The 10 Most Impressive Civil Engineering Projects of All Time
With every day that passes, thousands of new civil engineering projects are completed around the globe. They might be as simple as building the foundation for a house or as complex as designing a suspension bridge that spans an entire river.
Once in a while, however, a very special type of civil engineering marvel gets finished that is earmarked to forever exist in a league of its own.
Civil Engineering Feats
Today’s infographic comes to us from Norwich University, and it counts down the 10 most impressive civil engineering projects ever completed by humanity.
These unique and extremely bold endeavors tend to exceed all normal standards of size, complexity, and manpower required. They transcend time and bestow wonder upon new generations, showing that incredible feats are possible with the right team, ideas, and expertise at hand.
Some of these projects were also included on the 1994 list of the Seven Wonders of the Modern World, put together by the American Society of Civil Engineers.
Meanwhile, the Great Pyramid is the only entry from the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World list.
Counting Down the Top 10
Here are the projects, going from #10 all the way to #1:
10. Qingdao Haiwan Bridge
This 26.4 mile (42.5 km) bridge was completed in 2011 in China, using 450,000 tons of steel and 3 million cubic yards of concrete.
9. Burj Khalifa
The world’s tallest skyscraper is one of many fascinating projects in Dubai. It reaches 2,717 ft (828 m) in height, almost a full 1,000 ft higher than One World Trade Center in New York.
8. English Channel Tunnel
This 31 mile (50 km) long tunnel is also up to 250 ft (76 m) deep, connecting England and France.
7. Golden Gate Bridge
This historic wonder connects San Francisco to the rest of the bay, and needed an incredible 600,000 rivets in its construction.
6. Hoover Dam
This dam formed the largest man-made lake in the Western Hemisphere, and it generates 4 billion kWh of energy per year.
5. Panama Canal
This 47 mile (77 km) long man-made canal was designed to connect the Atlantic and Pacific oceans to provide trade ships with passage between North and South America. It needed more than 60 million pounds of dynamite to dig.
4. Brooklyn Bridge
The first suspension bridge to use steel in its cables was also the longest in the world at the time of its construction.
3. Aqueduct of Segovia
This amazing aqueduct in Spain was made without the use of mortar, and is so well-preserved that it is still in use today.
2. Great Wall of China
What many people do not know about this enormous 5,500 mile (8,850 km) long wall is that the mortar connecting stones was made from rice flour.
1. Great Pyramid of Giza
This incredible creation is made of 2.3 million stone blocks, which required the constant labor of 30,000 people to build. It was the tallest man-made structure for more than 3,800 years.
A Final Note
The list represents the ranking as done by Norwich University’s civil engineering department, and surely there are other incredible feats that are missed by this ranking. Those would include projects like the Three Gorges Dam in China, the CN Tower, and many other worthy accomplishments.
A Visual Timeline of the Tallest Historical Structures
From the pyramids to the Eiffel Tower, our creations have scaled dramatically over the centuries. Which have been the world’s tallest structures in history?
Humans have been building things since the dawn of time. As the tools and technology at our disposal have improved dramatically, so have the scale and magnitude of our creations.
Today’s infographic from Alan’s Factory Outlet visualizes some of the most impressive feats of construction and engineering in a historical timeline of the world’s tallest structures.
The Stone Age: 8000 — 2570 BCE
We’ll begin with one of humanity’s earliest stone monuments.
Experts estimate that the Tower of Jericho in modern-day Palestine, took 11,000 working days to construct—roughly 30 to 40 years—and is thought to have served as flood protection, and to mark the summer solstice. According to some archaeologists, it also inspired awe to “motivate people [into] a communal lifestyle”.
View the full timeline by clicking here.
The next significant structure was built nearly 4,000 years later. The Anu Ziggurat (White Temple) is located in Uruk, the ancient city of Sumer. Towering over the city’s defensive walls and visible from afar, it symbolized the city’s political power at the time.
Egypt’s era of pyramids was ushered in with the Step Pyramid of Djoser. A few decades later, the founding pharaoh Sneferu is credited for the vision behind the three major Egyptian pyramids—the Meidum, Bent, and Red Pyramids of Dahshur. The different designs reflect both the engineering shortfalls and advancements experienced during their construction…eventually leading to the most monumental pyramid of all.
The Great Pyramid of Giza is the oldest of the ancient world wonders, and the only one that is still intact today. It weighs an estimated 6 million tonnes—and rising up at 481 feet (147 meters), it was unsurpassed as the tallest structure for thousands of years.
Cathedral Creation: 1221 — 1549 CE
The timeline below skips ahead over 3,000 years after the construction of the Great Pyramid, as the reign of cathedrals begins to take over, starting with the Old St. Paul’s Cathedral in 1221—which needed over 200 years to complete.
View the full timeline by clicking here.
The Lincoln Cathedral enjoyed its title of tallest structure for over 200 years, until the St. Mary’s Church in Germany was constructed. However, all three of these cathedrals suffered serious damage for some reason or another: towers or spires collapsed, the buildings caught on fire, or were struck by lightning.
From Churches to the Chrysler: 1569 — 1930
The construction of religious monuments continued well into the late 19th century, with the Cathedral of Saint Peter of Beauvais to the Cologne cathedral. Several cathedrals were originally constructed years prior, but only gained the title of tallest structure once the Great Pyramid had significantly eroded by about 33 feet (10 meters).
View the full timeline by clicking here.
The Washington Monument, the world’s tallest obelisk, was created in memoriam of the first U.S. President. Though the majority of the Monument is marble, its apex is aluminum and bears several inscriptions on each face.
The Eiffel Tower likely needs no introduction—the Parisian cultural icon became the tallest in the world in 1889. The wrought-iron lattice structure costed close to 8 million gold Francs, or US$1.5 million to build.
Finally, the Chrysler Building’s art-deco architectural style drew criticism and rave reviews in equal measure. Born out of a skyscraper boom in New York City, it was the first to rise above 1,000 feet—toppling the Eiffel Tower’s tallest title in 1930.
Bigger, Better, Glitzier: 1931 — Present
The “race for the sky” continues with the Empire State Building, an essential contribution to the classic New York City skyline—which cements its place as one of the seven wonders of the modern world.
View the full timeline by clicking here.
Between 1954 and 1991, the tallest man-made constructions were all TV towers, mostly located across the United States, and the Warsaw Radio Mast in Poland. That’s not to say there was a gap in skyscrapers during this time—in fact, it was quite the opposite all around the world.
Saving the best for last, the Burj Khalifa was completed in five years and costed a whopping $1.5 billion. At an impressive 163 floors (2,722 feet or 830 meters), Dubai’s incredible achievement shatters all world records for tallest structures—coming in at nearly 100 times higher than the Tower of Jericho, where this visual timeline first began.
The History of the World, in One Video
This epic attempt to condense the history of the world — including the rise and fall of empires — fits into a single video.
Throughout the history of the world, many civilizations have risen and fallen.
You may be familiar with the achievements of prominent societies like the Romans, Mongols, or Babylonians, but how do all of their stories intertwine over time and geography?
Visualizing the History of the World
Today’s video comes to us from Ollie Bye, and it attempts to integrate the histories of all major civilizations known by historians into a single, epic video.
Similar to the Histomap, it’s pretty much impossible for a video like this to be perfect due to biases and a general lack of data. However, it’s still a compelling attempt at showing global history in a short and sweet fashion.
Let’s look at some specific moments on the video that particularly stand out.
750 AD: The Umayyad Caliphate
One of the largest empires in history, the Umayyad Caliphate peaked sometime around 750 AD.
Conquering most of North Africa, the Middle East, and even parts of Europe (including modern-day Spain, Portugal, and France), the Umayyads commanded a formidable territory with an area of 11,100,000 km² (4,300,000 sq. mi) and encompassing 33 million people.
1279: Mongol Dominance
No history of the world is complete without a mention of the Mongols.
Nearby societies have always been on edge when nomadic tribes in the Eurasian Steppe entered into organized confederations. Similar to the Huns or various Turk federations, the Mongols were known for their proficiency with horses, bows, and tactics like the feigned retreat.
Under the leadership of Temüjin — also known as Genghis Khan — the Mongols conquered one of the largest empires by land.
The empire reached its greatest extent just two years after the death of Genghis Khan.
Later on, it fragmented into smaller empires that were also quite notable in the context of world history. For example, Kublai Khan — the grandson of Genghis Khan — even went on to begin the influential Yuan Dynasty in China.
1346: The Black Death
The video also shows other vital stats, such as an estimate of global population through the ages.
In the mid-14th century, you can see this number take a rare U-turn, as millions of people die from the infamous and deadly Bubonic Plague.
The Black Death — one of the most devastating pandemics in the history of the world — hit Europe in 1346, and it eventually killed 30-60% of the continent’s population. There is no exact figure on the final death toll, but historians estimate it to be somewhere between 75 and 200 million people throughout Eurasia.
1418: The Age of Discovery
The video also provides a 10,000-foot view of the Age of Discovery, a period of time in which European powers explored the world’s oceans.
This colonial period marks the beginning of globalization, creating wide-ranging impacts that set the stage for more modern history.
In the video, it’s possible to see European colonies develop in all parts of the world, as well as how they eventually morphed into the countries that dot the globe today.
Playing the History Game
While it is certainly ambitious, not everyone will agree that this is a successful attempt at portraying world history – even in the limited scope of time allotted.
One key detail that seems to be missing, for example, is showing the development of the indigenous societies that existed in North America for thousands of years. That said, it’s also not clear what data and records are available to show these maps over many centuries of time.
Despite the possible flaws, the video does pack a lot of information into a short period of time, creating a compelling opportunity for learning and discussion. Like the Histomap, it may not be a definitive history of the world – but instead, it’s a useful attempt that stimulates our appetite for more information about the world and the societies that inhabit it.
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