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The 7 wonders of the engineering world

11 August 2021

From the International Space Station to the Millau Viaduct, we take a tour of the landmarks that have made civil engineering history. 

The 7 wonders of the engineering world
The International Space Station. Image credit: Shutterstock

We’ve all heard of the Seven Wonders of the World, but what about the seven wonders of the engineering world? These amazing civil engineering landmarks– old and new— are sure to leave you awe-inspired.

The International Space Station

The International Space Station. Image credit: Shutterstock
The International Space Station. Image credit: Shutterstock

The International Space Station (ISS) is an engineering feat like no other. Roughly as large as an American football pitch and weighing in at around 925,000 lbs, this colossal project has helped us learn more about living and working in space than we could have ever imagined.

It was also a truly global effort: nations ranging from America to Russia provided parts for and assembled the ISS. The assembly alone took more than 30 missions.

The ISS aims to provide more information about space, facilitating further space exploration, including NASA’s Journey to Mars. It also benefits life on earth in several ways, from developing better vaccines to making inoperable tumours operable.

Travelling at 17,500 mph and orbiting the earth every 90 minutes, the ISS is an engineering achievement that is truly out of this world.

The Golden Gate Bridge

Golden Gate Bridge, Calfornia. Image credit: Shutterstock

As one of America’s most famous landmarks, the film-lovers among you might recognise the Golden Gate suspension bridge as a backdrop to the film A View to a Kill (1985).

Joseph Baermann Strauss originally designed it for less glamorous reasons, to connect San Francisco to Marin Country in California, which previously involved ferrying across San Francisco Bay.

At 1.7 miles long and painted in its signature burnt red, the Golden Gate Bridge was considered an incredible engineering feat when it opened in 1937.

It’s not just Hollywood who have an eye for it – it’s also the most photographed bridge in the world!

The Channel Tunnel

The Channel Tunnel. Image credit: Shutterstock
The Channel Tunnel. Image credit: Shutterstock

It’s been 27 years since the Channel Tunnel opened to the public. Queen Elizabeth II and the then-French President, François Mitterrand, opened the tunnel – a physical representation of Britain and France’s unity.

As the longest undersea tunnel in the world, the Channel Tunnel comprises three tunnels that run parallel to each other – two are rail tunnels, while the third is a service tunnel.

Although it’s considered a modern wonder, plans to create an interconnecting passage between England and France date back to 1802, with French engineer Albert Mathieu-Favier first proposing the idea.

Hundreds of years later, the British and French governments agreed that creating a link across the Channel was needed. Its inauguration would stimulate the economy and increase commerce and tourism – cutting the travel time between England and France by up to four-and-a-half hours.

Burj Khalifa

Burj Khalifa, Dubai. Image credit: Unsplash
Burj Khalifa, Dubai. Image credit: Unsplash

At 828 metres high and with 160 stories, Burj Khalifa in Dubai is the tallest building in the world.

If that’s not impressive enough, it’s also home to the world’s highest mosque, fountain, and observation deck. Designed by Adrian Smith, Burj Khalifa is in the 2km2 area known as 'Downtown Dubai'.

Following its opening in 2010, it's become the headquarters of numerous businesses, restaurants, corporate offices, and is home to 900 residents. In total, Burj Khalifa can hold up to 10,000 people at a time.

Its reputation has made it a major tourist attraction, with its observation decks and Sky Lounge allowing enviable views of Dubai by day or night.

The Great Wall of China

The Great Wall of China, China. Image credit: Pixabay
The Great Wall of China, China. Image credit: Pixabay

Celebrated as one of the most outstanding achievements of engineering and construction ever completed, the Great Wall of China was over 2,000 years in the making.

The wall only started to resemble today’s wonder when the Ming Dynasty came to power in the 14th century.

To protect China from Mongolian tribes, The Ming Dynasty ensured the wall was more robust by constructing it using bricks and stone instead of tamped earth and wood. T

hey also installed watchtowers, pagodas, and bridges, ultimately creating a formidable refuge.

At over 13,171 miles long and spanning 15 provinces, principalities, and regions, over 10 million people visit the Great Wall of China each year.

The structure is a testament to the phenomenal talents of Chinese engineers, but it’s also an excellent opportunity to explore Chinese history, enjoy the spectacular natural scenery, and snap some stunning pictures.

Hoover Dam

Hoover Dam, Colorado River. Image credit: Unsplash
Hoover Dam, Colorado River. Image credit: Unsplash

One of the most significant undertakings civil engineering has ever seen, over 21,000 men worked on Hoover Dam throughout The Great Depression, with an entire city – known as Boulder City – erected to house the workers.

Today, Hoover Dam is considered an incredible legacy.

It plays a vital role in flood prevention of the Colorado River, and its 17 turbines generate electricity that power 1.3 million homes.

Its role in American history, and its part in industrial evolution, make it a true wonder of the modern world.

The Millau Viaduct

The Millau Viaduct, France. Image credit: Shutterstock
The Millau Viaduct, France. Image credit: Shutterstock

Designed by British architect Norman Foster and French engineer Michel Virlogeux, at 343 metres (1,125 feet), the Millau Viaduct is the tallest bridge in the world.

To put that into context, that’s even taller than the Eiffel Tower! A multi-span cable bridge, the viaduct spans the Gorge Valley of the River Tarn in the South of France.

Like many of the engineering feats we’ve explored, the viaduct’s creation solved a problem.

By the 1980s, heavy traffic was causing severe congestion over the summer holidays, as many holidaymakers travelled from France to Spain.

The viaduct drastically cut down congestion, while making it easier for people to reach their destination.

As well as being kinder to the environment, the structure is a wonder to behold. It comprises eight consecutive cable-stayed spans that total 8,100 feet in height.

When Foster and Virlogeux announced plans to create it, many believed that it would be impossible to build, which shows that the world’s greatest engineers are real-life miracle workers.

  • Jessica Beasley, communications executive at ICE