famous building lunch atop a skyscraper

10 Facts You Didn’t Know About Famous Buildings

Famous buildings show the amazing (and sometimes strange) things that can happen in the construction industry. And, this sprawling industry has evolved alongside human society. Can you imagine yourself buying your home on a catalogue, having it shipped in a Rail-Road Box Car and assembling it yourself? In this article, the ATM team shares with you some interesting facts that you may not know about famous buildings and the construction industry.

From the ancient pyramids to Newby–McMahon Building (the smallest skyscraper) to the Burj Khalifa (the tallest skyscraper), the construction industry has seen some fascinating projects in its lifetime. At ATM, we love chatting about the cool and weird things that we see happening in our industry. So, this is why we came up with this blog post about pretty famous buildings in the construction world. How many of them had you heard of?


Famous Buildings – 1 – The Great Pyramid of Giza: The Tallest Man-Made Structure For Over 3,800 years


Great Pyramid famous building

Picture by Henry Leester

Standing at 455 feet tall, The Great Pyramid held the crown for the tallest structure in the world from the time of its completion around 2560 BC until 1311 AD. And, it is believed it was constructed as a tomb for the pharaoh Khufu over a 20-year period.

Since the Lincoln Cathedral in England (aka Cathedral Church of the Blessed Virgin Mary of Lincoln) took the crown in 1311 AD, no other building has been crowned the tallest building for longer than 250 years.


The Great Wall of China: The Longest Man-Made Engineering Project


great wall china famous building

Picture by Panayota

With a total length of 21,196.18 km (13,170.70 miles), equal to half the length of the Equator, the Great Wall of China is the longest man-made engineering project.

Beginning around 770 BC until around 1878 AD, the Great Wall of China was the longest construction project in history. About 2,700 years ago, the state of Chu started to build the first wall to protect itself from invaders from other states.


The Rockefeller Centre: That Famous Lunch Photo Atop The Skyscraper


famous building lunch atop a skyscraper

This iconic photo shows 11 construction workers having lunch sitting on a beam on the 69th floor of the Rockefeller Centre in New York in 1932. And, it is considered the most well-recognised piece of photography ever printed.

It has been over eight decades since the image was printed and there have been many retakes and remakes. BUT… The photo was staged. The photographer posed the workers on the beam for multiple takes — images that were intended as advertising for the new building. Some historians believe there was a sturdy level of the structure, then called the RCA building, just below the frame.

Other photos taken that day show the workers playing football, holding up American flags or pretending to sleep on the steel beam. And, it was the lunch photo that was published in the New York Herald Tribune that October, seven months before the building would open.


The Newby-McMahon Building: The Tiniest Skyscraper


newby mcmahon famous building

The Newby-McMahon Building. Picture from Adventures of the Crazy Train.

This thin red-bricked building that rises from gritty sandstone warehouses is widely known as the ‘world’s smallest skyscraper’. The discovery of black gold turned Wichita County residents into millionaires and created a need for office space. In 1906, Augustus Newby, a Philadelphia oil promoter, built a one story office building near the railway depot.

And, as the city grew, a tenant – construction firm of J.D. McMahon – decided to propose and build a 3-story annex to the structure. So, he collected investor capital. But, he neglected to specify that the building’s scale of the blueprint he provided was measured in inches, not feet.

Completed in 1919, the Newby-McMahon Building in Wichita Falls, Texas, was 12 feet long, 9 feet wide and 40 feet tall. And, with the Great Depression, the building went unused for decades. In 1986, the city deeded the building to the Wichita County Heritage Society. Then, a barbershop and local eateries briefly occupied the building.

In 2000, a local business purchased and restored it. Today, it is a local tourist attraction, with an antiques dealership on the ground floor and an artist’s studio upstairs. It is on the ‘must-see’ list when you visit Wichita.


The Grand Coulee Dam: The 2nd Largest Concrete Structure


grand coulee dam famous building

Photograph by Gregg M Erickson

From Roman Pantheon to the Hoover and Grand Coulee Dams, concrete has been the most popular building material throughout history. And, did you know that the Ancient Romans created their own concrete using secret ingredients such as lime, seawater and volcanic ash? Today, we are still learning about their construction methods.

Built in 1935, the Grand Coulee Dam, on the Columbia River, Washington, is the second largest concrete structure. In fact, using over 11,975,521 cubic yards of concrete, it is the largest hydropower producer in the United States. And, it helps control the floods. About 3 times the size of Grand Coulee, the Three Gorges Dam in China, built in 2009, is the largest concrete dam today.


DYI Homes From Sears Department Stores


Sears DYI home famous building

DYI Home in Burlington, KW. Picture from realtor.com

From 1908 to 1940, you could buy your home from the Sears (an American chain of department stores) catalogue. More than 70,000 homes with more than 370 different designs were sold. You could select your ‘kit house’ from a catalogue, and have it shipped to you in a railroad boxcar anywhere in the US.

And, you could then assemble it yourself with neighbors and relatives, or local professionals, using a 75-page instruction book, nails and other basic material that were part of the kit. So… who is up for the challenge?


Le Palais Ideal: Build Your Own Castle


the ideal palace france famous building

Picture from AFrenchCollection.com

A French postman spent 33 years collecting stones to build his own castle in France. Mr Ferdinand Cheval (19 April 1836 – 19 August 1924) built ‘Le Palais Ideal’ (the “Ideal Palace”) in Hauterives.

The castle is regarded as an extraordinary example of ‘naïve art’ and was listed as a cultural landmark in 1969.


The Burj Khalifa: Over 12,000 Construction Workers


burj khalifa famous building

Some say ‘it took the population of a small city’ to build The Burj Khalifa skyscraper in Dubai. At its peak of construction, over 12,000 construction workers worked daily on the building.

Besides being the tallest building in the world with a 828 m height, The Burj Khalifa is the tallest freestanding structure in the world and has:

– the highest number of stories in the world;
– and, the highest occupied floor in the world;
– also, the highest outdoor observation deck in the world;
– the elevator with the longest travel distance in the world;
– and, the tallest service elevator in the world.


3 Hours For A 3-Bedroom Home: The World Record Nightmare


To boost San Diego’s construction industry, a house-building contest was held in October, 1983. Two teams of 300 workers broke a world record by building two 3-bedroom houses in less than 3 hours.

It was quickly sold to first-time home buyers new to the area. But, they were not told about the home’s origin and they were attracted by the price and the design.

However, the homes resulting from this speed-building competition were an instant nightmare: uneven slab, burst pipes, flawed roof, mismatched paint, buckled walls, crooked doors, faulty sewer, etc.


Famous Buildings – 10 – The Kizhi Pogost: No Nails Here


kizhi pogost

Kizhi Pogost, Kizhi Island in Lake Onega. Picture by Larry Koester

With one of the most picturesque ensembles of Russian wooden churches, the Lake Onega island Kizhi provides the most scenic destination on Russia’s greatest waterway, the Volga. The Kizhi Pogost is a historical site and the legend says that it was built without using a single nail!

Built on the southern part of Kizhi island, Northwest Russia, in the 17th century, its major basic structural unit is a round log of Scots Pine about 30 cm in diameter and 3 to 5 meters long. Today, it is a museum and Unesco World Heritage site.


Did You Find Some Inspiration In These Famous Buildings?


To conclude, these buildings really show the amazing (and sometimes strange) things that can happen in the construction industry and how fun it can be to work in construction. And, we are looking forward to seeing more amazing and funny things happening within the near future in our industry!

Building another amazing structure and need traffic control services? Contact us now!