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The Construction of 14 World Famous Architectural Wonders

It’s too bad that photography wasn’t invented until the 19th century, as we may never know how some of the ancient architectural wonders were constructed. The future generations are luckier, as people have been snapping pictures ever since, and the construction secrets of the more modern architectural wonders were well-documented on film. And while today we might be less interested in the technicalities of architecture and sculpture, it is still very curious to see how the sights that define the landscape of entire cities, countries and national identities have been created. On top of that, many of you, like me, probably just like looking and reading about vintage photos.

So, if you want to see some of the most famous architectural pieces in the world, such as the Statue of Liberty and Tower Bridge under construction, just carry on reading this article.

1. Eiffel Tower

Location: Paris, France

It is difficult to imagine Paris without the Eiffel Tower today, but before it was built, many people didn’t have a very positive disposition towards the construction of the tower. It sounds unbelievable today, but many artists even protested against it, claiming that it would ruin the Parisian cityscape.

construction of famous buildings Eiffel Tower

Despite the protests, by March 15, 1889, the tower was finished, becoming the highest man-made structure at the time, and the first modern building to exceed the height of the Great Pyramid of Giza.

Maurice Koechlin and Émile Nouguier were the 2 engineers responsible for the design of the tower. They worked for the engineering company called Compagnie des Établissements Eiffel, and the tower was named after Gustave Eiffel, the founder of the company.

2. The Empire State Building

Location: New York City, USA

This architectural icon is an essential element of New York and a must-see for tourists. It is a 102-story skyscraper executed in the Art Deco style.

construction of famous buildings The Empire State Building
The Empire State Building is 1,454 ft (443.2 m) tall, and it was completed by April 11, 1931 by Shreve, Lamb & Harmon company. Interestingly, it took 15 different drafts before the current design of the building was finally approved.
The construction of the landmark was scrupulously documented by photographer Lewis Hine, who captured not only the building process itself, but also the daily lives of workers. On the picture below, you can see a cable worker laboring away at a dizzying height.
construction of famous buildings construction worker empire state building

3. English Channel Tunnel


Location: English Channel, the Strait of Dover

The English Channel Tunnel always mesmerized me, as digging a tunnel under a massive body of water sounds crazy. It is one thing to build a very tall building or a long bridge, but this seems like a nearly-impossible task.

Still, several people suggested this idea, with the first known mention belonging to a French mining engineer, Albert Mathieu-Favier in the 19th century. However, this idea was put on hold until 1981, when the British prime minister Margaret Thatcher and the French president François Mitterrand finally confirmed the privately-funded proposal to build said channel.

construction of famous buildings Channel Tunnel


In 1988, construction began: 11 boring machines cut through chalk marl and created 2 rail tunnels and a service tunnel. The cost of construction was estimated to cost £4.65 billion, and around 15,000 workers participated in the project, 10 of whom had perished. The tunnel is around 50.45 km (31.35 mi) long, and it began operating in 1994

4. The Gateway Arch

Location: St. Louis, Missouri, USA

The world's tallest arch needs no introduction. The Gateway Arch is 630 ft (192 m) tall, and it was built by October 28, 1965, although the design and building process took over 5 years.

construction of famous buildings The Gateway Arch
Finnish-American architect Eero Saarinen designed the arch in 1947. Even today, the monument remains the tallest man-made structure in the Western Hemisphere. 

5. The Golden Gate Bridge

Location: San Francisco, CA, USA

The Golden Gate Bridge is the signature element of not only San Francisco, but the entire United States. It spans across the Golden Gate, which is a strait connecting San Francisco Bay to the Pacific Ocean. The bridge stretches out for 8,981 ft (2,737.4 m), and it was finished in 4 years starting from January 5, 1933.

construction of famous buildings The Golden Gate Bridge

Building a bridge over such a long strip of water is no easy task, and unfortunately, 11 workers died on the construction site. The architectural plan of the masterpiece belongs to Irving Morrow, while Joseph Strauss and Charles Ellis conducted the engineering design.

The Golden Gate boasts of being included in Wonders of the Modern World list as of 1994.

6. The Hoover Dam

Location: on the border of Nevada and Arizona, USA

Since the beginning of the 20th century, the first suggestions to build a dam to control the Colorado River in the region of the Black and Boulder Canyons were made.

construction of famous buildings The Hoover Dam

This would be very beneficial to the population, as it would control regular floods, produce hydroelectric power, and provide irrigation water. It wasn’t until 1928 that Congress authorized the architectural project of the dam, and the actual construction began in 1931, the peak of the Great Depression.

The construction process took 5 years and massive efforts to complete, and it claimed the lives of over 100 workers. Still, the dam is considered one of the most important accomplishments of the era, and it was the biggest structure made of concrete at the time.

The dam created Lake Mead, which is the largest water reservoir in the United States in terms of volume. The dam is 726.4 ft (221.4 m) tall and 1,244 ft (379 m) long.

7. The Lincoln Memorial

Location: Washington, D.C., USA
construction of famous buildings The Lincoln Memorial
President Abraham Lincoln was an extraordinary figure in American history, and, definitely, the one president worthy of a spectacular memorial complex. Surprisingly, it wasn’t until 1922, almost 60 years after the president’s assassination that the Lincoln Memorial was completed.
It needs to be mentioned, however, that the Lincoln Memorial isn’t the first landmark dedicated to the famous president in Washington, D.C., as in 1868, only 3 years after Lincoln's tragic death Lot Flannery erected a statue of Abraham Lincoln in front of the District of Columbia City Hall.
The later Lincoln Memorial complex is much grander than the initial statue, as it takes up 27,336 square feet (2,539,6 square meters). It consists of a classic Greek style building, designed by Henry Bacon, and a 19 feet (5.8 m) tall statue the president resting on a chair, carved out of Georgia white marble by Daniel Chester French.

8. Manhattan Bridge

Location: New York City, USA

construction of famous buildings Manhattan Bridge
Yet another busy tourist attraction in New York and the second suspension bridge on our list, the Manhattan Bridge is considered to be one of the forerunners in modern bridge design.
At the same time, it is one of the most picturesque landmarks in the city, with thousands of tourists lining up to snap a photo of the triumphal arch and columns adorning the entrance from the Manhattan side. The bridge is 1,470 ft (448 m) long and 336 ft (102 m) high, and it serves to connect Lower Manhattan and Downtown Brooklyn.
Over 30,000 tons of steel, $22 million U.S. dollars, and 11 years of hard work were necessary to create the bridge, with construction ending in 1912.

9. The Washington Monument

Location: Washington, D.C., USA
construction of famous buildings the Washington monument
The world-famous Washington Monument still remains the world's tallest obelisk, as well as the tallest structure made of predominantly stone. It stands 554 feet 7 11⁄32 inches (169.046 m) tall. The obelisk commemorates one of the founding fathers of the American nation and the first American president George Washington.
The construction of the monument began over 50 years after the president’s departure, in 1848, and it was halted 6 years later, when it was less than halfway done due to financial difficulties. With the onset of the Civil War, the monument was abandoned, and construction didn’t resume until 1879.
After suffering a lot of financial and legal difficulties, the project was finally complete on October 9, 1888.

10. The Space Needle

Location: Seattle, Washington, USA
construction of famous buildings the space needle
The Space Needle is definitely Seattle's most beloved landmark. It was featured in film, art and literature on several occasion, and its interesting design attracts many a tourist from around the world. The tower is 604 ft (184 m) tall.
The observation deck weighs 8,660 tonnes, and it was built specifically to withstand strong winds (up to 200 mph (320 km/h)) and earthquakes (up to 9.0 magnitude). The Space Needle was privately funded and built by the Pentagram Corporation in less than a year, opening on December 8, 1961 just in time for the 1962 World's Fair that was held in Seattle that year.
The Space Needle today is considered a symbol of the Pacific Northwest, and it is among the most-famous U.S. landmarks.

11. Mount Rushmore

Location: Keystone, South Dakota, USA
construction of famous buildings mount Rushmore
The last famous tribute to U.S. presidents on this list has to be Mount Rushmore, an American icon and the face of American national identity (pun intended). Mount Rushmore National Memorial is a technically a sculpture, with the faces of presidents George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Theodore Roosevelt, and Abraham Lincoln carved right into natural landscape of the Black Hills near Keystone, South Dakota.
The history of the monument that reportedly attracts over 2 million tourists each year is as follows. In 1924, Historian Doane Robinson persuaded the sculptor Gutzon Borglum to create a model of the sculpture because he wanted to promote tourism in South Dakota.
The project was rapidly approved by the U.S. Congress, and by 1941 it was completed without a single fatality. You can see the model of the sculpture on the accompanying picture.

12. The Sydney Opera House

Location: Sydney, Australia
construction of famous buildings The Sydney Opera House
The youngest in our collection, the Sydney Opera House was built during the 1960-1970s, although planning began much earlier, in the 1940s when the Director of the NSW State Conservatorium of Music, Eugene Goossens demanded the creation of a suitable venue for large theatrical plays.
The architecture of the theater-to-be was proposed by a Danish architect Jørn Utzon, and it was destined to become one of the symbols of Australia because it was nothing like the world has ever seen with its then unique abstract lotus-like shape. The construction was split into 3 stages: podium, roof and interior, which took over 14 years.
Today, the building is on the list UNESCO World Heritage Sites along with other, equally-stellar contenders, like the Taj Mahal and Machu Picchu.

13. Tower Bridge

Location: London, UK
construction of famous buildings tower bridge
Tower Bridge is such an organic and essential part of the London cityscape, that it is nearly impossible to imagine the city without this marvelous landmark. In the late 19th century, when London was rapidly expanding, a need of a new bridge downstream in relation to London Bridge appeared.
The problem was that, simultaneously, the Londoners had to keep the access to the port for sailing ships in the Pool of London, which is located between London Bridge and the Tower of London. The solution was creative: a committee formed in 1877 decided to build a combined bascule and suspension bridge in London under the supervision of Sir John Wolfe Barry as lead engineer and Sir Horace Jones as the architect.
The unique bridge would be long and sturdy enough to withstand any weather conditions, beautiful enough to complement the grandiose architecture of the Tower of London, and capable of opening for passing ships. The construction finished in 8 years time by June 30, 1894, and the final product was 213 ft (65 m) tall and 270 ft (82.3 m) long.

14. The Statue of Liberty

Location: New York City, USA
construction of famous buildings The Statue of Liberty
This statue means and represents so much, it’s impossible to encompass in one sentence. It’s a symbol of freedom, friendship between nations, equality and unity, but also so much more than only that.
As many of you will know, the Statue of Liberty is a gift France to the United States, and it established a friendship between these two nations when French sculptor Frédéric Auguste Bartholdi planned and built the statue. The statue took years to build starting in 1875 from her right arm.
The Statue of Liberty turned out to be 151 feet 1 inch (46 meters) tall by itself and 305 feet 1 inch (93 meters) tall with the pedestal. Upon completion, the statue was assembled, and then disassembled in France. The pieces were then shipped separately to the US, assembled once more, now in New York City.
The assembling process was very hard work, with crews of workers, reportedly, laboring away round the clock for 9 years to complete it. Finally, the statue was unveiled on October 28, 1886, and it soon became one of the most outstanding architectural pieces of the 20th century and a hallmark of America.
H/T: boredpanda 
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