The wonders of civil engineering

Since the earliest civilizations, human beings have built structures whether they are to live in, to cross rivers or use as a place of worship. From these early builders who built such wonders as the Great Wall of China, the Pyramids at Giza and the Machu Picchu, gave rise to the civil engineers we have today, who are responsible for structures such as The Golden Gate Bridge, the Panama Canal, the Burj Dubai and the Hoover Dam. Although these structures are all exceptional, civil engineers are responsible for things we may take for granted such as, the homes we live in, the roads we drive on and the water supply we use at work and in our homes. Here are a few record breaking wonders of civil engineering.

How would you define a marvel? Is it something that makes you wonder, “How did they do that?” For me a marvel is synonymous with wonder and is something unique and astonishing.

Often we associate marvels with superlatives, such as “the tallest”, “the biggest”, “the longest”, “the oldest”, “the highest” and so on.

There are nature’s marvelous wonders, such as Mount Everest, Victoria Falls, The Aurora Borealis and The Great Barrier Reef, just to name a few.

But what about those astounding modern man-made marvels, which can make anyone gasp in awe? Engineering wonders, such as bridges, tunnels or railways that connect cities and even countries, a spacecraft that sends man to the moon or a skyscraper built to withstand an earthquake, all have one thing in common. They are made to solve a problem and to make life easier for humankind.

As technology advances and as man gets more creative and competitive, the list of engineering wonders will keep growing. For now though, we’ll share our top 10 list of modern engineering marvels in the world. Since it’s almost impossible to narrow the list to only ten, feel free to add yours—if you think it merits top 10 status.

1. Millau Viaduct (Millau, France)

Record it breaks: Tallest cable-stayed road bridge

With its spectacular silhouette lines—somewhat reminiscent of the St. Louis Gateway Arch–The Millau Viaduct, which spans across the valley of the River Tarn near Millau in southern France, is one of the most impressive engineering ventures in the world. The bridge’s highest tower soars to 1,125 feet, making it the tallest cable-stayed road bridge in the world. Interestingly, the Millau Viaduct’s tallest towers surpass the Eiffel Tower (986 feet) and are almost as tall as the Empire State Building (1,250 feet). It is the 12th highest bridge in the world at 890 feet high below road deck (The Gateway Arch is 630 feet tall) and spans 8,071 feet (1 ½ miles).

The Millau Viaduct, completed in December 2004, was constructed to alleviate congested traffic on the route from Paris to Barcelona during the summer vacation months. This modern engineering marvel was developed by French engineer Michel Virlogeux and British designer Norman Foster.

Remarkably the Millau Viaduct took only took three years to complete. Typically a cable-stayed road bridge is built in sections and then lifted and put into position with cranes. Since the bridge was close to 900 feet high, a new technique had to be used. After building the towers, engineers constructed the roadway on either side of the towers and then rolled the two sides into the center. The new technique carried several engineering risks but proved to be efficient in constructing the roadway. Click here to read more

Further information

What do civil engineers do?

History of civil engineering