Nature is responsible for creating some of the largest objects on Earth. Most notably the largest organism on our planet – the honey fungus in Oregon that measures 2.4 miles across. Yet, humans have made even larger objects. Brick by brick, piece by piece, these huge structures may seem impossibly gargantuan, but they stand as reminders of man’s ingenuity and dedication. Here are ten of the biggest man-made structures ever:
10. Great Wall of China
Around the 7th Century BC, small walls were built to protect parts of China’s empires from raids and invasions. As more and more small walls were built, they began connecting them to create larger walls. As centuries rolled by, the wall grew to be the largest wall in the world and earned the name “The Great Wall of China”.
Many people consider it one of the most impressive architectural feats in history. It is often the first thing that comes to mind when someone wonders what the largest objects on Earth are. The Great Wall and its branches add up to a length of 13,171 miles!
The longest tunnel in the world, the Gotthard Base Tunnel in the Swiss Alps is an impressive 35.4 miles long.
But you would have to drive the length of it more than 376 times to match the length of the Great Wall of China… They don’t call it ‘great’ for nothing!
While it’s often mis-mentioned as the only object visible from space, astronauts have revised this claim by stating that the great wall is only visible from certain low Earth Orbit positions with favorable conditions while other structures are also consistently visible.
© NASA and Earth Observatory
9. The Three Gorges Dam
The first idea of building a large dam across the Yangtzee River came to light in 1919 as a means of producing a staggering amount of energy due to the strength of the river. But due to years of war, government turmoil, and flooding in the area, the authority shelved the idea for decades.
Finally, in 1994, construction began on what would become the largest dam in the world and one of the largest objects ever created by humans.
It weighs 34 million metric tons and its construction required enough steel to construct SIXTY THREE Eiffel Towers and a truly mind-boggling amount of concrete… 35,600,000 cubic yards to be exact. To put that in context, the Hoover Dam in Nevada used a measly 21,000,000 cubic yards of concrete for its construction.
This marvel of human ingenuity generated 98.8 terawatt-hours of energy in 2014 – enough to power over 73 million Chinese households! – and has helped China not rely as heavily on fossil fuels.
8. New Century Global Center
With 18,000,000 square feet of floor space, the New Century Global Center has the distinction of being the world’s largest building when measured by floor space.
Located in the Tianfu New Area of Chengdu, China, the building houses many things. For example, there is a shopping mall, theater, water park, hotel, and ice skating rink. Besides, there is a nearly endless list of interesting and unique spaces. One of the largest draws is their huge indoor swimming pool with a 54,000 square foot sand beach and huge screens that mimic the sunrise and sunset.
Their slogan loosely translates to English as “The One of Everything”, which may sound boastful, but as someone explores the massive structure, they feel like it really does have one of everything.
7. Submarine Communication Cables
With all the gigantic objects mentioned, it seems silly to mention communication cables… but believe it or not, they are just as large as some of hugest buildings on Earth.
Submarine Communication Cables are used to carry signals across bodies of water to allow landmasses to communicate. In fact, they help us communicate digital data, like telephone and Internet traffic. The submarine communication cables connect all continents except for Antarctica.
While many people assume all data transmission takes place via satellites, submarine communications cables handle more than 95% of international data transfer due to their reliability. These cables are typically 2.6 inches in diameter and weigh about 22 pounds for every meter, which means these cables actually weigh around 80,000 metric tons!
The cables can be stretched underwater from far apart areas such as San Francisco to New Zealand but the world’s longest cable, with the catchy name “SEA-ME-WE-3” begins in Australia, head through many countries in Asia, then around India to head towards the Mediterranean sea where it touches nearly every North African and European country before going through the Strait of Gibraltar and heading north to finally end at Germany! Whew!
The total length of this section of submarine communications cables is 24,000 miles… nearly double the length of the Great Wall of China.
6. Bingham Canyon Mine
While we think of height and weight as factors to determine the largest man-made objects on Earth, it’s crucial to also think about the opposite. While we do not see mines, they can actually be gigantic!
In South Africa, the TauTona gold mine extends 2.4 miles into the Earth, making it the world’s deepest mining operation. To put that in context, you could take 4 ½ of the world’s tallest building and stack them one on the other… and not reach the bottom of the mine.
Not to be outdone, the Bingham Canyon Mine, also called the Kennecott Copper Mine, located Near Salt Lake City, Utah, is the largest man-made excavation in the world. Unlike the Great Wall of China, the mine is actually visible from space.
In the 112 years that it has been mined, it has produced more than 19 million tonnes of copper, which is more than any other mine in history. In this picture of the mine taken from the International Space Station, you can see the enormity of the mined area, lovingly called “the pit”. The small area near the reservoir to the right?
Bingham Canyon was once an entire town that was made up of the miners that tended to the pit and their families. As the mine expanded over the years, it ended up overtaking the entirety of the town, which was finally dis-incorporated in 1971.
To house new airships, a company built a huge construction hall in a spot outside of Berlin. This huge structure, named Aerium, became the largest building on earth by volume as well as the largest single hall without supporting pillars.
© PX Fuel
Unfortunately, the airship it was intended to house was never actually built and the company went bankrupt… partially due to the 78 Million Euros spent to build the unusable building.
A Malaysian company saw an opportunity and opened up a massive theme park inside called Tropical Islands. This popular tourist destination now houses many themed areas as well as the biggest indoor rainforest in the world!
4. Large Hadron Collider
Sometimes, in order to understand things at the smallest, microscopic option… we need something huge to help us out. The Large Hadron Collider was built in hopes of helping scientists answer some of the open questions in the field of physics.
To run the tests they needed to run, they needed machines and experiments that had never been created before. The Large Hadron Collider has many distinctions, such as: the world’s largest and most powerful particle collider, the largest single machine ever built, and the most complex experimental facility ever built.
Popping it into google maps does not show anything… so how is it so large? Well, the massive tunnel needed to run these tests is actually built underground.
CERN, the European Organization for Nuclear Research, built it on the Switzerland/France border near CERN’s headquarters. The circular tunnel is an astonishing 16.5 miles long and 12 feet wide. It cost around $5 to $10 billion to build.
3. Great Mosque of Mecca
With information extrapolated from the Quran, it’s estimated that work began on the first component of the Great Mosque of Mecca in 2130 BC. Century by century, leader by leader, the building grew bigger, leading it to currently be the largest mosque in the world and the second-largest building by volume in the world.
It surrounds the Kaaba, the holiest place in Islam, as well as other significant sites such as the Black stone, the Well of Zamzam, Station of Abraham, and Safa and Marwa. It’s a site of constant pilgrimage and has been expanded through the years to accommodate the massive amounts of people visiting the site.
The most recent expansion project began in 2007 and is still underway, meaning that it will continue to hold the crown as the largest mosque and one of the largest man-made structures on the planet. The nearby areas have also been built up considerably, which has lead to the world’s largest clock tower to loom over The Great Mosque of Mecca.
2. Boeing Everett Factory
To build something huge… you need a building that is massive. While Boeing’s $1 Billion 777X Composite wing center is big, and the Air Force’s 11.5 Million Cubic Meters Plant in Fort Worth, Texas is even bigger… they are not the largest building.
In Everett, Washington sits the Boeing Everett Factory. Construction began in 1967 for this Goliath that builds Boeing 747s, 767s, 777s, and 787s. At 13.3 Million Cubic Metres, it’s the world’s largest building by volume. It takes up a mind-boggling 98.7 acres of land!
In addition to being a place of work for over 30,000 people, it also houses over 150,000 visitors each year. To take care of its many employees and visitors, the factory now also houses the Boeing Employee’s Credit Union, several cafes, and a visitor center called the Future of Flight Aviation Center.
1. Burj Khalifa
The word “Skyscraper” was first coined in the late 19th century to apply to the new steel-framed buildings being constructed that were over 10 stories tall.
As buildings kept being built taller and taller, people created new terms to describe them. For example, “supertall” for describing those over 984 feet and “mega tall” for those over 1,969 feet.
But as skyscrapers keep growing, it’s clear that we may not know just how tall they can be. At 2,722 feet, the Burj Khalifa in Dubai, UAE is the tallest building in the world.
Due to its massive height, it holds a staggering amount of records. For example, it has the World’s Highest outdoor observation deck and the world’s tallest existing structure. Also, it’s the tallest structure in the world and building with the most floors and the world’s longest elevator travel distance.
Originally called the Burj Dubai, it was renamed to the Burj Khalifa after the ruler of Abu Dhabi and president of the United Arab Emirates, Khalifa bin Zayed. Khalifa and the UAE lent Dubai over $10 billion that the country needed to pay off their debtors and allow the construction to complete. The project cost about $1.5 billion altogether.
There have been mentions of potential plans to lengthen the top of the tower, partially due to the announcement that the Jeddah Tower, slated for completion in 2020 and currently being built in Saudi Arabia, plans to be 600 feet taller.
Naturally, we can expect another building to take the crown from Jeddah down the line as well. As we ask ourselves, “how high can skyscrapers actually go?”, it’s important to consider the X-Seed 4000.
The X-Seed was an experimental design intended to hypothetically show us how the tallest building in the world could be built. It garnered a lot of attention due to its unbelievable scale. The proposed height would have been 13,123 feet (or 2.5 miles) high… almost five times the height of the Burj Dubai.
If it had been built in its intended Tokyo location, the height would have put the X-Seed over 700 feet taller than Mount Fuji!
Why did the project not get off the ground? The overwhelming scope of the project certainly scared many away. However, practicalities like the cost of real estate in Tokyo was a huge factor. In addition, there were far too many questions regarding the practicality of the construction.
Is something this gigantic stable against the earthquakes that frequent Japan? How would the 1,000,000 inhabitants get around the building? A light rail system or advanced shuttle? And how about elevators? How long would it take to get up 800 floors?
While there are many questions and issues that arise, it’s important to consider that these similar questions would have been asked about the Burj Khalifa if the plans had been shared decades ago. The actual construction of the X-seed now seems impossible. But who know what advancements would make it possible a decade from now?
Do you think we will ever be able to build something even half the height of the X-seed? Have you visited any of these biggest man-made structures mentioned in the article? Do you think there is one missing from the list? Let me know in the comments below.
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