Behind the splendor, uniqueness and awe inspiring constructions, the creators, architects or builders of these monuments are invariably driven by the need to surpass the legacy of existing constructions. From palaces to temples to cities of the past, we are driven by the desire to outshine all the existing standards.
Modern skyscrapers are the perfect example of this. While they are welcomed owing to their economy of space and cost efficiency, there has been a marked increase in vanity heights (non-occupiable spaces) of modern skyscrapers. This development obviously goes against the very basic reasoning behind the construction of high rise buildings. The tallest structure in the world, the Burj Khalifa, for instance, has a vanity height of 801 ft, which is 29.4% of its actual height.
However, this does not take anything away from the sheer genius required to build these monuments. The ingenuity, mathematical and scientific prowess, and technology needed to build these structures is nothing less than a testament of humanity’s intelligence and accomplishments in taming and molding nature.
So much so, we are no longer constrained to marveling naturally-formed attractions such as the Grand Canyon or the alpine landscape. Instead, we are able to, and routinely, design and shape some of the greatest edifices in existence. With that in mind, here are the ten most expensive man-made attractions in the world.
10 Buckingham Palace, London, England: $1.5 Billion
When the Anglo-Saxon king, Offa of Mercia, began consolidating the disparate tribes of the land of Angles and laying down the seeds of modern England in the 8th century A.D., little did he know that he would be creating a 1,200-year dynasty that will eventually be headed by his descendants from the House of Windsor. More than that, he would have never expected that his descendants would be most remembered for their official residence, Buckingham Palace.
Built in 1705 by John Sheffield, the first Duke of Buckingham, the residence first came into the hands of the British monarchy when King George III acquired it for his consort, Queen Charlotte of Mecklenburg-Strelitz. However, the ascension of his granddaughter, Queen Victoria, in 1837 as the Queen of United Kingdom, led to Buckingham Palace being named as the official residence of the British monarchy.
Today, Buckingham Palace, while continuing to serve as the official residence of the sovereign, has evolved into one of the most recognizable aspects of the British monarchy. The 828,000 sq. ft structure has also become a must-see attraction for tourists, drawing in an excess of 500,000 visitors a year.
9 Walt Disney World Resort, Florida, United States: $1.85 Billion (Adjusted)
With four theme parks, six golf courses, two water parks, and a retail and entertainment complex, the 30,080 acre Walt Disney World Resort is the planet’s most visited tourist attraction, drawing about 50 million visitors annually. Built over a 51-month period in 1971, Walt Disney World today spends almost $1.7 billion annually on just the wages and benefits of its 66,000 staff.
Conceived by none other than the legendary Walter Elias Disney himself, the resort was built at a cost of $331 million, which today equals to approximately $1.85 billion.
8 St. Peter’s Basilica, Vatican City, Italy: $2.42 Billion (Adjusted)
St. Peter the Apostle is probably the most revered Christian figure behind Jesus himself. Credited as the founder of the Christian church, and being its first Pope, the former fisherman was sentenced to death several decades after assuming leadership of the fledging religion by crucifixion by the Roman Emperor Nero.
It is believed that St. Peter was crucified in what is known today as the Clementine Chapel, located inside the basilica. His remains, meanwhile, is thought to have been placed inside a tomb in the basement of the basilica.
This perhaps explains why the St. Peter Basilica has been one of the holiest churches for Christians everywhere over the last 1,800 years. Today, as many as 4 million people visit the gorgeous cathedral annually.
The current basilica was built over the old Constantinian-era structure in the late fifteenth century, during the height of the Renaissance era. Some of the greatest artists of the age were commissioned to work on it, including, Donato Bramante, Michaelangelo, Raphael and more. The century long project eventually completed at the cost of approximately $48,000,000. Adjusted for inflation, that works out to $2.42 billion today.
7 Great Pyramid of Giza, Cairo, Egypt: $5 Billion, Approximate
The Great Pyramid of Giza, also known as the Pyramid of Khufu/Cheops, is the sole surviving member of the original Seven Ancient Wonders. Built approximately 4,500 years ago (2,500 B.C.), the pyramid was meant to serve as the tomb of Khufu, the Pharaoh of Aneb-Hetch (a district of Ancient Egypt).
The 756 feet wide by 481 feet high pyramid took twenty years to build, using about 6.5 million tons of stones and thousands of slaves. It represented one of humanity’s greatest achievements in design, engineering and construction. In fact, to this day, many refuse to believe that it was built by humans, and instead, credited its building to aliens and Atlanteans, among many others.
In 2012, French architect Jean-Pierre Houdin calculated that a similar project today would take five years to complete at a cost of $5 billion, using up to 2,000 workers.
6 Large Hadron Collider, Geneva, Switzerland: $5.96 Billion
The Large Hadron Collider was built for one reason and one reason alone: to solve the riddle of the universe by recreating the conditions during the fraction of a second after the Big Bang. The collaborative brainchild of over 10,000 scientists from 60 countries, the particle accelerator is essentially a 17-mile long circular gun that shoots out subatomic particles to collide against one another at an energy level of 1.12 microjoules to simulate the creation process.
Helmed by the European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN) and located 574 ft. underground, its construction cost falls a shade below $6 billion. The investment is expected to be recouped over the coming decades by commercializing the technological breakthroughs developed at the facility.
5 Palm Islands, Dubai, UAE: $14 Billion
Sometimes called the eighth wonder of the world, the Palm islands consist of three artificially raised islands - Palm Jumeirah, Palm Jebel Ali and Palm Deira. Shaped like palm trees, the three islands (consisting of 300 islets) were built using over 34 million pounds of rock and 53 million pounds of sand.
With five dozen luxury hotels, 10,000 luxury accommodations, marinas, beaches, international class restaurants and an array of high-end retailers, the three Palm Islands are a playground for the rich and famous.
4 Marina Bay Sands and Resorts World Sentosa: $15 Billion, Combined
The Marina Bay Sands, managed by Las Vegas Sands Corp. (owned by prominent Republican financier Sheldon G. Adelson), and Resorts World Sentosa, owned by Malaysia-based Genting Group, ushered in Singapore’s entry into the world of casino, ultra luxury hotels and theme parks. Both firms were the winners of a high profile bidding organized by the city state in 2006.
After resisting the lure of casinos inside its boundaries, the Singapore government eventually relented after the success of similar, albeit smaller, ventures in neighboring Malaysia. The two integrated resorts, developed primarily on reclaimed lands, were built at a combined cost of almost $15 billion.
3 3 Taj Mahal, Uttar Pradesh, India: $25 Billion (Adjusted)
The breathtakingly beautiful Taj Mahal was built by the emperor of the Mughal Empire, Shah Jahan, to serve as the mausoleum and a monument of his eternal love for his deceased wife, Mumtaz Mahal (Arjumand Bann Begum).
Construction of the white and yellow marble palace took 21 years to complete by a team of over 20,000 stone workers, at a cost of 32 million Rupees ($500,000), equivalent to $25 billion today. Shah Jahan actually planned to build a matching black Taj Mahal for himself. However, ill health and subsequently, loss of political power, put an end to his plans.
2 International Space Station, Low Earth orbit: $100 Billion
The fall of the communist Soviet Union in 1992 inadvertently brought two separate space station programs together several years later. This culminated with the gradual launching of the International Space Station, built at a cost of $100 billion. Circling the planet at a speed of 17,240 mph, the football field-sized permanent space station was designed to be a multi-discipline research laboratory and long-range space mission base.
Since the first astronaut arrived at the station on November 20, 1998, 339 other crew members of various nationalities have stayed there, performing more than 1,500 scientific experiments. Weighing at almost a million pounds, the station’s living and working quarters is equivalent to a five or six bedroom house.
In 2001, American businessman Dennis Tito became the first civilian to fly to the station. He stayed eight days before returning, and it only cost a cool $20 million. Four years later, British billionaire announced the formation of Virgin Galactic, an airliner which offers flight to the space station, along with accommodation and meals for $200,000. After a series of successful test flights, Branson himself will be on the passenger list for the maiden flight of the Virgin Galactic to the station in December 2013.
1 Great Wall of China, China: $260 billion (Adjusted)
Built at an estimated cost of $260 billion, the 4,500 km long Great Wall of China is the only man-made structure visible from outer space. Averaging between 15 and 30 feet in height, and between 15 and 25 feet in width, the wall took 200 years to complete with an accumulated labor force exceeding 3 million people.
The wall, which stretches from the Liaonling Province in the East to the Gansu Province in the West, was the end result of the labor of six generations of Chinese citizens’ intent on building a permanent defense against marauding Xiongnu barbarians from the nation’s northern borders.
Ironically, the enormous cost of construction led to the weakening of successive dynasties, which in turn weakened the army – leading to more aggressive attacks by neighboring hostiles.
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