Mankind has long sought to show her dominance over all species on the planet through awe-inspiring structures. From the Great Pyramid of Giza that was constructed over 4,500 ago to more recent structures like Burj Khalifa, humans have continued to push beyond our natural limitations, thanks to the application of sound civil engineering principles (both in the formal and informal sense).
Although thousands of new civil engineering projects are daily completed around the world, only a few stand out as unique and outrageous endeavors; exceeding all standard sizes, complexities, and manpower. They’ve stood the test of time, inspired us and will inspire generations to come, proving that nothing is beyond reach with the right idea, team, and expertise.
Here are our Top 10 Civil Engineering marvels.
#10 Quigdao Haiwan Bridge
At about 41.48 km (25.84 mi) in length, this bridge held the Guinness World Record for the longest bridge over water for over 7 years. Located in Eastern China, it was designed by Shandong Gaosu Group, and it took over 10,000 people to get it completed in 4 years. Because it connects the city of Quindao with the suburbs of Huangdao across Jiaozuo Bay, it is also referred to as Jaiozuo Bay Bridge. This magnitude of the bridge is succinctly captured in its construction cost, which was about $1.5 billion.
#9 Burj Khalifa
At 829.8 m(2,722 ft), Burj Khalifa is the tallest structure and building in the world, a record it had held since its completion in 2009. This wonder was designed by Skidmore, Owings, and Merrill (SOM), the designers of the One World Trade Centre in New York City. Inspired by traditional Islamic architecture, this centerpiece is located in new Downtown Dubai development. The empty weight of Burj Khalifa is about 500,000 tonnes and it runs on 946,000 liters of water per day. The total construction cost was $1.5 billion.
#8 The English Channel Tunnel
At the time of its opening in 1994, The Channel Tunnel was the most expensive structure ever completed at $21 billion. This 50.45 km railway tunnel connects Folkestone (Kent, England) with Coquelles (Hauts-de-France, France) beneath the English Channel at the Strait of Dover. It holds the record for the longest undersea tunnel and is one of the longest tunnels in the world, second only to the Seikan Tunnel in Japan.
#7 The Golden Gate Bridge
Opened in 1937, the Golden Gate Bridge is an iconic suspension bridge connecting the city of San Francisco to Marin County, California. It was designed by Joseph Strauss in 1917 and declared one of the Wonders of the Modern World by the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE). It may be the most popular and certainly the most photographed bridge in the world. This 1.7 mi (2.7 km) bridge was constructed from steel and it cost more than $35 million ($514 million in 2018 dollars).
#6 Hoover Dam
This is a great example of a concrete arch-gravity dam. It sits in the Black Canyon of the Colorado River. Constructed during the Great Depression between 1931 and 1936, it was originally named Boulder Dam before it was renamed Hoover Dam for President Herbert Hoover in 1947. The total construction cost was about $49 million ($750 million today) and over 100 workers paid the ultimate price. The dam forms the largest man-made lake in the Western Hemisphere and it generates 4 billion kWh of energy yearly.
#5 Panama Canal
Panama Canal is a lock-type canal owned and administered by the Republic of Panama. It connects the Atlantic and Pacific oceans through the narrow Isthmus of Panama and is a conduit for maritime trade. Construction began in 1881 and was completed in 1914, though there were breaks in-between. Ballpark estimates suggest a total construction of $639 million (1914 dollars), which is about $16 billion in today’s worth. It was one of the largest and most difficult engineering projects ever taken and was ranked as one of the seven wonders of the modern world by ASCE.
#4 Brooklyn Bridge
At the time of its completion is 1883, Brooklyn Bridge was the first fixed crossing across East River in New York City and the longest suspension bridge in the world. It was designed by John A.Roebling and his son, Washington, oversaw the construction after John passed away. The bridge is a hybrid suspension bridge that connects the boroughs of Manhattan and Brooklyn. The bridge’s construction took 14 years and cost $15 million ($380 million in today’s dollar).
#3 Aqueduct of Segovia
Segovia aqueduct is a water-conveyance structure built under the Roman emperor, Trajan (reigned 98 to 117 CE), with part of the original still in use today. It is a classic example of Roman water transport architecture and was used to supply water from the Frio River to the city right into the 20th century. At its maximum height, the remaining portion of the structure stands at 28.5 meters. Along the 14 km length, the aqueduct adjusts to the contours of the landscape, creating a sense of grandeur and monumentality.
#2 The Great Wall of China
A collection of fortification walls, the Great Wall of China spans about 21,196 km (13,170 mi) and it has stood for over 2,000 years. This wall is designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site and it attracts tourists from all walks of life. Originally conceived for defense and border controls, the wall turned out to be one of the most impressive architectural feats in human history. What is less known is the mortar connecting stones of the wall was made from rice flour. Although no direct reference to the construction cost exists, it is estimated it may have cost between $13 to 95 billion.
#1 The Great Pyramid of Giza
This ancient Egyptian structure is over 4,500 years. It is the oldest of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World, and the only one to remain intact! Moreover, it stood as the tallest man-made structure for the next 3,800 years! It’s easy to see why it tops our list. It consists of three pyramids in the Giza pyramid complex in present-day El Giza, Cairo. The consensus is that the pyramid was built to house the tomb of Khufu, an Egyptian pharaoh that ruled in the 4th dynasty. If it were to be constructed today, it would cost a whopping $1.2 billion.
There you have it; our top 10 famous civil engineering projects of all time. It’s truly inspiring what the human mind can conceive and achieve. And as we continue to push our limits in terms of engineering, technology, science, and more, it’s hard to imagine what structures of the future would be made from or look like. But we know it’ll be awe-inspiring and incomprehensible to the average mind.
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