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Machu Picchu is one of the Top Ten Feats of Man-Made Wonder, Picked by Structural Engineers

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Amazing view of Machu Picchu from the Inca Trail, near the Guard House (called the Watchman's hut). Machu Picchu fills and thrills one’s mind with visions of stone stairs leading to a mystical lncan village. The ancient planned community was integrated into instead of imposed onto its environment.

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Metropolis Magazine invited structural engineers Leslie E. Robertson, the éminence grise of American engineering, and Craig Schwitter, a partner in the New York office of Buro Happold, to pick their favorite feats of man-made wonder. One of their picks is Machu Picchu, the mysterious ruins built by the Incas.

January 10, 2007. Source: Metropolis Magazine by Craig Schwitter, Leslie E. Robertson & Martin C. Pedersen

There were structural engineers long before there was even a name for them. Throughout history, whenever human beings have attempted to build on a massive or merely complicated scale, someone handled the engineer’s job: figuring out how a temple or a bridge or a great wall might be constructed and, more important, how it could withstand the primal and unrelenting laws of gravity. For most of recorded time this was done without technical assistance, either by hand or by semi-educated guess. And while much is made today about the merging of architecture and engineering, history’s great master builders were all designer-engineers.

In recent decades, however, the nature of the discipline has been radically altered by computer modeling. Technology continues to advance, and the learning curve for engineers gets exponentially steeper. Architects push the boundaries of structural logic (or at least appear to), and engineers respond, largely because technology has enabled them to. But there is still a great deal to be learned by looking back.

To that end Metropolis Magazine invited structural engineers Leslie E. Robertson, the éminence grise of American engineering, and Craig Schwitter, a partner in the New York office of Buro Happold, to pick their favorite feats of man-made wonder. One of their picks is Machu Picchu, the mysterious ruins built by the Incas.
 

The Lost City of Incas, Machu Picchu

Built on the steep slopes at the crest of the Andes Mountains, with terraced scientific and agricultural areas, Machu Picchu features wonderful, almost jointless stonework. The Incas were superb craftsmen and thoughtful architect-engineers. They had a sublime sense of how to create an opening through a stone retaining wall. They sloped the stones toward the opening, capping it with a lintel, but why they never used the arch is very strange. Was this because of some religious or cultural belief? Certainly it was not for lack of engineering talent. When you look at Machu Picchu, you see this total merger of architecture and engineering. The composition of the spaces is a marvel—the way they sorted out those areas to be used for industry, those for living, and those for religious purposes. Of course, while being swept away with the mystery of the place, you can’t help but ­wonder about its history: Why was it constructed? How was it used? Why was it abandoned? Why did it lay so long hidden from view of the Western world? Today structural engineering and architecture are growing so close together that you cannot really separate the two, as was the case nearly 600 years ago in the Andes. - More

 

Machu Picchu is without doubt the most recognizable symbol of Inca Civilization. "The Inca Trail", as it is known now, was the Royal Highway that led pilgrims and officials of the Empire to the Sacred City of the Incas.

What makes the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu so special is the stunning combination of Inca ruins, incredible views, the Andes scenery, exotic vegetation and extraordinary ecological variety. Over 250 species of orchid have been counted in the Machu Picchu Historic Sanctuary, as well as numerous birds such as hummingbirds, waterfowl and the majestic Andean Condor.

Leslie E. Robertson (born 1928) is a structural engineer who has designed hundreds of buildings around the world including the World Trade Center in New York, the Shanghai World Financial Center in Shanghai, the United States Steel Headquarters in Pittsburgh, the Bank of China Tower in Hong Kong, Puerta de Europa in Madrid and the Continental Airlines Arena in the New Jersey Meadowlands, as well as museums in Berlin, Portland (Maine) and Seattle, and the Miho Museum Bridge in Japan. (From Wikipedia).


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Last updated: September 12, 2007