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Building Castles in the Sky: 5 construction projects we dream we had worked on


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Every architect, engineer or builder has construction-envy from time to time; it’s par for the course in this industry. And as projects become more ambitious, and towers become taller, sometimes turning a shade of green is the standard when remarking on a new building or appreciating an old one. So here is our rundown of five buildings we wish we had had a hand in.

1. The Home Insurance Building, Chicago, USA

By today’s standards, as skyscrapers go, Chicago’s Home Insurance Building was positively measly. Standing a humble 42 metres high, in 1885 it was pioneering in two ways: not only was it the tallest building in the world, it was also the very first skyscraper. Designed by William Le Baron Jenney, the building was the first tall structure to consist of a frame made of structural steel, supported both inside and out. It’s difficult to overestimate how influential the building and its designer have been, shaping the cities of the twentieth century and beyond. It’s something of an accolade to be involved in an engineering revolution and the Home Insurance Building revolutionised modern architecture. It was demolished in 1931 and is the only building in our collection that isn’t still standing today.

The Home Insurance Building, Chicago, USA

 2. The Burj Khalifa, Dubai, UAE

From the world’s first, to today’s tallest. The Emiratis have, in the past decade, excelled and indulged in creating superlatives. The biggest, gaudiest and most expensive things you can imagine in the world- all contributing to the audacious spectacle that is the UAE. And the Burj Khalifa is no exception. Costing a cool $1.5 billion to build, the tallest structure in the world opened its shiny doors in 2010 to huge fanfare. Standing at a dizzying 829.8 metres, the tower’s design and construction methods were an innovation. From the reinforced concrete mat foundations, to the state-of-the-art exterior cladding, the Burj Khalifa embodies excess. Adrian Smith of Skidmore, Owings and Merrill was at the helm of this colossus, and took inspiration from Islamic iconography for the twisting spiral minaret design.

The Burj Khalifa, Dubai, UAE

 3. The Great Pyramid, Giza, Egypt

The Middle East is no stranger to construction innovation. Dating from 2540 BC, the Great Pyramid at Giza is the next in our edifice dream-team. At 480 feet tall, the pyramid, built as a mausoleum to Pharaoh Khufu, is one of the Wonders of the Ancient World and is the largest pyramid ever built. Estimated to have taken upwards of 20 years, at the skilful hands of 100,000 (debatably) enslaved workers, the pyramid is made from around 2.3 million blocks of limestone, each weighing over 2.5 tons. The precision and alignment in which the pyramid was built, oriented almost perfectly to true north, has been the subject of intrigue and mystery for centuries. It is the combination of expert craftsmanship and scale, along with the disputed means by which it could have been erected without modern technology, that makes the Great Pyramid such a fascinating addition to our list.

The Great Pyramid, Giza, Egypt

 4. The Guggenheim, Bilbao, Spain

Frank Gehry’s now iconic 1997 construction, housing the Guggenheim collection in Bilbao, has won numerous industry accolades for its striking, unusual and location-sensitive design. The contemporary style reflects the gallery’s modern art collection, its curved lines expertly catching the city’s light. The stone, glass and titanium materials used reflect Bilbao’s industrial heritage and the building has been hailed as revitalising the city and the area. The chance to work on creating what is essentially a piece of art in itself to embody the essence of the building’s contents is what makes Bilbao’s Guggenheim particularly worthy for featuring on our list.

The Guggenheim, Bilbao, Spain

 5. Colosseum, Rome, Italy

And finally the daddy of all amphitheatres, Rome’s Colosseum. Built in AD70, the Colosseum was constructed as the symbolic centre of the Roman Empire. Featuring recreational spectator sports and gladiatorial conflicts, the stone and concrete freestanding amphitheatre could host up to 80,000 people at any one time. The sheer size and historical/cultural significance of this building makes it a definite on our wish-list.

Colosseum, Rome, Italy

Jeddah’s Kingdom Tower, slated for completion in 2020, at 1KM in height will become the world’s tallest building. And with ever more ambitious projects springing up all over the world, perhaps we will be building castles in the sky in the not so distant future.

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