The upper levels of the Alcázar are still used by the royal family as the official Seville residence and are administered by the Patrimonio Nacional. It is the oldest royal palace still in use in Europe, and was registered in 1987 by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site, along with the Seville Cathedral and the General Archive of the Indies.