The Millau Viaduct, France.

The Millau Viaduct, France.

An author explores five miraculous triumphs of engineering designed to make the mind boggle.

Just as the Ancient World is measured by its wonders, the modern world is defined by its grand feats of engineering and building technology. Never before have such wondrous projects been so possible. As mankind races into the 21st century, these massive monuments will attest to our ambition and desire to be bigger and better, bolder and more innovative. In no particular order, here are the five great feats of modern engineering.

The Millau Viaduct, France. Crossing the River Tarn in southern France, this spectacular bridge spans the entirety of a valley and is the tallest cable-stayed road bridge on the globe. It spans one and a half miles and is a sight to behold. Originally designed to relieve the traffic congestion from Paris to Barcelona, the bridge employed a new engineering technique to achieve perfection. Engineers built the towers first and then subsequently constructed the roads on either side. The roads were then rolled into the centre, a miracle considering the 900 foot drop!

The Venice Tide Barrier Project, Italy. Initiated in 2003, this project is aimed at keeping the magical mystery city afloat. Seventy eight rotating gates stop the sea-waters from entering the Venetian Lagoon when high tides and stormy weather is imminent. Each gate is a 6,500 square foot metal box filled with water. They rest at the bottom of the ocean and are emptied using compressed air. Once emptied, they rise to the surface of the water and block the sea from rising. Successful tests were completed in late-2013, with a view to deployment in the near future.

The Bailong Elevator (Zhangjiajie, China). This holds the record for the highest and heaviest outdoor elevator. Built into a cliff in a national forest, this 1,070 foot behemoth of construction ranks as one of the most daring engineering efforts ever. The three double-story glass elevators take two minutes to reach the top and carry 18,000 people daily! In 2002, doors were opened for tourists, sharing them with an unforgettable sight-seeing feast.

The Channel Tunnel. Also lovingly referred to as the Chunnel, this 32- mile underwater (rail accessible) tunnel links England and France by passing directly beneath the dividing waters. A joint enterprise between England and France, ground was broken in 1988 and the project was completed six years later in 1994. Trips between the two nations can now take as little as 20 minutes, and 7 million people use the tunnel each year. The tunnel is also safety proof, utilising a system of three tunnels- two dedicated to rail and traffic and one solely for emergency and evacuation access.

The Average Modern Home. When walking around a modern home, you can’t help but feel as though we are living in an era unsurpassed by any other. In the days of Julius Caesar, sewage and roads were considered futuristic. But now, it’s the baseline in what we might call residential engineering. When I built my house using Advanced Building Engineers, I got a real insight into exactly how much knowledge is needed in the building of a home. Engineering drawings, structural designs, consulting, site inspections, testing, and more are taken for granted in the modern age.

So the next time you’re sitting in your house enjoying yourself, or taking a quit trip to the country, spare a thought for the Ancients and the long march towards the modern age!

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