Humans have been building things for a long, long time. A lot of mind-blowing records have been set and strange and amusing schemes carried out over the thousands of years that we’ve been engaged in construction.
1. The Great Pyramid of Giza Was the Tallest Building in the World for Over 3,800 Years
The Great Pyramid of Giza is one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World, and for good reason. From its completion around 2560 BC to 1311 AD it was the tallest building in the world. Since it was replaced by Lincoln Cathedral in England as the tallest building in the world, no other building has held the title for longer than 250 years.
2. The Newby-McMahon Building is the World’s Smallest Skyscraper (40 feet tall)
In what is one of the most amusing cases of swindling investors in the history of construction, in 1919 a contractor named J.D. McMahon managed to raise $200,000 for a 40-foot tall skyscraper in the small but booming town of Wichita Falls, Texas. The way he did this, legend has it, was by never verbally stating what the planned height for the building was. The blueprints he shared with investors were marked as 480” (that’s inches, not feet). Investors and prospective tenants never caught on to the clever trick and assumed they were getting a towering, state-of-the-art 480-foot skyscraper.
3. The Hoover Dam Could Take You From California to the New York Island
The Hoover Dam was a truly massive undertaking during its construction from 1931 to 1936. To put it in perspective, the 3,250,000 cubic yards of concrete used in the construction of the Hoover Dam would be enough to build a two-lane highway over the nearly 3,000 mile stretch of land between San Francisco and New York City.
4. The Chrysler Building’s Spire Was a Secret During Construction
Back in the 1920s tall buildings were popping up all over New York City, so much so that constructing tall buildings became a competition of sorts. The architect for the Chrysler Building, William Van Alen, was locked in a heated competition with fellow architect H. Craig Severance (who was building the 40 Wall Street building) to see who could build the taller building. Van Alen wanted to ensure his building ended up taller than Severance’s so he made secret plans to add a 185-foot spire to the very top of the building at the conclusion of its construction. The addition of the spire gave the Chrysler Building bragging rights as the tallest building in the world—for 11 months (it was eclipsed by The Empire State Building in 1931).
5. It Took The Equivalent of a Small U.S. City’s Population to Erect the Burj Khalifa
The Burj Khalifa is the tallest man-made thing in the world – that means building, structure, however you want to categorize or slice it. Seeing as it is one of the largest undertakings in the history of construction, it took a lot of people to build it. Once construction hit its peak, there were over 12,000 people working on the Burj Khalifa every day. For a little perspective, approximately 80% of U.S. cities have a population fewer than 10,000 people—so it literally took a small city to construct a single building.
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