“We shape our buildings, thereafter they shape us”. This famous quote by Winston Churchill perfectly describes the greatest construction feats of the last century. The 20th century was pivotal in building the most remarkable structures and developing construction technology that has continued to inspire us to imagine and build till today. The last century saw great feats of architecture, monumental construction, and engineering achievements that completely changed our built environment. Let’s take a look at twenty such constructional feats that inspire us even today!
1. Channel Tunnel
Opened in 1994, the Channel Tunnel is an underground and underwater railway tunnel that spans across the English Channel, connecting the United Kingdom to France. It is 50.45 km long and at its lowest point, is 115 m below sea level. It has the longest underwater section of any tunnel in the world. It was at the time, the most expensive construction project ever proposed.
2. Golden Gate Bridge
Spanning the 1.6 km wide strait of water between Marin County and San Francisco, the iconic Golden Gate Bridge was completed in 1937. It is a suspension bridge that was initially designed by the engineer Joseph Strauss in 1917. It is one of the most internationally recognized symbols of California and is said to be the most photographed bridge in the world.
3. Interstate Highway System, USA
The Interstate Highway System is a network of controlled-access highways that are part of the National Highway system in the USA. The construction of this system was started in 1956 and spans almost 77,600 km across the country. It was developed as a response to building a national road grid and cost approximately 114 billion dollars.
4. Empire State Building
Built-in 1931, the Empire state building is an Art Deco skyscraper in New York City. At 380 m tall, the building was the tallest structure in the world until the construction of the World Trade Center in 1970. It has become a symbol of New York City and has been featured in many films and tv shows over the last century.
5. Hoover Dam
Built on the border between Arizona and Nevada, the Hoover dam was constructed as a hydroelectric dam between 1931 to 1936. It is a concrete arch-gravity dam that was built over the Colorado River for flood control and water storage and regulation. Its construction was one of a kind at the time and involved thousands of workers to build the 726 ft high concrete megastructure.
6. Panama Canal
The 82 km waterway that connects the Pacific Ocean with the Atlantic was built in 1914. The canal cuts across the isthmus of the country of Panama in Central America and is a crucial conduit for maritime trade. One of the seven wonders of the modern world, it takes close to 11 hours to pass through, drastically reducing the time taken by earlier ships to go around the Cape Horn.
7. Sydney Opera House
Opened in 1973, the Sydney Opera House is a distinctive building in Australia that was designed by the Danish architect Jorn Utzon. The performing arts center’s design was the winning entry of competition, and the building was listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2007.
8. Aswan High Dam
It is the world’s largest embankment dam that was built across the River Nile in Aswan, Egypt. Constructed between 1960 – 1970, the dam was planned and built to control flooding, provide water storage for irrigation, and generate hydroelectricity to, necessary for the country’s industrial development.
9. World Trade Center
A complex of seven buildings in the financial district of New York, the World Trade Centre also comprised the Twin Towers, which were the tallest buildings in the world at the time. Built between 1966 and 1975, the buildings were targeted during a terrorist attack in 2001 and were destroyed completely. The site has now been rebuilt as the new World Trade Centre and holds a memorial.
10. Kansai International Airport
The Kansai International Airport is located on an artificial island in the middle of the Osaka Bay of Japan. It was built in 1994 to relieve the Osaka airport of overcrowding and sits on a 4 km by 2.5 km wide artificial island that had more than 10,000 workers on-site over three years.
11. International Space Station
Launched in 1998, the International Space Station is a modular habitable space station in the lower orbit. It was an international collaborative effort between multiple countries and is the largest artificial object in space, regularly visible to the naked eye from Earth.
12. Big Dig
The Big Dig was a tunnel megaproject in Boston that rerouted the highway through the center of the city. Built between 1991 and 2007, the project comprises a 2.4 km long tunnel and cost over 8.08 billion dollars throughout its construction.
13. Great Manmade River, Libya
This project is a large network of pipes that supplies fresh water obtained from the Nubian Sandstone Aquifer System across Libya and is the world’s largest irrigation system. Construction started in 1984, and the system uses a pipeline system to pump water across 1600 km and provides 70% of all freshwater in the country.
14. Chrysler building
At 318.9 m, the Chrysler Building was the world’s tallest structure for eleven months, until the construction of the Empire State building. It is still the tallest brick building with a steel framework and was built in the Art Deco style in 1930.
15. Montreal Biosphere
The Biosphere is an environmental museum in Canada. Built for the Expo of ’67, the geodesic dome was designed by the architect Buckminster Fuller. Built originally from steel and acrylic cells, the structure is 62 m high and is now an interactive museum site.
16. Millennium Dome
The Dome in London was built by architect Richard Rogers commemorating the turn of the millennium. It is still the ninth largest building in the world by usable volume and was designed to house the Millennium experience exhibition of 2000.
17. Pompidou Centre
The Pompidou Centre in Paris was designed by a team of architects including Richard Rogers and Renzo Piano. Completed in 1977, it is a multicultural complex and houses the Public Information Library and the Modern Art museum along with the Centre for Music and Acoustic Research.
18. Barcelona Pavilion
Designed by the famous architect Mies van der Rohe for the 1929 International Exposition in Barcelona, this iconic structure is known for its simplistic form, reminiscent of the modernist movement, and also houses the Barcelona chair, specially designed for it.
19. Itaipu Dam
Located on the border between Paraguay and Brazil, the Itaipu dam sits on the Parana river. Completed in 1984, the dam produced the second-largest energy output of any dam in the world in 2020.
20. Woolworth Building
Constructed between 1913 to 1930, the Woolworth building in New York City was designed by the architect Cass Gilbert. At a height of 241m, it was designed in the neo-gothic style, and its façade is mostly decorated with terracotta with the lower flows being faced with limestone.