Seen the Seven Wonders of Old? Meet Their Younger Siblings

Check out these impressive man-made wonders that push the limits of modern engineering.
Kashyap Vyas
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Civil engineering has continued to astound and intrigue people through the ages. With recent technological advancements, we see a sharp increase in architectural marvels, including breathtaking bridges and previously-unfathomable buildings around the world.

The accomplishments of creative civil engineers can be seen all throughout human history. The Seven Wonders of the World have captivated people of all kinds for centuries. 


Let’s check out some of the engineering marvels of the modern world that have not failed to capture the minds and hearts of humanity, while upholding and pushing forward all that we knew civil engineers could do!

1. Capital Gate

Capital Gate Tower, Abu Dhabi
Source: Edgar El/Wikimedia Commons

Famously known as the Leaning Tower of Abu-Dhabi, this skyscraper holds the title ‘World’s furthest leaning man-made tower’ in the Guinness Book of World Records. The Capital Gate building is 160 meters tall and has 35 stories, but the major highlight is that the tower leans at an impressive 18 degrees to the west, which is four times more than the Leaning Tower of Pisa.

Construction of this civil engineering marvel was started in 2007 and took five years to complete. Beyond being a unique tourist attraction, the tower has 16,000 square meters of usable office space as well and hosts the Abu Dhabi National Exhibition Center. 

Structurally, the foundation of this building has a dense mesh of reinforced steel, 490 pilings dug 30 meters into the ground, and the building sits on top of a 7-foot deep concrete base. The core of the building uses a special design to counter the immense force created by the leaning angle of the building.

The central core basically slants to the direction opposite to that of the lean, and it straightens out towards the top. Furthermore, the structure has a unique funnel shape that, together with the central core, can handle the lean.

Because of the innovative funnel shape, each of the hotel rooms in the building is different in size and shape, and the floor-to-ceiling glass windows let the hotel guests enjoy the spectacular view from their individual rooms.

2. Laerdal Tunnel

Smooth-flowing and speedy transport arteries are a must in modern society to keep up with the pace of economic growth and development in urban areas, and the need for creativity in road construction has never been greater. In this sense, western Norway was poorly connected to the rest of the country via its narrow roads that were originally designed for the simple purpose of navigating fjords and mountain crossings, especially during the harsh winters.

When the government decided to improve the overall connectivity to western Norway to ensure shorter, safer, and cheaper journey routes for businesses, constructing futuristic tunnels became a hip and ergonomic answer to a common problem.

Under this initiative, the 24.5-kilometer tunnel road connecting Aurland and Laerdal was constructed as the world’s largest current road tunnel and is now considered a civil engineering marvel for many of its extraordinary features. Laerdal Tunnel was constructed over a period of 5 years between 1995 and 2000, at the cost of 1.1 billion Euros and has become a major trading route with over 1000 vehicles crossing through the tunnel on a daily basis.

The excavation aspect of this build was a major challenge for civil engineers. They shouldered the added burden of considering the fact that long and monotonous driving along a stretch like this can cause 'highway hypnosis,' wherein the driver tends to fall asleep and represents a major cause for accidents.

To avoid this phenomenon, and to keep drivers engaged during their 20-minute journey through this tunnel, Laerdal boasts special design features, such as small bends and gentle curves. It also divides easily into four sections called ‘mountain caves’ wherein each section is equipped with eye-catching lighting.

3. The Øresund Bridge

The Øresund Bridge, Denmark
Source: Marcus Bengtsson/Wikimedia Commons

This amazing piece of civil engineering connects Copenhagen, the capital city of Denmark to Malmö, a city in Sweden. In this 16 km stretch, there is an 8km cable-stayed bridge, which transitions into a tunnel at an artificial island named Paberholm, and this tunnel continues for another 4km.

This double-track railway and roadway is a result of the collaboration between both of the neighboring states and is jointly operated by them. Travelers must pay a standard toll in order to enjoy a jaunt across this bridge.

When utilizing this remarkable bridge, the train journey between Copenhagen and Malmö takes only 35 minutes.

The bridge has two 204-meter-tall pylons supporting the 490-meter  bridge across the Flinte Channel. While the bridge structures were built on land and towed to their resident locations by large floating cranes, the pylons were built ‘in-situ.’

The intersecting point between the bridge and tunnel is a human-made island constructed entirely from the material dredged from the seabed, and the tunnel opens up on the other end at the artificial peninsula, Kastrup. The dredged trench was created to make space for the tunnel, and it was built using concrete elements cast into the land.

Another interesting feature about this bridge is that it was built with consideration for the flora and fauna of the island and with an effort toward minimizing any disturbance to their natural existence. The island has become a gold-mine for biologists since it serves as a breeding ground for some 500 species of birds and is also host to a rare breed of green toad.

4. The Large Hadron Collider

The Large Hadron Collider is one of the most stellar examples of the importance of civil engineering in achieving scientific progress. In our fundamental quest to explain reality scientifically, we have broken down matter to the most granular level and, ironically, effectively studying the smallest of the particles that constitute matter requires one gigantic tool.

The structure is built around 100 meters underground near Geneva, and this scientific instrument is gargantuan enough to span between both Switzerland and France. The tunnel that houses the instrument is 27km in circumference and weighs about 50,000 tons, equivalent to six times the weight of the Eiffel tower.

5. Channel Tunnel

The Channel Tunnel is an undersea tunnel of 50.5 kilometers that links the UK with France.

This is simultaneously one of the world's most impressive and pragmatic civil engineering feats as the Channel Tunnel links Britain and France via train under the ocean across the English Channel. The Channel Tunnel was a massive project that was taken up by five major construction companies from France and the UK.

In addition to the engineering manpower, a total of five banks worked together to fund the undertaking.

6. Delta Works

Delta Works is another mammoth project that demonstrates the skills and ingenuity of the engineers who worked on it. It is a group of dams, storm barriers, sluices, levees, dikes and locks that protect all the low-lying areas of the Netherlands.

These areas that are below the sea level need considerable protection from inundation. Delta Works protects these regions from the sea and is a project that is both amazing to behold as well as timely due to the ever-rising concerns of global warming.

7. Panama Canal

Panama Canal
Source: Roger W/Flickr

Finally, the Panama Canal is a feat of structural brilliance that must be mentioned because of its sheer gumption. This canal joins the Pacific Ocean and the Atlantic Ocean, cutting short the distance between New York and San Francisco by almost 4000 miles.

This civil engineering project was concluded in 1914 and is still considered to be one of the best engineering projects in history. The Panama Canal has significantly eased the journey of ships between New York and San Francisco, making trade and travel possible at a level that never could have been thought of before.


Initially, ships had to go around Cape Horn and travel 12,000 miles over a period of 67 days to reach San Francisco. 

In summation, these modern examples of the adroit and applicable genius of civil engineers serve as daily reminders of the necessity and artistry of the human minds populating that field. Whether you are looking up in awe at a skyscraper in Dubai or enjoying the view from a suspension bridge in Greenville, South Carolina, civil engineering exists at the heart of some of the world's most incredible human accomplishments.

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