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Top 10 Most Impressive Civil Engineering Projects of All Time

The term engineering comes from two Latin words: ingenium, meaning “cleverness” and ingeniare, meaning “to devise”. For centuries, mankind has been using its intelligence to conceive, design and construct things which help us to solve life’s problems. There are many great civil engineering projects across the globe, but here we countdown the examples which are truly timeless.

1. Lake Pontchartrain Causeway

The Lake Pontchartrain Causeway in Louisiana (U.S) spans the entirety of Lake Pontchartrain and is 23.83 miles (38.35km) in length. Despite it being opened decades ago in 1959, it is still the longest continuous stretch of bridge over water in the world. The causeway is supported by 9,500 pilings and is so stable that it has suffered a minute amount of damage from major hurricanes and storms when compared to any other causeway worldwide.

2. Burj Khalifa

Standing at 829.8 meters, the Burj Khalifa in Dubai is the tallest building in the world. The building’s incredibly tall design inspired the creation of the ‘buttressed core’, an engineering structural system with a hexagonal core which helps to support higher buildings than ever before. The building was named in honour of the ruler of Dubai and president of the United States Arab Emirates, and its design was inspired by the patterns and structures of Islamic architecture. The structure cost $1.5 billion to build. The building has been a major feature in popular culture; it can be seen in the 2011 film ‘Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol’ and 2016 film, ‘Independence Day: Resurgence’. Burj Khalifa has broken numerous other records, including building with most floors at 211 and it has received immensely positive acclaim from citizens, engineers and architects.

3. English Channel Tunnel

The English Channel Tunnel links the shore of Kent in the UK with Pas-de-Calais in France. It has the longest undersea portion of any tunnel in the world, at 23.5 miles (37.9km). At its deepest point, it is 75 metres (250ft) below the sea bed and 115m (380ft) below sea level. It is designed to carry high-speed Eurostar passenger trains, international goods trains and a shuttle for road vehicles, making it the largest transport system of its kind in the entire world. When it opened in 1994, it was the most expensive project of all time, with the final cost of an astounding £9 billion. Despite other construction projects being more expensive in recent years, it still considered to be one of the highest-value engineering feats ever.

4. Golden Gate Bridge

The Golden Gate Bridge is considered by many to be one of the most beautiful bridges in the world. This $27 million project is a mile-long suspension bridge that spans a strait, connecting the city of San Francisco to Marin County. It opened in 1937 and was the longest suspension bridge in the world for almost three decades. The bridge is one of the most recognised and influential symbols of the United States and has been declared a Wonder of the Modern World by the American Society of Civil Engineers.

5. Hoover Dam

Constructed during the Great Depression, the Hoover Dam is a concrete arch-gravity dam in the Black Canyon of the Colorado River. The construction of the Hoover Dam impounds Lake Mead, the largest reservoir in the United States. It was such a large project that several temporary towns were built during its construction to house the thousands of workers who made it. The dam is named after President Herbert Hoover, cost the equivalent of over $660 million to build and was completed in five years, two years ahead of its schedule.

6. Itaipu Dam

On the Parana River, bordering Brazil and Paraguay lies the Itaipu Dam. This mega-dam produces more hydroelectric energy than any other dam in the world – measuring in at an immense 103,098,366-megawatt-hour (MWh). The energy produced by the dam is split evenly between Paraguay and Brazil, although it generates so much electricity that there is surplus energy for Paraguay which is transferred back to Brazil.

7. Brooklyn Bridge

The Brooklyn Bridge is one of the oldest bridges in the United States and was the first steel-wire suspension bridge in the world. Completed in 1883, it connects the boroughs of Manhattan and Brooklyn by spanning the East River. The bridge was designed and completed by two generations of engineers, John August Roebling and his son Washington Roebling, who took charge of the project when his father became ill. It cost $15.5 million to build. Originally called the New York and Brooklyn Bridge, as well as the East River Bridge, its name officially changed to Brooklyn Bridge after 30 years of being called that by locals. Since its opening, it has become a historic icon of New York City and is one of the city’s most visited tourist attractions. It was designated a historic landmark in 1964.

8. The Colosseum

The Colosseum is one of the most recognisable structures in the world and is the largest amphitheatre ever to be built. This structure is almost 2,000 years old and has a capacity of between 50,000 and 80,000 people, making it as large as many modern stadiums. This construction sits at the heart of Ancient Rome, Italy and was used for the entertainment of the Roman citizens. It has featured in countless examples of popular culture and is still studied and written about today.

9. Great Wall of China

With a history of more than 2,000 years, the Great Wall of China is one of the greatest wonders of the world, and one of the most visited tourist attractions globally. Whilst it is known to Western cultures as the ‘Great Wall’, Chinese people refer to it as Chéng which means both ‘wall’ and ‘city’. The intrinsic connection between settlements and walls in China means that they share the same term, so the ‘Great Wall’ to us, is the ‘Long City’ and the ‘Long Wall’ to the people of China. The Great Wall stretches from Dandong in the east of the country to Lop Lake in the west. The entire wall with all its different branches, measures out at 13, 171 miles in length. It isn’t possible to know exactly how much the wall would have cost to build, but modern calculations say it would be somewhere between $13billion and $65 billion.

10. Great Pyramid of Giza

The Great Pyramid of Giza is one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World, and despite being the oldest, it remains largely undamaged. It is the largest of the three pyramids in the Giza pyramid complex and was the tallest construction in the world for over 3,800 years. It is believed that the pyramid was built as a tomb for the fourth Dynasty Egyptian pharaoh, Khufu and was constructed over a twenty-year period. Many experts estimate that 5.5 million tonnes of limestone, 500,000 tonnes of mortar and 8,000 tonnes of imported granite were used to make it. Experts also estimate that it would cost around $5 billion to build a replica today.

Across the history of mankind, we have used our intelligence to create large, impressive structures and buildings. There have been many great civil engineering projects that have become historic landmarks and icons, but we consider these to be amongst the greatest. They showcase our ability to design and construct our own unique vision.

Every engineer will have a different opinion on the most impressive creations. Honourable mentions include: the Millau Viaduct, which is the tallest cable-stayed road bridge in the world and the Shanghai Tower skyscraper in China, which is now the second-tallest building in the world. It is clear that the future of engineering is bright, and as technology advances, we will get to see even more incredible creations.