I collected over 10 lists of the greatest achievements of civil engineering of all time from books, magazines and the Internet and combined them into one meta-list. The results are below – every work of civil engineering that was on at least two of the original source lists, organized chronologically. Note that there is some overlap with the Best Architecture list. For the same list organized by rank (i.e., number of lists the item is on), go here.
Great Pyramid of Giza (on 6 lists)
A monument made from granite with a limestone casing to house the tomb of Egyptian Pharaoh Khufu, the second king of the Fourth Dynasty of the Old Kingdom.
Dates: c. 2580-2560 BCE
Location: El Giza, Egypt
Dimensions: The pyramid is now 455 ft. high, but experts believe it was originally 481 ft. high. The length of each side at the base is 756 ft. The volume of the pyramid is 91.23 million cubic ft.
Architect/Engineer: Hemon (vizier to Khufu) (?)
The Great Pyramid of Giza is the only one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World that remains largely intact. The Great Pyramid held the record for tallest man-made structure in the world for almost 4,000 years, until c. 1300.
Great Wall of China (on 7 lists)
A series of protective walls and other fortifications along what was once the northern border of China.
Dates: Although smaller walls were erected as early as the 7th Century BCE, the first Great Wall was built during the reign of Emperor Qin Shi Haung (221-210 BCE). Additions, modifications and renovations occurred through the subsequent Han, Sui and Northern dynasties (206 BCE – 689 CE). After centuries of neglect, the emperors of the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644) undertook a massive rebuilding of the Great Wall.
Location: Dandong, China to Lop Lake, China.
Dimensions: 13,171 miles, including all branches.
Architect/Engineer: Original wall built during the reign of Emperor Qin Shi Huang (247-220 BCE).
Despite a persistent myth, the Great Wall is too narrow to be seen from space to the unaided eye.
Most of the surviving portions of the Great Wall were built during the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644).
Colosseum (Flavian Amphitheatre) (on 2 lists)
An Ancient Roman amphitheatre, elliptical in shape, used for public spectacles, contests and sporting events.
Dates: Original construction 72-80 CE; modified 81-96 CE; repairs in 240, 250, 320, 443-455, 484, 508 CE. Restorations in 1807, 1827, 1831, 1846, 1930s. Substructure excavated and exposed 1810-1814, 1874, 1930s.
Location: Rome, Italy
Dimensions: 615 ft. long; 510 ft. wide; enclosing six acres; 157 ft. tall; original perimeter 1,788 ft. Central arena is 287 ft. long and 180 ft. wide.
Architect/Engineer: Begun during reign of Emperor Vespasian (69-79 CE), completed under Emperor Titus (79-81 CE), and revised under Emperor Domitian (81-96).
The original design of the Colosseum allowed the arena to fill with water for mock sea battles. By 100 CE, the arena was redesigned for other capacities and the water battles were abandoned.
Aqueduct of Segovia (on 2 lists)
An Ancient Roman channel made of unmortared stone for transporting water that includes a bridge supported by tall columns.
Dates: 1st Century CE; partially restored in 15th and 16th centuries.
Location: Segovia, Spain
Dimensions: 9.3 miles long; 93.5 ft. tall at highest point
Architect/Engineer: Built by order of Emperor Domitian (reigned 81-96 CE).
The Ancient Romans constructed the Aqueduct of Segovia using granite blocks with no mortar.
Taj Mahal (on 2 lists)
A white marble mausoleum built by Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan for the tomb of his wife Mumtaz Mahal.
Dates: Work begun 1632. Substantially complete 1643. Complete 1653.
Location: Agra, Uttar Pradesh, India
Dimensions: 240 ft. tall; volume of 34,596 sq. ft; 42 acres of grounds.
Architect/Engineer: Ustad Ahmad Lahauri
The Taj Mahal is considered the largest mausoleum in the world. Mumtaz Mahal, who is buried in the Taj Mahal, was Emperor Shah Jahan’s fourth and favorite wife. She gave birth to 14 children, including Aurangzeb, who succeeded his father as leader of the Mughal Empire.
Panama Canal (on 8 lists)
A navigable canal connecting the Gulf of Mexico with the Pacific Ocean through the Isthmus of Panama in Central America.
Dates: Begun and abandoned by France: 1881-1894. Redesigned and completed by US: 1904-1914. Expanded by US: 2007-2016.
Location: Isthmus of Panama, Panama (formerly U.S. Canal Zone).
Dimensions: 48 miles long.
Architect/Engineer: The American portion of the project was begun during the presidency of Theodore Roosevelt (1901-1909). US chief engineers were: John Findley Wallace (1904-1905); John Frank Stevens (1905-1907); and George Washington Goethals (1907-1914).
A view of Miraflores Locks, located near the Pacific entrance of the canal.
The Panama Canal is one of Seven Wonders of the Modern World, according to the American Society of Civil Engineers.
Trans-Siberian Railway (on 4 lists)
A railroad that crosses Russia from Moscow in Europe to Vladivostok on the coast of the Pacific Ocean in Asia.
Location: Moscow to Vladivostok, Russia
Dimensions: 5,772 miles long
Architect/Engineer: Russian Minister of Finance Sergei Witte oversaw the construction of the railway under Tsars Alexander III (1891-1894) and Nicholas II (1894-1917).
The Trans-Siberian Railway is the longest railroad line in the world.
A map of the Trans-Siberian Railway and other lines crossing Russia.
Hoover Dam (formerly Boulder Dam)
A concrete arch-gravity hydroelectric dam along the Colorado River on the Nevada/Arizona border of the US.
Location: The dam spans Black Canyon over the Colorado River and includes parts of Clark County, Nevada and Mohave County, Arizona, US.
Dimensions: 726.4 ft. high; 1244 ft. long; width: 660 ft at base, 45 ft at crest; volume: 3.25 million cubic yds.
Architect/Engineer: John L. Savage, Six Companies, Inc.
Hoover Dam won a Monument of the Millennium Award (Dams) from the American Society of Civil Engineers. The dam impounds Lake Mead, which, when full, is the largest US reservoir by volume.
Golden Gate Bridge (on 4 lists)
A California suspension bridge that connects San Francisco with the coastal Marin headlands north of San Francisco Bay.
Location: The bridge spans the Golden Gate strait that separates San Francisco Bay from the Pacific Ocean. The bridge connects the City of San Francisco with Marin County to the north.
Dimensions: 8,981 ft. (1.7 mil) long; 90 ft. wide; 746 ft. high; main span 4,200 ft.
Architect/Engineer: Joseph Strauss, Irving Morrow & Charles Ellis.
The American Society of Civil Engineers named the Golden Gate Bridge one of Seven Wonders of the Modern World and also a Monument of the Millennium (long-span bridges). The bridge held the record for longest suspension bridge main span from 1937 until 1964.
Zuiderzee Works (on 3 lists)
A man-made system of dams and dikes, land reclamation and water drainage works that involved damming the Zuiderzee and reclaiming land in the newly enclosed water.
Location: The Netherlands
Dimensions: Eight separate projects comprise a total of 170 miles of dams and dikes. Created 407,724 acres of new land.
Architect/Engineer: Zuiderzee Works Department.
Together with the Delta Works, the Zuiderzee Works is one of the American Society of Civil Engineers’ Seven Wonders of the Modern World.
The Afsluitdijk Dam, which divides the former Zuiderzee (now the IJsselmeer) from the Waddenzee.
CN Tower (on 3 lists)
A communications and observation tower built by Canadian National railway company and located in downtown Toronto.
Location: Toronto, Ontario, Canada
Dimensions: 1815.4 ft. tall; 147 floors.
Architect/Engineer: WZMH Architects: John Andrews, Webb Zerafa, Menkes Housden
CN Tower is one of Seven Wonders of the Modern World, according to the American Society of Civil Engineers. It is the tallest building in Canada and held the record for the tallest structure in the world from 1976-2010.
Kansai International Airport (on 5 lists)
An airport built on an artificial island in Osaka Bay, Japan.
Location: Osaka Bay, Osaka Prefecture, Japan
Dimensions: The airport sits on an 1275-acre artificial island 2.5 miles long and 1.6 miles wide.
Architect/Engineer: Renzo Piano, Peter Rice (Ove Arup & Partners); Kimiaki Minai (Nikken Sekkei Ltd.).
Kansai International Airport won a Monument of the Millennium award for Airport Design & Development from the American Society of Civil Engineers. Unfortunately, recent measurements indicate the island is sinking at a faster rate than expected under its own weight.
Channel Tunnel (Chunnel) (on 9 lists)
A railway tunnel beneath the English Channel that connects the UK with France.
Locations: The Chunnel crosses the English Channel between Folkestone, Kent, UK and Coquelles, Pas-de-Calais, France
Dimensions: 31.4 miles long, 23.5 mi. of which are undersea; deepest point: 250 ft.
Architect/Engineer: Channel Tunnel Group/France-Manche, Maître d’Oeuvre.
The Channel Tunnel has the longest undersea portion of any tunnel in the world.
The American Society of Civil Engineers has named the Channel Tunnel one of Seven Wonders of the Modern World.
Delta Works (on 3 lists)
Massive construction project including 13 dams and barriers designed to shorten the coastline of the Netherlands and reduce the number of dikes necessary to control flooding.
Dates: Work began 1954. Major work completed 1997. Additional work completed 2010.
Location: The Netherlands
Dimensions: Reduced the length of dikes exposed to the sea by 430 miles.
The Delta Works and the Zuiderzee Works are among the Seven Wonders of the Modern World, according to the American Society of Civil Engineers. Shown here is a portion of the 5.59 mile long Oosterscheldekering barrier.
A diagram showing the 13 Delta Works projects with dates of completion.
Confederation Bridge (“Fixed Link”) (on 2 lists)
A curved multi-span beam bridge with a post-tensioned concrete box girder structure that connects Prince Edward Island with mainland Canada.
Location: The bridge spans the Northumberland Strait and links Borden-Carleton, Prince Edward Island with Cape Jourimain, New Brunswick, Canada.
Dimensions: 8 miles long; longest span 820 ft.
Architect/Engineer: Ballast Nedam, GTMI (Canada), Northern Construction and Strait Crossing Inc.
Building the Confederation Bridge required a constitutional amendment due to a provision in Canada’s constitution requiring ferry service between Prince Edward Island and the mainland.
Akashi Kaikyo Bridge (Pearl Bridge) (on 2 lists)
A suspension bridge over the Akashi Strait between Honshu and Awaji Island in Japan.
Location: The bridge spans the Akashi Strait between the city of Kobe in Honshu and Iwaya on Awaji Island in Japan.
Dimensions: 12,831 ft. (2.43 mi.) long; 928 ft. high; center span 6,532 ft. (1.237 mi.) long.
Architect/Engineer: Satoshi Kashima.
The Akashi Kaikyo Bridge has the longest central span of any suspension bridge in the world.
Chandra X-Ray Observatory (on 3 lists)
An X-ray telescope named after Indian-American astrophysicist Subrahmanyan Chandrasekhar that has been orbiting the Earth since 1999 collecting data.
Dates: Launched by crew of Space Shuttle Columbia in July 1999.
Location: The Observatory circles Earth every 64 hours in an orbit with a low point of 8,890.5 miles and a high point of 83,591.6 miles.
Dimensions: The Observatory is 45.3 ft. by 64 ft. and weighs 10,560 lbs.
Architect/Engineer: Riccardo Giacconi and Harvey Tananbaum developed the concept of an X-ray observatory. It was constructed by Marshall Space Flight Center and Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory (SAO) and is operated by SAO, MIT and Northrop Grumman Space Technology.
The Chandra X-Ray Observatory was the heaviest payload ever launched into space. The telescope in the observatory can detect X-ray emissions, which are not visible to Earth-based telescopes because they are blocked by the Earth’s atmosphere.
This composite NASA image shows a supermassive black hole at the center of spiral galaxy M81. The inset shows the X-ray image from the Chandra X-Ray Observatory.
International Space Station (on 5 lists)
A modular space station that orbits the Earth and provides habitation for astronauts of multiple countries to conduct scientific experiments.
Dates: First component launched 1998; first occupied 2000
Location: The space station orbits the Earth at a height of between 205 and 255 miles. It completes 15.54 orbits per day at an average speed of 17,227 mph.
Dimensions: The space station consists of 159 modules. The average weight of the space station is 919,965 lbs.
Architect/Engineer: NASA, Roscosmos, JAXA, ESA, CSA.
The International Space Station holds the record for the longest continuous human presence in low Earth orbit (15 years as of 11/2/15).
Falkirk Wheel (on 2 lists)
A rotating boat lift that connects two canals in Scotland that are at different elevations.
Location: Near Falkirk, Scotland. The wheel allows boats to travel between the Forth and Clyde Canal and the Union Canal.
Dimensions: The wheel is 115 ft. in diameter and the axle is 92 ft. long. The arms extend 49 ft. beyond the axle. Each of the two caissons can hold 66,000 gallons of water.
Architect/Engineer: British Waterways Board, Arup, Butterley Engineering and Tony Kettle (RMJM); M G Bennetts.
The Falkirk Wheel is the only rotating boat lift of its kind in the world. The design is intended to resemble a double-headed Celtic axe. See timelapse video HERE.
Bailong Elevator (Hundred Dragons Elevator) (on 3 lists)
An outdoor glass elevator built into the side of a cliff in a Chinese forest preserve.
Location: Wulingyuan, Zhangjiajie, China
Dimensions: 1,070 ft. high.
The Bailong Elevator is the world’s tallest outdoor lift, according to the Guinness Book of World Records.
Millau Viaduct (on 10 lists)
A cable-stayed bridge in southern France that crosses the River Tarn valley near Millau.
Location: Millau-Creissels, France
Dimensions: The top of the highest pylon on the bridge is 1,125 ft. high. The maximum distance from the road deck to the ground is 890 ft. The bridge is 1.7 miles (2460 m.) long.
Architect/Engineer: Norman Foster, architect. Michel Virlogeux, engineer.
The Millau Viaduct in France is the world’s tallest bridge.
Grand Canyon Skywalk (on 4 lists)
A glass-bottomed horseshoe-shaped pedestrian walkway that extends from the canyon wall and out over the Grand Canyon.
Location: Grand Canyon, Arizona, US
Dimensions: The entire structure is 65 ft. wide and extends 70 feet from canyon wall. The horseshoe-shaped walkway is 70 ft. long and 10 ft. 2 in. wide. The Skywalk is between 500 and 800 feet above the canyon floor.
Architect/Engineer: David Jin; Mark Ross Johnson; owned by Hualapai Nation.
The Grand Canyon Skywalk is a highly popular tourist attraction that was criticized by some as inappropriate for the site.
The Large Hadron Collider (on 5 lists)
A massive underground particle accelerator for conducting physics experiments.
Location: near Geneva, Switzerland
Dimensions: The LHC is an oval underground tunnel 17 miles in circumference, with a maximum depth of 574 ft.
Architect/Engineer: European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN).
CERN’s Large Hadron Collider (shown during construction) is the most powerful particle collider in the world. Photo: Maximilien Brice, CERN.
It is also the largest single machine on Earth and the most complex experimental facility ever built. On May 20, 2015, it achieved an energy of 13 TeV (teraelectronvolts), setting a world record.
National Stadium (“Bird’s Nest”) (on 3 lists)
A sports stadium in Beijing, China first used at the 2008 Summer Olympics.
Location: Beijing, China
Dimensions: The stadium is 225 ft. high at its highest point. Overall surface area is 99.614 square miles. It can accommodate 80,000 fixed seats and 11,000 temporary seats.
Architect/Engineer: Jacques Herzog and Pierre de Meuron (Herzog & de Meuron) (architects), Stefan Marbach (project architect), Ai Weiwei (artist), Li Zinggang (CADG) (chief architect); ArupSport; China Architectural Design & Research Group; Arup (structural engineeer).
National Stadium in Beijing has rarely been used since the 2008 Olympics, although it attracts many tourists.
Burj Khalifa (on 9 lists)
A mixed-use skyscraper located in downtown Dubai.
Location: Dubai, United Arab Emirates
Dimensions: Height: 2722 ft. tall; Surface area: 3.3 million sq. ft. Floors: 163.
Architect/Engineer: Adrian Smith, Bill Baker (Skidmore, Owings & Merrill); Hyder Consulting; NORR Group Consultants
Burj Khalifa in Dubai currently holds the record for the world’s tallest building.
Jiaozhou Bay Bridge (Qingdao Haiwan Bridge) (on 2 lists)
A concrete bridge (part self-anchored suspension bridge and part cable-stayed bridge) that crosses the Jiaozhou Bay in China.
Location: The bridge crosses Jiaozhou Bay between Qindao and Huangdao Districts, China
Dimensions: 16.595 mi. long; 25.84 mi. if tunnel is included.
Architect/Engineer: Shandong Gaosu Group
The Jiaozhou Bay Bridge is listed in Guinness World Records as the world’s longest bridge over water (aggregate length) at 25.84 mi., which includes the Qingdao Jiaozhou Bay Tunnel.
Three Gorges Dam (on 3 lists)
A hydroelectric dam over the Yangtze River in China’s Hubei province.
Dates: Construction began in December 1994. The dam began generating electricity in 2003 and became fully operational in May 2012. The ship lift was completed in 2015.
Location: Sandouping, Yiling District, Yichang, Hubei, China
Dimensions: 594 ft. tall, 7,661 ft. long: width: 377 ft. (at base), 131 ft. (at crest).
Architect/Engineer: China Yangtze Power, a subsidiary of China Three Gorges Corp.
The Three Gorges Dam is the world’s largest power station, with installed capacity of 22,500 megawatts. In 2015 the dam generated 87 TWh (terawatt hours) of electric power.
New Valley Project (karToshka Project) (on 3 lists)
A series of canals designed to bring water from Lake Nasser to irrigate parts of Egypt’s Western Desert (part of the Sahara Desert). Unfinished as of 2016.
Dates: 1997-Present (and continuing). The Toshka pumping station began operations in March 2005.
Location: Toshka Bay, Lake Nasser, Egypt to Baris Oasis, Egypt.
Dimensions: 192.6 miles (planned); 155.3 miles completed by 2016.
Architect/Engineer: Egyptian Ministry of Water Resources and Irrigation; Hamza Associates; Lahmeyer; Arabian International, Skanska; Hitachi; ABB; Morris Material Handling; Quantum Hydrometrie; KADCO; and Sun World.
Political and economic instability in Egypt has led to many delays in the still-unfinished New Valley project. Shown here is the pumping station in Toshka, which began operations in 2005.
Palm Islands (Palm Jumeirah, Deira Island & Palm Jebel Ali) (on 9 lists)
A plan for three artificial islands that will jut into the Persian Gulf off the coast of Dubai in the United Arab Emirates. Only Palm Jumeirah has been completed.
Dates: 2001-Present (and continuing). Palm Jumeirah was completed in 2006. As of October 2016, construction is ongoing at Palm Jebel Ali.
Location: Dubai, United Arab Emirates
Dimensions: Palm Jumeirah is 3.1 mi. long and 3.1 mi. wide. When completed, the three islands will add 323 miles of coastline to Dubai. Construction so far has used 275 million cubic yards of rock, sand and limestone, including 7.2 million cubic yards of rock from over 16 quarries and 123 million cubic yards of sand from deep sea beds six nautical miles off the Dubai coast.
Architects/Engineers: Nakheel; Helman Hurley Charvat Peacock/Architects, Inc.; Robert Berger; Mounir Hevar; Scott Hutchinson (Turner Construction International); Samuel O’Carroll, Jan De Nul; and Van Oord.
Palm Jumeirah is the world’s largest artificial island.
Venice Tide Barriers (MOSES Project) (on 2 lists)
A planned integrated system of rows of hinged mobile gates at three inlets designed to temporarily isolate the Venetian Lagoon from the Adriatic Sea during high tides and thus prevent flooding.
Dates: 2003-Present (and continuing).
Location: Venice, Italy (2 barriers at Lido inlet; 1 at Malamocco; 1 at Chioggia).
Dimensions: When complete, the project will comprise 4 barriers with a total of 78 gates (41 at Lido; 19 at Malamocco; 18 at Chioggia). The total length of the barriers will be 0.99 miles.
Architect/Engineer: Consorzio Venezia Nuova.
A view of hinged barriers installed as part of the MOSES Project to prevent Venice flooding. Scheduled completion date is 2018-2020. Photo: Vincenzo Pinto/AFP/Getty Images.