There are projects, and there are projects. Part of the awe and majesty of something grand, like the Sagrada Familia, Eiffel Tower, or the Pyramids, is the understanding that these endeavors took the efforts of tens of thousands of people and myriad resources – and were completed successfully! Here are some gargantuan endeavors that can only be called megaprojects, both from the past and present.
Gotthard Base Tunnel
Why go over the Alps, when you can go through them? The Gotthard Base Tunnel is 35 miles long, which makes it the longest tunnel in the world. It took 20 years to build. To create the tunnel, 28.2 million long tons of rock were excavated from the Alps – this is the equivalent volume of 5 Pyramids of Giza! The tunnel is 7,500 feet below the mountain peaks above it – that is almost one and a half miles.
The Great Wall of China
Well, that is kind of a misnomer. It isn’t just one wall. The Great Wall of China is made up of many different walls, that were built over hundreds of years. Talk about megaprojects – this one took centuries! Constant expansion and repair of the walls was kept up until China outgrew their purpose…but in modern times, the Wall serves another purpose – tourism! Millions of people come to see the engineering marvel of the Great Wall each year. It is an impressive, and beautiful sight.
The Millau Viaduct
Some engineering megaprojects boggle the mind. This is a bridge that is nearly taller than the Empire State Building and the bridge is 890 feet above the valley below. It is a beautiful structure, too.
The Colosseum of Rome
The Colosseum was built between 70 and 80 CE by Vespasian and his son Titus. The Colosseum was an incredibly engineered building – it could host naval battles, horse races, gladiator fights, and more. A renovation included trap doors and pulley elevators that could introduce new fighters and beasts of prey into the arena at a moment’s notice – a trick that thrills crowds even today. The Colosseum held between 50,000 to 80,000 spectators, making it as large, capacity-wise, as the gleaming large football arenas we see today.
Leshan Giant Buddha, China
The Leshan Giant Buddha is 233 feet tall, and was carved out of the mountain between 713 and 803 CE. It was built to calm the waters of the river passing below its feet, as it was thought the Buddha would protect the ships passing by. This actually worked, though perhaps for different reasons than intended…so much stone was carved off the mountain and deposited in the river below, it altered the currents of the river which made it safe for ships.
The Itaipu dam lies between Brazil and Paraguay. Constructed by both countries, the dam has enough iron to build 380 Eiffel Towers. It supplies more than 90% of Paraguay’s electricity! The Itaipu dam hold back a lake with one hundred billion gallons of water. And it has a secret – a lot of the dam is actually hollow! The design allowed for the saving of 25% of concrete needed.
The Burj Khalifa
The Burj Khalifa is the tallest building in the world – and the grandest of megaprojects. It has 211 floors! Its elevators travel over a mile to reach the top – that, too, is a record. There are 62 miles of water pipes in the building. The Burj Khalifa is so tall, the sun sets later on its upper floors than it does for people on the ground. This led the religious authorities in Dubai to rule that residents on the upper floors needed to wait a few extra minutes to break their Ramadan fasts.