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12 Super Massive Steel Structures

13 January 2011 3 Comments

On a small scale, steel was produced since antiquity, while some archaeologists discovered proofs of steel making dating from 2000 BC. The industrial revolution of the 17th century was the moment when the first modern techniques for producing this particular metal structure became widely available. Three centuries later man has learned how to properly make use of this metal in construction work and it was love at first usage.

Steel based structures became very popular in the last century and they managed to take architects’ and engineers’ imagination beyond limits. Here are twelve of the most amazing steel structures ever built by man.

1. Walt Disney Concert Hall, Los Angeles, USA

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This is the fourth hall of the Los Angeles Music Center, opened in October 2003. The buildings’ one of a kind style was the design of Frank Gehry, one of the most influential architects of our times. Apart from its unforgettable exterior look, the Walt Disney Concert Hall is also praised for its acoustics, considered to be one of the best in the whole world.

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Most of the buildings’ exterior is designed in stainless steel with a matte finish. Still, some parts of the building had highly-polished mirror-like panels that caused problems for the nearby buildings. The sun reflections overheated the surface of the nearby buildings, causing issues to the air conditioning systems. The panels were eventually dulled without major changes in the original design.

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2. Gateway Arch, St. Louis, USA

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Gateway Arch, St. Louis

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The Gateway Arch, also known as The Gate to the West is a massive monument in the Jefferson National Expansion Memorial in St. Louis. It is 192 meters (630 feet) wide at the base and reaches a height of 192 meters (630 feet). This is the tallest monument ever made in the United States and the tallest habitable structure in Missouri.

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The Arch symbolizes the extension of United States towards West and was completed in October 1965. More than one million tourists yearly get to the top of this arch, where 900 tons of stainless steel were used for its construction. The arch sways up to 45 cm (18 inches) in conditions of high wind, but in regular weather the usually sway is about 5 cm (2 inches).

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3. Brooklyn Bridge, New York City, USA

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This is the oldest suspension bridge in the United States of America, having a total length of 1825 meters (5,989 feet). It is one of the most famous landmarks of New York City and 127 years after its opening it still serves its initial purpose: connecting Manhattan and Brooklyn. This bridge is also the first one in the world to use steel-wires for its suspension structure and in 1883, at its opening, was the longest bridge of its type on the planet.

In our days, the bridge carries three traffic lanes on each direction and a pedestrian/biker lane situated at an upper level. It symbolises the optimism of time advancing and one of builder’s best examples of creating and controlling new technologies.

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4. Basilica of San Sebastian, Manila, Philippines

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Basilica Minore de San Sebastián is the only all-steel church in Asia and the only prefabricated steel church in the world. Completed in 1891, the basilica is constructed in the Gothic revival style and is considered to be one of the best examples of this architectural type in the Philippines. The pre-fabricated steel sections of the church were produced in Binche, Belgium and transported by water to Manila. After connecting the parts, the walls were filled with mixed sand, gravel and cement.

Although the popular culture mentions Gustave Eiffel as one of the architects of this Basilica, there are no records to prove this. The only known architect of Basilica of San Sebastian is Genaro Palacios.

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5. Tyne Bridge, Newcastle, UK

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The Tyne Bridge is a through arch bridge that connects Newcastle upon Tyne with Gateshead. The bridge, one of Newcastle’s landmarks, was opened in October 1928 by King Geroge V and is still usable to this day. Moreover, the bridge is the tenth tallest structure of the city, reaching 59 meters (193 feet) above the ground level.

The total steelwork of the Tyne Bridge weights 7,112 tones while only its distinctive arch weights 3,556 tons. The bridge was designed and built by Mott, Hay and Anderson, the same company that constructed the Hell Gate Bridge and the Sydney Harbor Bridge. Although the steelwork was repainted in 2000, the actual green paint is the original color of the bridge used in the 1928.

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6. Willis Tower, Chicago, USA

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Willis Tower, formerly known as the Sears Tower, is the tallest building in United States. Right after its completion, from 1974 to 1998, it was also the tallest building in the world; today it still holds a remaining record – the sixth tallest freestanding structure on the planet.

The building was designed by Bruce Graham and Fazlur Khan, as nine square steel tubes, clustered in a 3×3 matrix. The nine tubes would rise together up to the 50th floor, when the northwest and southeast tubes end; at the 67th floor the northeast and southwest tubes end; at the 90th floor the north, east, and south tubes end and the remaining west and center tube continue up to the 108th floor.

The whole module structure is based on huge steel columns that support the whole frame. The black belts on the tower represent louvers that allow ventilation for the integrated system and also serve as the tower’s belt trusses. Willis Tower has 108 stories and it is 442 meters (1,451 feet) high and continues to be one of the greatest corporate buildings in the world.

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7. Sydney Harbor Bridge, Sydney, Australia

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This through arch bridge in Sydney carries rail, car, bike and pedestrian traffic from Sydney Central Business District to the North Shore and backward for 1,149 m (3,770 feet). The locals nicknamed the bridge “The Coat Hanger”, due to its main piece of design, the arch.

The Sydney Harbor Bridge currently holds two world records: it is the widest long-span bridge and the tallest steel arch bridge, being 130 meters/440 feet above the water level. The amazing arch spans over 503 meters (1,650 feet) and on hot days the structure can expand in height with more than 18 cm (7.1 inches). The bridge was inaugurated in March 1932 and along with the Sydney Opera House is now one of Australia’s worldwide known landmarks.

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8. U. S. Steel Tower, Pittsburg, USA

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The U.S. Steel Tower (also known as the Steel Tower) is the tallest skyscraper in Pittsburg and the 37th tallest in United States. The 64-story tower was finished in 1970 and is 256 meters (841 feet) high. The Steel Tower truly stands apart, due to its unique triangular shape with intended corners. The main frame is made out of steel, also displayed on the exterior of the building throughout huge Corten steel columns that resist the corrosive effects of all the weather conditions.

The tower has over 40,000 metric tons of structural steel and 214,000 square meters (2,300,000 square feet) of leasable office space. On clear sunny days, the Steel Tower is visible from as far as 80 km (50 miles).

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9. The New York Times Building, New York City

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This is the headquarters of the New York Times Company, the publishing house for The New York Time, The Boston Globe and the International Herald Tribune. It’s a relatively new sight on the skyline of Manhattan, since the 52-story skyscraper was completed in 2007. The height from street to roof is 228 meters (748 feet), while the exterior decorative steel wall rises up to 256 meters (840 feet).

This steel-framed building has ceramic rods mounted on the exterior of the glass curtain on the west, east and south façade, a great feature for the increased efficiency of the building. In fact, this is considered to be a green structure ever since its construction period, since 95% of the structural steel used here was recycled.

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10. Seagram Building, New York City, USA

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New York City’s Seagram Buildings was built in 1957 and is a fine example of modern and functionalist architecture. The steel frame used for the construction of Seagram Building needed to be covered in concrete, to comply the federal regulations, although the architects would have preferred to be visible. Non-structural glass walls with three-position windows blinds were hung from the frame.

Ludwig Mies van de Rohe, the main architect of this steel wonder, wanted to avoid the disorganized aspect of the façade that the blinds would have create so he came up with a three-position system: fully open, half open or fully closed. At the moment of its completion, this 38 storey building was one of the most expensive sky scrapers ever built.

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11. Tatara Bridge, Japan

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Tatara Bridge is Japan’s most astonishing cable-stayed bridges. This bridge has a main span of 890 meters (2,919 feet) and connects the Islands of Ikuchi and Oumishima. The steel box girder was preferred to a suspension bridge, which would have required immense anchorage blocks and would have had an immense impact on the environment.

When it was completed, in April 1999, it was the world’s longest cable stayed bridge. The Y-shaped towers are made out of steel, as well as the suspended girders. The bridge has a total length of 1,480 meters and it carries two lanes of traffic in each direction, lanes for bikes, motor bikes and pedestrians.

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12. Inland Steel Building, Chicago, USA

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The Inland Steel Building in Chicago was one of the most innovative structures of its time. The project was completed in 1957 and was the first building to be erected on a steel piling. It is also the first to have in-built air conditioning and to use the principle of clear-span construction, which means that the entire weight of the building is supported by 7 external columns.

The Inland Steel Building is covered by a flat stainless steel curtain and currently is undergoing a major restructuration that will update all its features. It is one of the best examples of a style in architecture that followed the “form follows function” standard.

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3 Comments »

  • mark said:

    Some great pictures here – my favourite is the Tyne Bridge(because i’ve crossed it!) A great hunk of Engineering, feels like it will last forever!

  • rjeii2 said:

    Awesome photos and great info to go along. However, I must point out your excessive use of run-on sentences ;)

  • James Moorhouse said:

    Some great buildings here with innovative use of steel.

    Much more used to a simple steel cladded building myself!

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