En­gi­neer­ing mar­vels every trav­eller should visit

Reader's Digest Asia Pacific - - Contents -


Rome’s Colos­seum was com­mis­sioned by the Em­peror Ves­pasian in AD 72 on the marshy site of a lake. Here deadly glad­i­a­to­rial com­bats and wild an­i­mal fights were staged free of charge for pub­lic view­ing. While prac­ti­cal in de­sign, with 80 arched en­trances to al­low easy ac­cess for an es­ti­mated 55,000 spec­ta­tors, the Colos­seum is also a build­ing of great clas­si­cal beauty.


The ‘Church of the Holy Wis­dom’, Hagia Sophia is among the world’s great­est ar­chi­tec­tural achieve­ments. More than 1400 years old, it stands as a tes­ta­ment to the so­phis­ti­ca­tion of 6th-cen­tury Con­stantino­ple, and had a huge in­flu­ence on ar­chi­tec­ture in later cen­turies. In the 15th cen­tury, the Ot­tomans con­verted it into a mosque: the minarets, tombs and foun­tains date from this pe­riod.


Pharaoh Khufu’s pyra­mid, com­monly called the Great Pyra­mid of Giza, was

built us­ing only sim­ple sur­vey­ing tools but with such re­mark­able pre­ci­sion that the great­est dif­fer­ence in length be­tween its four 230-me­tre-high sides is just five cen­time­tres. The pyra­mid is es­ti­mated to con­tain more than two mil­lion stone blocks weigh­ing on av­er­age 2.5 tonnes, with some weigh­ing up to 15 tonnes. Although the con­struc­tion meth­ods and the pur­pose of some of its cham­bers are un­known, the ar­chi­tec­tural achieve­ment is clear.


The Great Wall once snaked across the Chi­nese land­scape, over deserts, hills and plains, for more than 8851 kilo­me­tres. Yet, de­spite its seem­ingly im­preg­nable bat­tle­ments, the wall was ul­ti­mately an in­ef­fec­tive bar­ri­cade. In the 13th cen­tury it was breached by the fe­ro­cious on­slaught of the Mon­gols and then in the 17th cen­tury by the Manchu. To­day, its di­lap­i­dated re­mains crum­ble across the rugged ter­rain of north­ern China and only se­lect sta­tions have been re­stored.


The ‘Lost City of the Inca’ is one of the most spec­tac­u­lar ar­chae­o­log­i­cal sites in the world. Perched high on a sad­dle be­tween two peaks and of­ten shrouded in cloud, it is al­most in­vis­i­ble from be­low. A site of just 20 square kilo­me­tres, it was built in 1460 by the In­can ruler Pacha­cuti Inca Yu­pan­qui as a royal re­treat. About 1000 peo­ple in­hab­ited the area and they were self-suf­fi­cient, be­ing sur­rounded by agri­cul­tural ter­races and wa­tered by springs.


Ris­ing high on a rocky crag, this mag­nif­i­cent cas­tle was prom­i­nent in Scot­tish his­tory for cen­turies and re­mains one of the finest ex­am­ples of Re­nais­sance ar­chi­tec­ture in Bri­tain. Leg­end has it that King Arthur wres­tled the orig­i­nal cas­tle from the Sax­ons. The present build­ing dates from the 15th to 16th cen­turies and was last de­fended in 1746 against the Ja­co­bites, who were mainly Catholic High­landers wish­ing to re­store the Stu­art monar­chy to the throne.

De­spite dam­age over the years, the Colos­seum re­mains a ma­jes­tic sight

P. 22

The Great Pyra­mid was the tallest build­ing in the world for thou­sands of years

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