When it comes to materials with real staying power, concrete is up there with the best. It’s produced by mixing stone, sand, cement and water, and it’s incredibly affordable and versatile. This relatively common building material can be fabricated into any conceivable shape and size to produce any type of structure. Concrete has been used for thousands of years and has been the material of choice for some of the greatest structures ever built.
Designers have long taken advantage of concrete as a material for impressive structures. Its components are easily prepared, too, so it’s easy to see why it has become the most popular and widely used construction material in the world.
Here are five notable examples of concrete in action.
The Hoover Dam
Dams are built to one of four basic shapes. There’s the concrete gravity dam, the concrete buttress, the arch dam and the arch gravity dam – all classic designs used around the world.
One of the most famous dams in the world, The Hoover Dam, was built as a concrete arch gravity dam weighing in at around 6.6 million tons. It is located between Arizona and Nevada in the USA, and it has become something of a tourist attraction.
Built during the Great Depression, the Hoover Dam boasts a wide base and narrower top. Its gentle arch faces the water, and it’s this feature that takes best advantage of the phenomenal strength of concrete.
The Panama Canal
The Panama Canal could be the most crucial piece of infrastructure in America, particularly where trade is concerned. The Panama Canal has supported the flow of goods between the Atlantic to the Pacific for 100 years, and its makers say that its construction required more than 3,000 tons of concrete a day.
This stunning man-made structure was mostly constructed between 1907 and 1914. It’s nearly 51 miles in length and is used by more than 230 million tons of cargo every year. Before the canal was constructed, ships had to travel around the entire continent; that’s 8000 nautical miles to reach the other side. The concrete walls that make up its locks are as high as a ten storey building.
This ancient construction, which is still used to this day, was built almost 2,000 years ago. Originally built to be a temple dedicated to the Roman gods, it endures as the largest unreinforced concrete dome in the world.
The Pantheon is a highly ornate circular building. It consists of a porch, eight large columns and a pediment; the triangular gable above the entrance. The pediment was constructed from more than 4,500 metric tons of concrete.
As one of the best preserved ancient Roman buildings in the world, it remains a significant Roman Catholic Church admired by thousands of people every year.
Petronas Twin Towers
The Petronas Towers were ranked the tallest buildings in the world from 1998 until 2004. They are an undisputed symbol of Kuala Lumpur and they have some of the deepest foundations of any building in the world. Incredibly, the concrete foundations for the Petronas Towers were dug to a depth of 120 metres.
The 88-floor towers are made almost entirely of reinforced concrete, along with with a steel and glass facade. It’s still the tallest twin towered building in the world.
Boston City Hall
Boston City Hall proves that concrete can be used effectively in unconventional buildings. In a 1962 contest, architects were invited to imagine a brand-new, forward-looking home for Boston’s city government.
The building has cantilevered upper floors, and almost half of the concrete used in the construction of this landmark came from 22,000 separate pre-cast components. The remaining half was made from liquid concrete.
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