Although typically considered a practical building material favoured for its robust strength and extremely long lifespan, concrete is often overlooked for its aesthetic and artistic qualities.
Try telling that to the architects behind some of the structures on this list though!
1. Hoover Dam
The infamous dam that holds back the Colorado River on the Arizona-Nevada border is made from 6,600,000 tonnes worth of concrete, and serves to create Lake Mead – the largest reservoir in the United States. Not only is the dam one of the country’s most-visited tourist attractions, but the lake it forms helps to provide water and irrigation throughout the miles and miles of desert that surround it.
2. Burj Khalifa
Dubai’s Burj Khalifa was completed in 2009, taking over from Taipai 101 as the world’s tallest manmade structure. The needlepoint design was the brainchild of architects Skidmore, Owings and Merrill – the same team behind two other previous holders of the title, Willis (Sears) Tower in Chicago and the newly built One World Trade Center in New York. Among its many records, the Burj was created with the highest vertical concrete pumping for a building ever witnessed – 1,988 feet.
3. Three Gorges Dam
The second dam on our list can be found on the Yangtze River in China, and is a colossal beast that generates 22,500 megawatts of hydroelectric power. The world’s largest power station, Three Gorges contains over 27.2 million cubic metres of concrete. Despite its output, the dam has come in for criticism from all corners, with the overall cost ($26 billion) and the uprooting of millions of nearby residents among the accusations levelled at the China Yangtze Power company behind its construction.
4. The Pantheon
Not all the structures in this collection are modern monuments to industry, however. The unreinforced concrete dome of Rome’s iconic Pantheon remains the world’s biggest, despite being built over 2,000 years ago! A testament to the superiority of Roman architecture, the dome was created using lighter aggregates than standard concrete, which largely accounts for why the rotunda still stands to this day.
5. Boston City Hall
From ancient Roman architecture to a garish example of 1960s design style, the Boston City Hall remains the location of the city’s government activities despite being thought of as one of the world’s ugliest buildings. Others have vehemently argued this title however, proclaiming that the tapering-outwards effect of the structure, whereby it grows wider as it climbs, is a pristine example of the ‘brutalist style’ – one that conveys a sense of functionality and purpose.
6. Panama Canal
Prior to the opening of the Panama Canal in 1914, ships hoping to reach the Pacific Ocean from the Atlantic (and vice-versa) would have had to have travelled all the way around the treacherous Cape Horn. With the simple(ish) construction of one of the world’s most important – if not its largest – canals this problem was eradicated, yet a whole new host of issues were created. Not least among them; who would be in charge of this vital global trade link, and who is responsible for its upkeep now that it is handling far more traffic than it was designed for during construction.
7. Grande Dixence Dam
The final structure – and third dam – on this list, the Grande Dixence in Valais, Switzerland, holds the title of the world’s tallest gravity dam. The structure is a work of aesthetic beauty, situated high up in the picturesque Alps, and generates 2,069 megawatts of energy. Constructed from over six million cubic centimetres of concrete, the dam impounds the Dixence River to create the reservoir of Lac des Dix, which can hold up to 400 million cubic metres of water – most of which originates from the melting glaciers of the surrounding mountains.
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