We live in a world that’s full of projects — from famous buildings to music festivals, from bridges to tunnels, and from global sports tournaments to iconic structures — they come in all shapes and sizes, and in every industry. So, to continue our 30th birthday celebrations, we thought we’d put together a list of the 30 biggest, most influential and most interesting projects throughout history, to show off just what can be achieved with great project management!
Once again, this is by no means a definitive list, but these are just some of the projects we think are worth a mention!
1. Stonehenge – perhaps one of the greatest mysteries in the world – how on earth did people from 5,000 years ago build that giant stone structure?! They must have had a really good project manager!
2. The Millennium Bridge, London – after opening two months late, the so-called ‘wobbly bridge’ had to be closed for almost two years while modifications were made to eliminate the swaying motion. People can now use the bridge to get from the Tate Modern to St Paul’s Cathedral without risk of falling into the Thames.
3. The Centre Court retractable roof, Wimbledon – after much consideration, in 2006, building work began to put a retractable roof over Centre Court at the All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club in Wimbledon. Previously, play was often interrupted when the weather turned sour, however, with the new roof in place, tennis matches can now continue (albeit, with a 45-minute interval to let the space acclimatise properly) unimpeded!
4. The Great Pyramid of Giza – the oldest of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World, the Great Pyramid is believed to have been built over a 20-year period as a tomb for the fourth dynasty Egyptian pharaoh, Khufu. Experts estimate that, if a modern-day replica were to be built, it would cost around $5 billion.
5. The Millennium Dome, London – built on time and on budget, the Millennium Dome was originally constructed to house the ‘Millennium Experience’, an exhibition all about celebrating the beginning of the third millennium. However, it failed to attract the expected number of visitors, causing various financial problems, and the exhibition has since been demolished and replaced with the O2 Arena instead. Every cloud, right…?
6. The London 2012 Olympics – I think we can all appreciate what a massive undertaking this was! With the sheer number of tasks that needed to be delegated out and completed, such as devising the opening and closing ceremonies, building the Olympic village, organising national security for the event, and sorting and managing accommodation for over 10,000 athletes, the mind boggles…
7. Wembley Stadium, London – a ginormous football stadium housing 90,000 seats, the construction of the new Wembley Stadium didn’t run quite as smoothly as planned, due to various scheduling and health and safety issues. Although it opened a year later than planned, it has since gone on to be a huge success with its use primarily as a football stadium, but also as a venue for major music concerts and events.
8. The Scottish Parliament Building, Edinburgh – a whole world of controversies surrounded this project from the beginning. From the choice of location to the construction company, not to mention the fact that the project was delivered over 3 years late and way over budget – the total cost was £414 million, just slightly higher than the £10-40 million estimated budget… maybe a Finance for Non-financial Managers™ course wouldn’t have gone a-miss…
9. The first man on the moon – the famous Apollo 11 landing, which saw Neil Armstrong become the first man ever to walk the surface of the moon, needs no explanation really as to how much of an achievement it was for all the many parties involved in its fruition. The Apollo space programme, which included the Apollo 11 mission, cost $25.4 billion overall and remains one of the world’s most expensive projects in history.
10. The Channel Tunnel – although it is not the longest underground tunnel in the world, the Channel Tunnel has the longest undersea portion of any other around; and, when it was completed in 1994, it became the most expensive construction project ever at the time, costing an astounding £9 billion overall!
11. The Aizhai Suspension Bridge, Hunan – anchored by two mountains either side, the Aizhai suspension bridge is both the world’s highest and longest suspension bridge. Opened in 2012, it sits 1,200 above the Dehang Canyon in China.
12. Barack Obama’s presidential campaign, 2008 – devising an entire brand at its core, including a logo, a slogan, posters, television commercials, online advertising and even a specific typeface, the media and marketing campaign that saw Barack Obama race to success in the 2008 US presidential election leaves us all aghast at how on earth you even begin to manage a project of such scale and importance?!
13. The International Space Station – can you imagine managing a construction project… that’s taking place in space?! How do you begin to comprehend the logistics of constructing an artificial satellite, that also functions as living quarters for a bunch of astronauts, when the majority of your team are earth-based? With construction initially beginning in 1998, in June 2011 over 159 components had been added both manually and via space shuttle, and work is still ongoing today. Madness. Absolute MADNESS!
14. The Large Hydron Collider – with a total end cost of around €7.5 billion, construction that spanned 10 years, and a whole multitude of technical challenges (not to mention all the operational challenges that are involved with storing an enormous amount of energy in a dirty great big tunnel beneath the France/Switzerland border), it’s safe to say that this project needed one hell of a project manager!
15. The Great Wall of China – I doubt many project managers can say they’ve been part of a project that dates back to 7th Century BC! The Great Wall, consisting of a variety of smaller walls joined together over time to produce the massive, can-be-seen-from-space structure that we all know today, is a perfect example of how good project management can produce a product that truly stands the test of time.
16. The Super Bowl – there must be a pretty huge team of people organising this annual championship game for one of America’s most popular sports. The Super Bowl not only includes the final game of the NFL’s regular season, but also involves an extravagant and highly-anticipated half-time show that is watched by millions around the globe… which is a year-long project in itself!
17. The BBC Proms – eight weeks of daily orchestral music at the Royal Albert Hall? No biggie. Hiring out one of the world’s most iconic music venues and filling it with various different orchestras, both the instruments and the musicians, and conductors (not to mention the great many punters that fill the 5,000-seat concert hall) requires at least a fairly concise project plan, don’t you think?
18. The Eiffel Tower – I think we can all agree that the Eiffel Tower is a pretty big deal. Originally built as the entrance to the World’s Fair in 1889, it took only two years to build and measures a staggering 1,063 ft tall. It is the most-visited monument in the world and has become one of, if not the, most recognisable landmarks around today. I wonder if Gustave Eiffel and his team thought this big iron tower would become such a hit…
19. The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge’s Royal Wedding – it can be stressful organising a wedding – hiring out Westminster Abbey for the ceremony, getting the Archbishop of Canterbury to ‘do the honours’, seeing if Buckingham Palace will let you host a raging after party there, and, on top of that, the whole world is watching… nightmare. They must have had a pretty decent PID for this…
20. FDR’s New Deal – following the Great Depression in America, President Franklin D Roosevelt devised a series of projects, programmes and financial reforms and regulations to counteract the economic collapse the whole country was facing. From public work projects to completely new laws, FDR’s New Deal went some way to helping the country get back on its feet.
21. The Empire State Building, New York – figuring out how to construct a 1,454 ft tall skyscraper in Manhattan in the 30s must have been pretty tricky, I mean, think of the risk report…?! Yet, it all paid off in the end – who else can say that the skyscraper they thought up would have a giant ape scaling it one of the most iconic movie scenes of all time?
22. Live Aid – as a response to the ongoing Ethiopian famine, 13 July 1985 saw the world’s most famous musicians come together for a duel-venue benefit concert. It became one of the largest-scale television broadcasts of all time, with an estimated audience of around 1.9 billion people globally! Whoever thought to put on a concert in two different venues, in two different countries at the same time must have had some seriously good communication skills!
23. The John Lewis Christmas advert – love them or hate them, the John Lewis Christmas adverts have now become somewhat of a seasonal tradition in the UK, and you can only imagine the level of year-long planning that goes into Britain’s favourite department store’s marketing strategy during retail’s busiest period.
24. Westfield shopping centre, West London – it’s not just major landmarks and historic monuments that need a project management team to handle their construction, shopping centres are just as much of a worthwhile investment it would seem. With a budget of £1.6 billion, 5 floors and over 5,000 car parking spaces, it is now the UK and Europe’s largest shopping centre.
25. The Burj Khalifa, Dubai – the world’s tallest building, standing at 2,717 ft tall, the Burj Khalifa took five years to build and sits as part of the new Downtown Dubai development area. A perfect example of how budgets can cause significant bumps in the road, the building’s developers had to borrow money from the Sheikh Khalifa to complete the project, which resulted in the name being changed from the original Burj Dubai to the Burj Khalifa.
26. The Golden Gate Bridge, San Francisco – a popular landmark for one of America’s most famous cities, the Golden Gate bridge in San Francisco was famously completed $1.3 million under budget and ahead of schedule. If that’s not an incentive to get your projects moving, then we don’t know what is!
27. Palm Islands, Dubai – why be content with the islands the world already has to offer when you could create some artificial ones of your own? Maybe that was the thought process of the creators behind Dubai’s Palm Islands, maybe not. Either way, they must have had quite the team handling the resources – shipping in 94 million cubic metres of sand and over 210 cubic metres of rock isn’t exactly a simple ask!
28. One World Trade Centre, New York – built to replace the original World Trade Centre towers that were destroyed in the 9/11 attacks, the new One World Trade Centre is the exact same height as the original, but with the additional spire, it actually measures 1,776 feet tall – a figure meant to symbolise the year when the US Declaration of Independence was signed, in 1776. It is the tallest building in the Western Hemisphere and serves as part of the memorial efforts for those lost in the attacks in 2001.
29. The London Crossrail – a new state-of-the-art rail system that will bring a massive £42 billion to Britain’s economy annually and will bring an extra 1.5 million people within 45 minutes’ commute of central London. Nearly ten years in the making, this project has been a long time coming, especially for those who currently commute across London every day…
30. Glastonbury Festival – how do you begin to organise the world’s most famous and popular festival, in a small village in Somerset? With multiple stages, areas and camp sites – all requiring water, electricity, security and transport – and around 175,000 attendees, plus the many musicians, artists, vendors, staff and volunteers, we reckon Michael and Emily Eavis have at least got their PRINCE2® Foundation certificates…
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