Favourite incomplete monuments


The grand visions of those in positions of power (who often have a slave army at their disposal) has led to the creation of some magnificent, awe-inspiring, and occasionally-self-aggrandising monuments. But what about all those structures that were never quite finished, the incomplete monuments? The ones where the financier ran out of capital, or where the king was ousted from the throne, or died, or got distracted by another project, what of them?

These are some of my favourite incomplete monuments of the world.


Mingun Pahtodawgyi, Myanmar

King Bodawapa wanted to build a stupa. Not just any old stupa though, he wanted his stupa, which he was having built at Mingun, on the western shore of the Irrawaddy River, to be the biggest stupa in the world. Construction commenced in 1790 CE.

Mingun Pahtodawgyi, Mingun, Myanmar

Mingun Pahtodawgyi, Myanmar. Photo credit: Benjamin White


El Gigante, The Moai Quarry, Easter Island

El Gigante, the biggest moai on Easter Island, would have weighed one hundred and fifty tonnes if it had ever been finished – it lies half-carved in the Moai Quarry. If it were pulled onto its feet it would have reached twenty-two metres in height – equal in height to a six-storey building.

El Gigante, the Moai Quarry, Easter Island, Chile

El Gigante, the Moai Quarry, Easter Island. Photo credit: Benjamin White


Kalta Minor, Khiva, Uzbekistan

Kalta Minor is a landmark and symbol of the city. Mohammed Amin Khan ordered the minaret’s construction in 1851. He wanted his tower to be so tall you could see Bukhara from the top. Construction ceased when the khan died.

Kalta Minor, Khiva, Uzbekistan

Kalta Minor. Khiva, Uzbekistan. Photo credit: Amrita Ronnachit


Farhad Tarash, Bisotun, Iran

While its exact purpose is unknown, it’s thought that Farhad Tarash was created during the reign of Sasanid king Khosrow II. You don’t grasp the size of this strange carving till you are standing alongside it. It’s 36 metres high and 200 metres long (a standard IMAX cinema screen, for comparison, is 16 metres high and 22 metres wide).

Farhad Tarash, Bisotun, Iran

Farhad Tarash, Bisotun, Iran. Photo credit: Benjamin White

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