ArticlesTechnology10 amazing buildings that take your breath away

10 amazing buildings that take your breath away


The incredible Bailong Elevator, the artificial islands of Palm Jumeirah, the amazing Kansai International Airport, and this is not the whole list of amazing creations of engineering. Curious? Then read on.

Throughout its history, mankind has created a huge number of impressive architectural and engineering structures that attract many tourists from all over the world and symbolise the incredible power of thought, ingenuity and skill of their creators. These include the Egyptian pyramids, the Eiffel Tower in Paris, huge cathedrals such as the Sagrada Familia in Barcelona, the Statue of Liberty in New York and many others. But humanity is not resting on its laurels, and the capabilities of modern technology have allowed us to create many new amazing structures on our planet in recent years. Here are 10 modern wonders that will take your breath away.

Falkirk wheel

“The Falkirk Wheel is an extraordinary, unique rotating ship lift built near the Scottish city of Falkirk. It connects the Fort Clyde and Union canals. It is the first and so far the only structure of its kind in the world that resembles the popular Ferris wheel in its design.

Falkirk WheelThe Folkers Ship Lift is a unique and modern mechanical marvel. The 35-metre-high wheel enables the ship to cross the 25-metre height difference between the canals, which were previously connected by eleven locks. At the end of the 20th century, it was decided to connect the 2 canals with an innovative wheel, which became an inspiring symbol of the new millennium. The Falkirk Wheel was opened on 24 May 2002 by Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II during her Golden Jubilee celebrations.

The Falkirk Wheel is located in a natural outdoor amphitheatre at Rough Castle near the town of Falkirk, where visitors can take a ride on special passenger boats and visit the visitor’s observation centre located on the lower level of the structure. The centre provides a sensational view of the rotating mechanism through a glass roof, and the one-hour boat ride takes the visitor on a “spinning” journey to the top of the wheel and back. This is undoubtedly one of the most interesting engineering projects of the last decade.

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MOSE – Venice Flood Barrier

The MOSE (Modulo Sperimentale Elettromeccanico), as it is commonly known, is considered one of the most impressive and ambitious hydraulic structures ever built in Italy. It consists of 78 mobile dams at the three entrance ports that separate the Venice lagoon from the sea, which are raised to prevent water from entering in the event of prolonged high tides. In other words, these are 78 giant steel panels that protect the city from flooding when the tide is approaching. The work was entrusted to Consorzio Venezia Nuova, the sole concessionaire acting on behalf of the Ministry of Infrastructure and Transport and the Venice Water Authority.

MOSE-Venetian flood barrierThe baffles, which are essentially metal pontoons, mostly filled with water, are placed horizontally on the bottom. In the event of an emergency, i.e. when high water threatens to rise to 110 cm or more, compressed air is pumped into the caissons to displace the water. At this point, the partitions begin to float. The base remains hinged to the bottom, while the top comes to the surface, acting as a dam for water coming in from the sea.

Together with other measures such as bank reinforcement, embankment elevation, paving, etc., MOSE protects Venice and the lagoons from tides of up to 3m. Its first activation took place in 2020, when MOSE successfully prevented the flooding of low-lying parts of Venice. The entire project is estimated to cost around €5.5 billion and is due to be completed by the end of 2023.


The 50 km (31 mi) long Channel Tunnel, also known as the Eurotunnel, is a railway tunnel between England and France that runs under the English Channel. It consists of three tunnels: two for rail traffic and a central tunnel for infrastructure and security. The tunnel runs between Folkestone, England, and Sangate (near Calais), France, and is used for both freight and passenger traffic. Passengers can travel either in conventional railway carriages or in their own vehicles, which are loaded into special wagons. Trains can travel through the tunnel at speeds of up to 160 km (100 miles) per hour; the journey takes about 35 minutes. The Eurotunnel has the longest underwater section of any tunnel in the world at 37.8 km (23.5 miles).


The lowest point of the tunnel is 75 metres below the seabed and 115 metres below sea level. It is the longest tunnel in the world with an underwater section and the third longest railway tunnel in history.

Interestingly, the plans for the construction of this structure date back to 1802, but it took two hundred years for the project to be put into operation. The construction of the tunnel lasted six years and cost about £16 billion in today’s currency. The tunnel was officially opened on 6 May 1994.

In 2007, a rail link connecting the Channel Tunnel to London (High Speed 1) was opened, further speeding up international passenger traffic between mainland Europe and the United Kingdom. High Speed 1 is 108 km (67 miles) long and crosses the River Thames. Trains can reach speeds of up to 300 km (186 mph).

Bailong elevator

The Bailong or Hundred Dragons Elevator is located in the picturesque Wulingyuan district of Zhangjiajie, which is one of China’s World Natural Heritage sites. It is built into a huge stone wall in Wulingyuan. The main equipment of the Bailong lift was designed and manufactured by the German company Rangger Elevator Company, and its cost is 180 million yuan. The lift has been listed in the Guinness Book of Records as it is recognised as the “tallest, fastest, largest loaded open lift in the world”. In April 2013, the Bailong lift was named among the 11 best creative lifts along with the German aquarium lift, the American arch lift and others. It is the only Chinese lift on the list.

bailong elevatorThe Bailong lift is magnificent. It has a total height of 335 metres, of which the running height is 326 metres. 154 metres of the total height are in the mountain wells, and the remaining 172 metres are mounted from steel towers and other components. The lift consists of three exposition sightseeing lifts operating in parallel. Each lift can take 64 passengers at a time and has a speed of 3 m/s (since 2013, the speed has been accelerated to 5 m/s). If the three lifts operate simultaneously, the number of passengers transported in one direction will reach 4,000 per hour.

The Bailong lift enables people to enjoy China’s magnificent nature while providing convenient transportation for visitors. Passengers can appreciate the incomparable scenery, such as the view of the world-famous Yuanjiajie Bridge, Yanjiajie Park, etc. The lift connects the Tianji Mountain, Yuanjiajie, Jinbian Stream into a single whole, solving the bottleneck problem in this scenic spot that has attracted visitors for many years.

The Bailong lift provides visitors with convenient transport and makes it possible to move hotels and other facilities out of the scenic area. It thus helps to effectively protect the environment.

The lift ride takes about 2 minutes, and the entire structure boasts three Guinness World Records. These are the world’s tallest open observation lift, the tallest double-decker observation lift and the fastest passenger lift with the highest capacity.

Artificial islands of Palm Jumeirah

Palm Jumeirah is an artificial island in Dubai (United Arab Emirates), a place of private residences and hotels. From the air, the archipelago resembles a stylised palm tree inside a circle. The Jumeirah Palm was built in the early 21st century and was largely funded by Dubai’s substantial oil revenues.

Palm Jumeirah

“The Trunk, Leaves, Ridge and Crescent are the names by which the main sectors of Palm Jumeirah are known. A wide trunk connected to the mainland by a bridge serves as the entrance to the development. Another bridge connects the trunk to the spine, a narrow central axis from which 17 leaves emerge. The crescent is a breakwater that almost surrounds the rest of the island. It is divided into three sections to facilitate the circulation of seawater. A road tunnel connects the ridge to the crescent, and a transit monorail runs approximately 4.8 km from the mainland to the crescent through the ridge and the body. The crescent is 200 m wide and has a total length of about 17 km. In total, at least 560 hectares of new land was created in an area with a diameter of approximately 5 km.

The construction of the islands required 5.5 million cubic metres of rock, 94 million cubic metres of sand dredged from the seabed, and 700 tonnes of sedimentary rock. Unfortunately, these extraordinary structures came at the cost of significant changes to the local ecosystem, which negatively impacted animal and plant life.

Work began in 2001, and the land and basic infrastructure were ready by 2004. Construction of the buildings began in 2006 and the first residents arrived in 2007.

The islands are home to houses, shopping facilities, and several hotels. The villas are located along the long leaves, and most hotels and resorts are located on the crescent. In the second decade of the 21st century, Palm Jumeirah was home to at least 10,000 people.

Palm Jumeirah was to be the first of three similar marine projects in Dubai. The others, Palm Jebel Ali and Palm Deira, are much larger than Palm Jumeirah, but remain unfinished due to economic uncertainty. Also unfinished is The World, a group of artificial islands that, when completed, should resemble a map of the world.

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Kansai International Airport

Kansai is an amazing Japanese airport on an artificial island. Japan has always had a problem of land shortage. Therefore, when it became necessary to expand Osaka International Airport, it turned out that it was impossible. There was a residential area around the airport, and the Japanese people living there were already suffering from excessive noise. In order to solve this problem, it was decided to build the airport where there was enough free space – in the sea bay. And the Japanese were not at all embarrassed by the fact that this would require the construction of a huge artificial island on viscous soil.

kansai airportKansai is an unusual airport built on an artificial island off the Japanese island of Honshu. The island is 4 km long and 2.5 km wide and is connected to the mainland by the world’s longest two-storey bridge, 3.7 km long. The construction of the island required a titanic effort, and when designing it, engineers had to take into account the earthquakes and typhoons that frequently occur in the area.

To build the island, sand was first poured onto the seabed at a depth of 20 metres, followed by crushed stones. The transport of the goods was controlled by satellites and computers. Computers also constantly monitor the 900 pillars that support the entire island, adjusting their height accordingly.

Kansai International Airport has two runways, two terminals, and a cargo complex. More than $20 billion was spent on its construction. However, years of hard work and significant investments eventually paid off, as the airport has dramatically changed Japan’s air traffic.

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Three Gorges Dam

The Three Gorges Dam is a Chinese structure located in central China on the Yangtze River. It functions as a dam and the largest power plant in the world. It is also the largest concrete structure on the planet, with a width of over 2.3 km and a height of over 180 m. The power plant generates an average of 95 TWh of electricity per year.

Dam Three gorgesThe idea of building a dam was first mooted in the 1920s by the leaders of the Chinese Nationalist Party. But the idea of building the Three Gorges Dam received a new impetus in 1953, when Chinese leader Mao Zedong ordered a feasibility study of a number of sites. Detailed planning for the project began in 1955. Its proponents insisted that it would control catastrophic flooding along the Yangtze, facilitate domestic trade, and provide much-needed electricity for central China. The dam’s design was not without its detractors, however. Criticism of the Three Gorges continued throughout its construction. The main concerns were the danger of dam failure, the displacement of approximately 1.3 million people (critics insisted that the figure was actually 1.9 million) living in more than 1,500 cities, towns and villages along the river, and the destruction of beautiful scenery and countless rare architectural and archaeological sites. There were also fears, some of which have been confirmed, that human and industrial waste from the cities could pollute the reservoir, and even that the huge amount of water collected in the reservoir could cause earthquakes and landslides. Some Chinese and foreign engineers argued that several much cheaper and less problematic power plants on tributaries of the Yangtze could generate as much power as the Three Gorges and control flooding equally well. Building these dams, they argued, would allow the government to fulfil all of its top priorities

Due to these problems, work on the Three Gorges Dam was delayed for almost 40 years, during which the Chinese government tried to make a decision on the construction of the structure. In 1992, Premier Li Peng, himself an engineer, finally managed to convince the National People’s Congress to ratify the decision to build the dam, although almost a third of its members abstained or voted against the project. Jiang Zemin did not accompany Li to the official opening of the dam in 1994, and the World Bank refused to provide China with funds to help the project, citing serious environmental and other concerns.

Nevertheless, the Three Gorges project moved forward. In 1993, work began on the construction of access roads and electricity to the site. In 1997, workers dammed and diverted the river, completing the first phase of construction. In 2003, the reservoir began to fill, the five-level locks were opened to allow vessels of up to 10,000 tonnes to pass the dam, and the first of the generators was connected to the grid, completing the second phase of construction. Construction of the main dam wall was completed in 2006, and the remaining generators at the power station were operational by mid-2012. The ship lift allowed vessels of up to 3,000 tonnes to bypass five locks, which facilitated faster navigation past the dam. The construction was completed in late 2015, and the power plant started operating officially in 2016.

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Beijing National Stadium

We stay in China and move to the capital of this country, where there is the largest steel structure in the world, a stadium called the Bird’s Nest, designed by two Swiss architects. It can accommodate 80,000 spectators and consists of two independent parts – a concrete bowl with stands and an external metal structure.

Beijing National StadiumFrom a distance, the stadium looks like a giant prefabricated structure, like a huge vessel with a wavy edge. The outer shape follows the contours of the inner concrete bowl. From a distance, one can clearly distinguish not only the rounded shape of the building, but also the grid of the supporting structure, which not only encompasses the building, but also seems to penetrate it. But what appears from a distance to be a geometrically clear and rational overall configuration of lines, when approached, seems to disintegrate into a huge chaotic jumble of pillars, beams and stairs. The open space around the concrete bowl, which is crossed in different directions by platforms and passageways, provides natural ventilation for the stadium and is also a public area with restaurants, bars and shops. It is a link between the city and the inner part of the sports complex and, at the same time, an autonomous urban venue.

The roof of the stadium consists of intertwined metal beams, between which a strong transparent film is stretched, allowing natural light to penetrate. To make the roof weatherproof, translucent ETFE (ethylene tetrafluoroethylene) membranes are used, a material reminiscent of the soft fillers used by birds to fill the space between the woven branches of their nests. Hence the name of the stadium “Bird’s Nest”. The ceiling is covered with polytetrafluoroethylene, an acoustic membrane that reflects sound to maintain an enthusiastic atmosphere in the stadium and focuses the audience’s attention on the sporting events. To build this majestic structure, a special type of steel had to be developed. Initially, it was planned to make the roof sliding, but this idea was eventually abandoned due to safety requirements related to seismic activity. The cost of the entire building was around $420 million.

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Viaduct of Millau

The Millau Viaduct is located in the south of France and completes the missing link on the A75 motorway from Clermont-Ferrand to Béziers through the Massif Central. This motorway now provides a direct high-speed route from Paris to the Mediterranean coast and on to Barcelona. The bridge was designed by French engineer Michel Virlozho. This fantastic structure is the best example of combining great architecture with outstanding engineering solutions.

Millau ViaductThe bridge crosses the Tarn River, which runs through a picturesque gorge between two high plateaus.

The bridge is based on a cable-stayed system, with optimal spacing between the supports, making the bridge elegant and transparent. Its design has broken several records: it has the tallest pylons in the world, the highest road bridge deck in Europe, and is the tallest structure in France, having surpassed the Eiffel Tower. Each of its sections is 342 m long, the height of the pylons ranges from 75 to 245 m, and the masts rise another 87 m above the road deck, each section weighs 2230 tonnes.

According to conservative estimates, the construction of the famous French viaduct cost at least 400 million euros.

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Burj Khalifa

Our list is completed by the tallest building on Earth – the Burj Khalifa skyscraper in Dubai. It is an 828-metre-high building made mainly of reinforced concrete with a special coating to protect it from the high temperatures of the area. The skyscraper has 57 lifts, eight escalators, and an observation deck at an altitude of 555 metres. In good weather, even the coast of Iran can be seen from the terrace, which is 150 km away! Interestingly, the building itself makes little to no money. However, the nearby hotels and shopping centres more than make up for it.

Burj KhalifaThe Burj Khalifa observation deck is also located on the 124th floor at an altitude of 452 m, and the Atmosphere restaurant is located on the 122nd floor, offering magnificent views of the city. The Burj Khalifa consists of 163 floors with 900 apartments, a 304-room hotel, 35 offices and a three-level parking area with a capacity for 3,000 cars.

The Armani Hotel and offices occupy floors 1 to 39. The hotel was designed by Giorgio Armani himself. Those interested can buy an office or apartment in such an exotic building as Budrj Khalifa. The cooling and air filtration systems in the building are equipped with special membranes that not only cool but also refresh and aromatise the air in the premises. The aroma was specially created for the Burj Khalifa: it is supplied through special grilles on the floor. It is a real engineering marvel.

Of course, engineers, builders and designers continue to create new projects. So, perhaps, we are still waiting for many new wonders of modern technology.

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Yuri Svitlyk
Yuri Svitlyk
Son of the Carpathian Mountains, unrecognized genius of mathematics, Microsoft "lawyer", practical altruist, levopravosek
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