Houses of Heads Of State from Around The World
It is widely believed that the way a country houses its leaders indicates what that country thinks of itself. The homes occupied by Heads of State often serve as offices, banquet halls, meeting rooms, and housing for visiting dignitaries. Some, like The White House, are open to visitors. Others, like China’s New Forbidden City are completely closed to prying eyes and would-be tourists. If you have ever wondered what it might be like to travel the world as a representative of a powerful nation, the following will give you a glimpse of what would surely be a few of your stops. Where Heads Of State of the world’s most-populated countries live on a day to day basis:
United States: “The White House” first served as home to President John Adams and enjoys one of the most unassuming names ever given to the residence of a Head of State. But it was not always called “The White House”. Originally referred to as the President’s Palace, President’s Mansion, or Executive Mansion, President Theodore Roosevelt is credited with establishing the current name in 1901. Built in 1800 of Aquia sandstone painted white, The White House has two basements and four above-ground levels for a total of six stories. Jame’s Hoban’s design, selected by George Washington, was expanded by 30% to realize the the 1st President’s vision of an executive mansion befitting The President. With the inauguration of President Barack Obama as the 44th President, the structure built by African-American slaves will finally serve as home to an African-American President. A black man in a white house may seem like a simple phrase of contrast, but for many it declares the start of an entirely new kind of progress
Russia: The Senate Building
in The Kremlin complex in Moscow is the working residence of the Russian President, Dmitry Anatolyevich Medvedev
. The Senate Building was constructed in the years preceding 1787 to the designs of Russian architect, Matvei Kazakov. In 1995, the building was restored to its original glory in a classical style. A triangular structure in the northeast part of the Kremlin, the Senate Building is a gold and white architectural triumph of such proportions that Catherine II is reported as giving her gloves to the building’s designer as an expression of her delight. Central to the design is the rotunda with its dome supported by four sections of arches that soar above walls lined with Doric columns. The particular type of construction allowed for the placement of windows throughout the structure, leading to the appearance that the dome “floats” on top of the Senate Building. The President also has access to the Great Kremlin Palace
and a reserve residence, Building 14
, in the Kremlin along with many vacation homes. Past presidents Putin and Yeltsin both retained use of their presidential residences after retirement.
In 1703 The Duke of Buckingham and Normandy built the original parts of what has grown to be one of the most famous royal palaces of all time. With its central 3-story box shape and service wings, George III thought the palace would make a perfect vacation home for Queen Charlotte and purchased it in 1761. “The Queen’s House” continued to serve as a royal vacation residence until Queen Victoria moved in upon taking the throne in 1837. From that point on, Buckingham Palace
has served as the official royal palace of all The United Kingdom’s monarchs. After years of renovations and expansions, Buckingham Palace has reached enormous proportions. The palace contains 828,818 square feet of floor space divided into 775 rooms that house everything from basic food items to artwork by greats such as Rembrandt and van Dyck. The Queen’s Guard
have become nearly as famous as the palace with their enormous fur hats and bright red coats.
The Tokyo Imperial Palace
is the residence of the current Emperor of Japan, Emperor Akihito. Covering more than 3 square kilometers of prime real estate in downtown Chiyoda, Tokyo, the massive complex is a combination of expansive gardens and ornate buildings. The palace has seven wings: A function hall, banquet hall, reception hall, dining room, drawing room, and the Emperor’s work office. The palace is almost entirely surrounded by deep water-filled moats. No longer serving a strategic military purpose, the moats help maintain boundary lines between the busy city of Tokyo and some of the most valuable and intriguing property in the world.
Germany: Charlottenburg Palace
is the current home of Horst Kohler, the President of Germany. Constructed in a the shape of a giant horseshoe, the Palace forms three protective walls around a gated courtyard overshadowed by the tower-topped green dome reminiscent of the Kremlin’s globes. Built in the years 1695-1699, the middle section of the palace (the “toe” of the horseshoe) was used as a summer residence by Electress Sophie Charlotte. The palace was named in her honor and underwent dramatic renovations and additions as the central tower and both wings were added over the ensuing 50 years.
India: “Rashtrapati Bhavan” is Sanskrit for “presidential palace” and serves only to describe the function, but not the look or structure of India’s most powerful house. Built under British rule, the palace took four times as long and cost more than twice what was initially planned. The final building is massive with340 rooms spread over 4 levels of more than 200,000sqft. total floor space. A quick glance and the Presidential Palace of India looks remarkably like the Capitol Building of the United States. Flat rooflines and columns set a foundation for the domed tower that rises from the center of Smt. Pratibha Devisingh Patil’s current home.
Constructed next to the famous “Forbidden City,” the modern headquarters of China’s Communist Party is housed within the walls of Zhongnanhai
. Closed to the general public since the Tianmen Square protests of 1989, China’s new forbidden complex has gained a sort of mythical reputation among those who only know it as a lake and palace-filled center of power. The three lakes that take up much of the space within the walls of Zhongnanhai were built as part of an irrigation project for the Forbidden City next door. China’s President, Hu Jintao, has taken to constructing presidential palaces for other countries. A 60,000sqft executive building in the African nation of Togo was entirely financed and designed by the Chinese government. Recently, Sudanese officials announced that President Jintao had agreed to finance the construction of yet another palace for an African government. Just as wealthy parents build academic buildings for the colleges that accept their children as students, perhaps President Jintao is taking an expensive and long-lasting approach to assuring the acceptance of political “application”.
The “Palacio da Alvorada (Palace of Dawn)” was completed in 1958 and is the home to Brazil’s current President, Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva
. A basement, landing, and second floor make up the three levels of what looks like a sprawling glass box held up by exterior arches and pylons. The palace sits on a peninsula jutting into Lake Paranoa. A Cheschiatti sculpture is reflected by the olympic-sized heated swimming pool. Unlike many Presidential Palaces, where the President both lives and works, the Palace of Dawn serves only as a residence. Mr. President da Silva works and plays football with friends at the Palacio do Planalto
and travels the 7km to his lakeside palace to join his wife, Marisa, and their 70+ member residential staff.
The president of Mexico, Felipe Calderon, lives and conducts most of his work at “Los Pinos
“, the presidential residence located in the middle of Mexico City. The sprawling steps that sweep up toward a two level entrance join the two story boxy design of a residence reminiscent of America’s White House. Unlike the White House with its furnishings collected over the years, Los Pinos’ light-filled rooms have an empty
feel to them. As if the president is ready for another revolution and has already put his important belongings in storage.
The “Malacanang Palace” is pictured on the back of the 20-peso bill and houses the current president of the Phillipines, Maria Macapagal-Arroyo. Paying true homage to its watery country, the palace is built along the north shore of the Pasig river
. Over the years, the palace has grown from a single building into a complex. The Bonifacio, Kalayaan, and Mabini halls serve as administration offices and function halls. A consistent cycle of political upheaval and unrest has led to the Palace closing its doors to all but invited guests and dignitaries.
The Presidential Palace of Vietnam was built in 1906 to house the colonial French governor. The three-story yellow palace is of remarkably European design
. Incorporating many aspects of buildings from the Italian Renaissance, the structure was rejected by Ho Chi Minh when he gained power after Vietnam won her independence from the French in 1954. He chose to live in a traditional Vietnamese stilt building near a pond constructed on the same grounds. The original Palace is still used for State functions.
The first section of “Istana Merdeka
” was built in 1796 as a Dutch businessman’s retreat house. Many presidential palaces have undergone extensive renovations. The American White House was gutted and fitted with a new frame. Germany’s Charlottenburg Palace has changed shape many times. But none have been so dramatically reduced as when Istana Merdeka had its entire second floor demolished and a new roof affixed to the expanded first floor. The current building is an expansive single-story white structure with a field of steps leading up to the Greek columns that support the entrance.
Once the home to the governor of East Pakistan, the “Bangabhaban
” or “House of Bangladesh
” has housed the President of Bangladesh since 1971. The massive white palace with soaring dome and white exterior has been called “Bangladesh’s White House” by many visitors viewing the structure amid its expansive, well manicured, garden surroundings. With a living room to go with every bedroom in the palace, the President’s house is an expansive design ready to welcome distinguished visitors out of the hot sun. Lajuddin Ahmed has served as President of Bangledesh since September of 2002.
If you, as China’s President Hu Jintao has been doing lately for African nations, could order the design and construction of palace for your own use, is there a particular characteristic or design you enjoy?
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