Five Iconic Buildings And The Cranes That Constructed Them

The skylines of major cities are transforming. Improved technology is allowing architects to turn their designs into reality faster than ever before. Hi-tech skyscrapers and contemporary office blocks are emerging at unprecedented speed and so the need for cranes continues to grow. Building these huge tower blocks would be impossible without heavy lifting equipment.

Here are five iconic buildings across the world and the stories behind the cranes that helped to build them.

The Shard, London

The Shard has fast become one of the most recognisable buildings of London’s skyline. When it opened in 2013 it became the tallest building in Europe. It has since been overtaken by Moscow’s Mercury Tower but it remains the tallest in the European Union. The tower block has a range of purposes, with office space, hotel rooms, restaurants and a television studio.

Britain’s tallest crane was used during the construction of the Shard. When fully extended the crane sat 1,040 ft above ground level, making it seven metres taller than the building’s eventual highest point (1,016 ft). The crane completed the top 23 floors and raised 500 tonnes of steel in a total of around 100 lifts.

Burj Khalifa, Dubai

At an extraordinary height of 2,722 ft, the Burj Khalifa is the tallest artificial structure in the world. It holds seventeen other records including the most floors in a building (163), the world’s highest nightclub and the world’s highest New Year display of fireworks.

The cranes involved in the construction of the Burj Khalifa were shrouded in mystery. Stories circulated about ‘the Indian on top of the world’, the crane operator who supposedly lived inside the crane as it took too long to get back down the building each day.

This was recently revealed to be nothing more than idle gossip. Three Favelle Favco cranes served right up to level 156 and worked 24 hours for much of the project’s duration. It was confirmed that a 35-strong workforce were on hand to run the cranes, not the lone Indian on top of the world.

La Sagrada Familia, Barcelona

La Sagrada Familia is one of Barcelona’s most popular tourist attractions and is listed as a UNESCO world heritage site despite being unfinished. The Roman Catholic church was designed by Catalan architect Antoni Gaudi. Work first commenced in 1882 but construction work isn’t scheduled to be completed until 2026.

With over 130 years of construction the cranes putting it all together have become a staple part of the tourist attraction. They are likely to stay until the church is completed so anybody wanting a photograph without the cranes will have to digitally edit them out.

Øresund Bridge, Malmö to Copenhagen

The Øresund is a motorway bridge that connects the Swedish city of Malmö to the Danish capital Copenhagen. The bridge is the longest combined road and rail bridge in Europe. It runs almost 8 kilometres from the Swedish coast to the artificial island of Peberholm, where a 4 kilometre underground tunnel completes the crossing of the strait.

The foundations of the bridge were lifted by the Swedish Kockums Crane. With a height of 138 metres and a rail length of over 700m with a maximum lifting capacity of 1,500 tonnes, it was the largest gantry crane in the world. After the bridge was completed in 2002, the crane was dismantled using mobile cranes and was sold for just $1 to a South Korean company.

Parthenon, Athens

The Parthenon is the most famous of the surviving Ancient Greek temples. The archaic structure is dedicated to Athena, the Greek goddess who the people of Athens consider their patron. Construction began in 447 BC when the Athenian Empire was at the height of its power and was completed nine years later in 438 BC.

Archaeological records show that the ancient Greeks invented the first crane equipment for lifting heavy loads. Distinctive cuttings for lifting tongs have been found on Greek temples which were presumably used for lifting heavy stone blocks.