The Channel Tunnel, Thames Barrier, Canary Wharf, Øresund Bridge amongst the construction and engineering projects to make the list, marking APM’s 50th anniversary.
To celebrate its 50th anniversary, the Association for Project Management (APM), the chartered membership organisation for the project profession, has announced a list of the 50 most inspiring projects from the past 50 years. Entitled ’50 Projects for a Better Future’, the list features iconic projects from the fields of construction and engineering, technology, healthcare, sports and arts, and science and nature.
More than 600 projects were nominated for inclusion by APM members, board members, APM branches and industry experts. Projects were selected based on the transformative impact they have had on society, the economy and environment since their launch within the past 50 years.
The list features construction and engineering projects from around the UK, Europe and beyond including:
- Hong Kong International Airport - 1998
- The Channel Tunnel - 1994
- The Øresund Bridge – (Sweden/Denmark) - 2000
- Canary Wharf – London - 1991
- The Thames Barrier – London - 1984
- The Falkirk Wheel – Scotland – 2002
- Maeslant Barrier (Netherlands) - 1997
- Unisphere (United States) - 2018
- Madrid Metro Extension – 1995-2003
- The Peace Bridge (Northern Ireland) - 2011
Professor Adam Boddison, Chief Executive of APM, says: “To mark our 50th anniversary we wanted to celebrate and recognise the impact that projects have had on the world, and the important role that project professionals play in embracing change and opportunity. The 50 projects on this list all have their own legacy in the impact they have had on society, the economy and environment, as well as acting as a catalyst for other projects which followed and will follow them in the future.”
Construction and Engineering Projects as featured in APM’s ’50 Projects for a Better Future’:
The Channel Tunnel - UK/Europe
At 25 miles, the Channel Tunnel is the longest undersea tunnel in the world. It is also one of the biggest engineering projects ever undertaken in the UK, employing more than 13,000 workers from England and France. Digging commenced in 1987, and in 1994 the finished tunnel was unveiled by the Queen and President François Mitterrand. Since then, the equivalent of six times the UK population has crossed through it, as well as 95 million vehicles, and the programme has had a major economic benefit. Over a quarter of goods traded between the UK and Continental Europe go through the Channel Tunnel, which represents a value of €138bn per year. It was recognised as one of the Seven Wonders of the Modern World by the American Society of Civil Engineers.
Simon Lawrence, a former head of project futures at the UK’s Infrastructure and Projects Authority, who started work as a site engineer on the Channel Tunnel in 1990 says: “Starting my first engineering job on the Channel Tunnel was such an exciting step in my career in infrastructure. As a fresh graduate and obviously with lots to learn in the ways of major projects, the scale, pace and prominence of the project was hugely addictive. It was really tough, with the seven days a week round the clock rotating shift work, but every time I travel through the tunnel I feel proud to have played a small part in its creation.
“It was a project that at times was considered almost unachievable, the sheer size, cost, technical and logistical challenges and the hurdles in establishing the international agreement with France (Channel Tunnel Act of 1987). It’s an absolutely fantastic piece of engineering.”
The Øresund Bridge - Sweden/Denmark
An iconic 16km rail and road link that connects Sweden and Denmark, the Øresund project comprises a bridge, a man-made island and a tunnel. Crossing the bridge, which connects the cities of Copenhagen and Malmö, takes a mere 10 minutes by car. Since opening in 2000, the bridge has spurred the creation of an ‘Øresund Region’, with a population of 3.7 million. The quick connectivity means people can live on one side of Øresund and work on the other. Business and industry have benefitted hugely, and Copenhagen/Malmö has become the Nordic centre for many international companies.
Linus Eriksson, CEO of the Øresund Bridge says: "The Øresund Bridge was opened 22 years ago, but new bridges are being built every day. The connection - along with the thousands of people and companies who live, work, study, do business and have family on both sides of the bridge - brings Sweden and Denmark closer together. The Øresund Bridge is also a great example of how a megaproject in a sensitive marine environment can boost biological diversity, something that is reflected in the ocean, the artificial island and the bridge's pillars, home to one of Europe's largest mussel colonies. The Øresund Bridge is in many ways doing its part to create a better future", says.
Canary Wharf – UK/London
Canary Wharf on east London’s Isle of Dogs consists of former historic docklands reimagined as one of the world’s most iconic business, residential and leisure districts. Known for housing the European headquarters of many international banks, Canary Wharf’s imposing skyscrapers are both an assertion of London’s strength as a global financial centre and a powerful symbol of urban regeneration. When the first of its many office buildings, the towering One Canada Square, opened in 1991 it was the tallest building in the UK. The successful regeneration at Canary Wharf spurred a wave of similar renewal projects across London which continue to this day.
The Thames Barrier – UK/London
Opened in 1982, the Thames Barrier is one of the largest movable flood barriers in the world. The Environment Agency runs and maintains the Thames Barrier as well as London’s other flood defences. It’s a retractable barrier system that’s designed to prevent the floodplain of most of Greater London from being flooded by exceptionally high tides and storm surges moving up from the North Sea.
The Falkirk Wheel – Scotland
Canal engineering might not seem like an obvious priority in 21st century Britain, but it can still have a transformative effect on the communities it serves. The Falkirk Wheel, which opened in 2002, reconnected Glasgow and Edinburgh by canal for the first time since the 1930s, opening up central Scotland’s canal network to leisure boaters and enabling a regeneration of the surrounding spaces. It’s also an impressive feat of architecture and engineering in its own right, as the only rotating boat lift in the world, and one of just two working boat lifts in the UK, despite initial concerns that it was unbuildable.
Maeslant Barrier – Netherlands
Constructed from 1991 to 1997, the Maeslant Barrier (Maeslantkering in Dutch) is a storm surge barrier on the Netherlands’ Nieuwe Waterweg ship canal. Operated entirely automatically, the structure responds to predicted flooding and so protects the residents of the province of South Holland.
The Maeslantkering closes if the water level is predicted to rise to more than three metres above NAP (Normaal Amsterdams Peil – a reference measurement of the city’s water level) near Rotterdam. The huge barrier doors are in fact floating pontoons that can be filled with water. The additional weight makes them sink, creating the massive barrier. It is one of the largest moving structures on earth.
Unisphere – United States
Situated in the US city of Silver Spring, Maryland, the 210,000 square-foot, ellipse-shaped Unisphere is the world’s largest commercial net-zero building. Completed in 2018, it houses biotech corporation United Therapeutics’ clinical operations and virtual drug development lab. The building has no operational carbon footprint because the amount of electrical and thermal energy used is renewably generated on-site. Unisphere is heated and cooled with water pulled from 52 geo-exchange wells drilled 500ft into the earth below. The building “breathes naturally, as weather changes and seasons evolve”: artificial lighting dims automatically and windows change their tint based on sunlight and cloud cover.
Hong Kong International Airport – Hong Kong
Hong Kong International Airport (HKIA) opened in 1998 at a critical moment for the city and region, just one year following the transfer of sovereignty from the UK to Mainland China. Construction of the airport began in 1991 which was the central project in the 10-project Airport Core Programme. Built on a large artificial island formed by flattening and levelling two islands and reclaiming 9km2 of the adjacent seabed, the site added nearly one per cent to Hong Kong’s total surface area. Operating with two runways round the clock, HKIA connects with over 220 destinations worldwide and is served by some 120 airlines before the pandemic. Since 2010, HKIA has been the world’s busiest cargo airport, and in 2021 handled 5 million tonnes of cargo.
Ricky Leung, Executive Director, Engineering & Technology at Airport Authority Hong Kong said, “Since it was relocated from Kai Tak to Chek Lap Kok in 1998, HKIA has played a pivotal role in supporting Hong Kong’s economic development while establishing itself as a leading international aviation hub. HKIA is transforming from a city airport into an Airport City, involving rigorous developments to make it a destination in itself. The new third runway is scheduled to commence operation in 2022 as planned, while other projects under the three-runway system are proceeding as planned. The three-runway system, together with other major developments such as SKYCITY, will further enhance the airport’s capacity and functionality with a view to realising the Airport City vision. We believe that HKIA will continue to be a growth engine for Hong Kong and beyond.”
Madrid Metro Extension – Spain
For those who regularly endure the discomfort of London’s narrow, overcrowded Tube trains, a journey on the modern sections of the Madrid Metro will be just the tonic. Praised for its emphasis on functional, passenger-friendly design – with no unnecessary bells and whistles – the metro underwent a major extension programme in two phases between 1995 and 2003. Delivery of the extension in such a short timeframe was a major success that bucked the trend of cost and time overruns seen so frequently on subway construction projects. The use of a modular design and reliance on proven, pre-existing technology (no reinventing the wheel) were two key factors driving the high-speed, low-cost delivery of the extension programme.
The Peace Bridge, Londonderry
Spanning the River Foyle, the Peace Bridge was built in 2011 ahead of Londonderry’s year as the UK’s inaugural City of Culture in 2013. It symbolises the coming together of the two communities in Northern Ireland, having come as part of the redevelopment of a former army barracks into a public square. The bridge was the product of a collaboration between the Northern Irish Executive and the Government of Ireland, with funding drawn from a cross-border EU body dedicated to projects promoting the peace process. It has since become a shared focal point in the famously divided city and even ranked as Northern Ireland’s most popular tourist attraction in 2013.
To see the full list of APMs ’50 Projects for a Better Future’ visit