Every few decades, there has been an engineering feat that has made us truly believe in the power of human ingenuity in sparking social change and bettering the lives of people. Behind these achievements, there have been numerous remarkable engineers who dedicated their lives to creating these inventions.
The following engineering projects qualify as some of the most remarkable, because many of them achieved what was at one point deemed to be impossible and fulfilled the needs of modern day life by implementing audacious approaches to solving complex challenges. This article is a celebration of all those engineers who played the crucial roles in creating these amazing engineering feats.
Neil Amstrong’s famous 1969 moon landing was surely “a giant leap for mankind,” forever changing how we approach what other consider hard and the impossible. The Apollo 11 mission placed two astronauts (Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin) onto the surface of the moon, successfully defeating Russia in the rush to the skies. This event marked a definitive point in the 20th Century and at the time helped cement the United States above Russia as the ‘greatest superpower’ whilst firing the imagination of generations of children.
Before the Panama Canal was opened on Aug. 15, 1914, a ship traveling from New York and San Francisco would have had to sail around Cape Horn, a 67-day, 12,000-mile journey. The Panama Canal provided shortcut between the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans, reducing the same New York to San Francisco by 4,000 miles. Clearly, much the same way the Transcontinental Railroad reinvented shipping, the Panama Canal was a colossal engineering project which greatly impacted shipping between the two oceans by reducing the journey times immensely.
The Burj Dubai, which was christened Burj Khalifa at its Jan. 4, 2010 opening, achieved instant engineering marvel status before it even opened. This is not because it was long projected to achieve the world tallest building status upon completion, but because the height proposed has never before been attempted, and especially not in the type of environment it now sits on. The construction of Burj Dubai therefore necessitated the the building be designed to withstand the tough and windy terrain, plus the projected human demands on the building.
The design of the structure is just as impressive as the height, having many of the building’s sub-systems being record breakers themselves, such as the observatory lifts breaking the record for the longest travel distance between lowest and highest stop. The Burj Dubai towers above the surrounding landscape at a huge 818meters tall and has been built as a centerpiece of an urban development that will include homes, hotels and parkland.
The 160-plus-story Burj Dubai Tower is the centerpiece of a $20 billion multi-tower development located just outside of downtown Dubai. The Burj Dubai project consists of the tower itself, as well as an adjacent podium structure, and separate six-story office annex and two-story pool annex. The 3 million-square-foot reinforced concrete multi-use tower is predominantly residential and office space.
The Millau Viaduct is presently the tallest vehicular cable-stayed road-bridge that spans the valley of the river Tarn near Millau in southern France. The height of the bridge is an impressive 1,125 feet, 62 feet taller than the Eiffel Tower. The bridge was opened in December 2004 and crosses the Valley of the River Tarn close to Millau in the South of France.
The bridge was designed by Michel Virlogeux, a structural engineer. The project’s architect was Norman Foster, who was quoted as saying that the bridge looked “impossibly delicate” and was a “dialogue between nature and the man made.” Delicate it is, because driving atop this engineering feat makes one feel as though they are suspended in the sky. Rightfully so because the Millau Viaduct bridge deck is the highest in the world.
See a video on the construction of the Millau Viaduct.
The Channel Tunnel is the longest tunnel with an undersea section in the world. The length of the Channel Tunnel is 32.4 miles and links Folkestone, England to Coquelles, France. The tunnel itself was bored through a chalk marl stratum which was deemed a good material for tunneling as it is both strong and easy to excavate. The actual tunnel consists of three separate tunnels connected together by cross-passage links. Construction of the tunnel began in 1988 and opened in 1994 and has been rated as one of the Seven Wonders of the Modern World by the American Society of Civil Engineers.