interesting engineering

reading this thread got me thinking about some of the more interesting building engineering I’ve seen. The most fascinating building I’ve personally been inside is this one The big block with the gold leaf is a freight elevator, the other three at the other corners are storage closets, the ground floor is two stories tall and the building is hollow all the way to the roof with four elevators in the center. That white ceiling shown in the picture is where all the office space is. The building was designed and built as a shelter to withstand flooding in the case of catastrophic collapse of the dam containing the local water reservoir. (here is another more over-all view of the building)

What are the building/engineering solutions to community problems where you live?

Cheyenne Mountain.Total nuclear bunker. I went on a tour there 40 years ago.

The Longaberger basket building. Dennis

The Falkirk Wheel in Scotland. Never been there but there are plenty of videos and pics on the net.

Essentially this is a canal lock but instead of raising and lowering water, boats sit in a cradle which is then lowered (or raised) to the other canal. Astonishing.

Interesting engineering:

Innovative pile driving:

One of the reasons I love Las Vegas is the architecture.
The Luxor hotel is shaped like a pyramid and the elevators go diagonally up the corners.

Caesar’s Palace has a spiral escalator

Currently I live in a small city where the building height is limited to 4 stories, so no interesting building challenges.

But back when I was a practicing structural engineer in Boston I worked on all sorts of interesting stuff. One example is the Air Intake Structurefor the Central Artery Project. It is supported by 5 6-foot-tall steel box girders that span between the walls of the existing tunnel below (we also moved over one of the walls of the existing tunnel, but that’s another story…). The Structure houses 2 (or was it 3?) 20-foot-high fans to blow fresh air into the tunnel. The opposite side of the building has big louvers so the air can be drawn into the building and then blown down by the fans.

The Million Dollar Bridge got its nickname because it had to be built twice. The first one was discovered to be in the wrong place when the highway was widened.

Then there are the “mixing bowl” interchanges at Springfield and the Pentagon.

This is a mechanical engineering thing rather than a structural engineering thing, but I saw this YouTube video the other day which demonstrates the curie effect as a mechanism for turning a static heat source into rotary motion. (It’s sort of a fancy version of putting a fan blade over a candle.)

A decade or so ago, working as a freelance photographer for the local paper, I was sent on a shoot on the USS Currituck, a Split-Hull Dredge ship, they were dredging out Portsmouth NH Harbor…

It’s a massive ship designed to “vacuum” sand off the harbor floor, and pump it into its cargo hold, the ship then goes out to the dumping point, and the entire hull splits lengthwise, allowing the sand to fall out of the gap, the hulls are then closed, and they go back for another load…

It is an amazing experience being on that ship, watching and feeling the hull split in half, yet still remain floating, almost as impressive as watching the dredge pumps fill the hold with sand while in the harbor, that’s a LOT of power there

Not near me, but I’ve long admired the Millau Viaduct.

In the eighties I worked on pipelay barges like this one. These are semi-submersible and lay pipe on the ocean floors. They are floating factories with hundreds of workers and a production line building the pipe itself. Ours had an entire section that was pressurized at “depths” up to 500 feet for divers to live in (to avoid constant compression/decompression). Every few minutes, the entire “factory” moves forward 40 feet and a new pipe joint is added to the front. They start and stop 50,000 tons of steel hundreds of times a day. From the inside there is no sensation of movement, just a noisy factory floor with a large pipe moving slowly past. The fact that these vessels can easily work in ocean waves up to 25 feet (on several occasions we had days of waves over 40 feet) is amazing.

But while out there I started seeing ships which brought out the pipe wound onto giant ferris wheels. As I understand it, the “factory” is onshore and as the workers assemble it, it is wound onto these large wheels. They affix the end to the already laid pipe and drive forward unwinding it like a string. According to the folks I worked with, this pipe could be up to 32 inches in diameter, and this is thick steel coated with reinforced concrete. It amazes me that something that large can be rolled up like spaghetti.