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Home » Business News

Shropshire architects invited to ‘design and build’ 10 of the world’s greatest monuments…

Submitted by on June 12, 2019 – 8:00 am |

Colosseum Process DiagramA Shropshire architects practice has made the bold claim that ten of the world’s most famous landmarks could be built in a combined total of less than 100 years.

Johnson Design Partnership (JDP) was asked by energy provider E.ON to work out how modern day design and build techniques could speed up the build of iconic monuments, including the Great Wall of China, The Taj Mahal and The Pyramids of Giza.

The firm, which has offices in Bridgnorth and London, spent time researching the traditional construction methods and then looked at ways in which the process could be modernised to reduce time and the labour required.

This included the use of cranes to lift stone into place, electric machines to cut it, sustainable technology to help with cooling and heating and 3D printing to recreate Stonehenge stones in an alternative material.

Matt Spinks, Director at JDP, commented: “We were delighted to be invited by E.ON to take part in this project. Design is our passion so it was a really interesting challenge to review how 10 world famous landmarks were built and how we would go about it if we were appointed today.

“In total, we believe it would now take just 92 years to construct all of the monuments, utilising over 15,000 labourers and construction specialists. This is compared to over 4300 years traditionally, with more than 250,000 people and many animals helping with the build.”

He continued: “It is unbelievable that these landmarks could have been created when they were, a real sign of ingenuity, hard work and outstanding tenacity. Whilst today’s techniques are quicker, we can still learn a lot from the designs of years gone by.”

The Great Wall of China would still command the biggest workforce using today’s design and build techniques, with 5000 people needed to complete the project. This was followed by the Pyramids of Giza and the Taj Mahal, whilst Stonehenge requiring the least with just 150 workers.

The best-known prehistoric monument in Europe also enjoyed the biggest reduction in construction time, dropping from 1500 years to just 1.


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Project Breakdown

Chichen Itza

Original build time: 100s of years

Today’s build time: 5 years

Workers Now: 1500 employees

What would change: A helicopter would be used to bring in materials and equipment due to access issues. Depending on the ground conditions, the foundations would either be piles or a traditional foundation/slab. Off this a steel frame would be constructed and the buildings facades would be clad in thin laser cut stone.

Once the envelope of the building is constructed, the internal fit out would commence. Using current technology, 1st fix and 2nd fix electrical and mechanical will be installed before the internal walls and finishes are completed.

The building would be cooled and heated using sustainable technology. For example, air source heat pumps, powered by solar energy, or if the ground conditions are ok, ground source heat pump.

Lighting would be via LEDs, again powered by solar energy. Depending on the specification of the cladding, you could now introduce PV technology into the façade.

Pyramids of Giza

Original build time: 80 years

Today’s build time: 15 years

Workers Now: 2000 employees

What would change: A steel frame would be constructed first in the shape and size of the pyramid to form the basis of the main structure, cranes would be used to lift this into place then the steel frame would be bolted and welded together appropriately

The internal steel structure would be lighter (metal stud style formation) and then clad in stone slips, using mechanical fixings and resin bond.

At specific locations, plates would be attached for cut stone to sit on and form the external façade. Certain places within the external skin, stone would sit on stone and these would be mechanically fixed and bedded with resin bond.

Due to the complexity of the internals we would propose a full BIM model prior to starting on site, so that all services (for example steel) can be coordinated.


Original build time: 1500 years

Today’s build time: 1 year

Workers Now: 150 employees

What would change: Cranes could now be used to move and place the individual stones into the circles. As long as the ground conditions are suitable, the foundations will form the basis of where the stones are sited.

If they are to be constructed like for like, it is the sourcing of the stone that will be key.  If we were to create the stones in terms of size and position then we could utilise technologies, such as 3D printing, to recreate the stones in an alternative material, which would reduce construction time and man power. This could reduce the build time from years to weeks/ months and the number of builders from 150 to just 10 or 20.

Machu Picchu

Original build time: 64 years

Today’s build time: 10 years

Workers Now: Up to 500 employees

What would change: A helicopter would need to be used to bring in materials and equipment. A steel frame would be constructed and the buildings facades would be clad in thin laser cut stone.


Original build time: 500 years

Today’s build time: 25 years

Workers Now: Unknown (It is estimated that only 15% has been uncovered, the rest is still underground and untouched.)

What would change: Mobile laser cutters could be used to carve out the cliff, with the laser being computer programmed and conveyor belts set up to remove the debris.

The internal finishes could stay as the existing stone, but alternatively you could introduce modern materials to clad and line the temple. The introduction of lighting (LEDs) would make it feel like a very special space to be in.

Great Wall of China

Original build time: 2000 years

Today’s build time: Up to 20 years

Workers Now: 5000 people

What would change: Shuttered/pre-cast blocks constructed offsite due to access issues and then transported in.

3D printed elements would also be incorporated. The elements would be connected with hidden fixings to connect all the parts together, like a kit of parts.


Original build time: 9 years

Today’s build time: 3 years

Workers Now: 1000 people

What would change: It would now be built by constructing a steel frame, which is then clad in pre-cut stone and 3D printed elements to allow for the detail. To use stonemasons now would add to the cost and timescale of the construction.

The choice of the materials would be specified to ensure it is durable and robust to the elements in that location. The ambience and feel maybe different from solid stone compared to a clad building, so that might be a decision that needs to be made by the client.


Original build time: Up to 8 years

Today’s build time:  4 years

Workers Now: 1000 people

What would change: The Colosseum would now be built by constructing a steel frame which is then clad in pre-cut stone and 3D printed elements. The use of timber would still be used for the roof construction or a light metal frame to span, a thin fabric or an ETFE (similar to the Eden project) for the roof structure.

Angkor Wat

Original build time: 30 years

Today’s build time: Up to 10 years

Workers Now: 1500 people

What would change: It would now be built by constructing a series of steel frames, which could then be clad in pre-cut stone and 3D printed elements. Locally sourced stone could be used as per the existing buildings, but this could add unnecessary time and cost to the project.

Taj Mahal

Original build time: 20 years

Today’s build time: 7 years

Workers Now: Up to 2000 people

What would change: Steel frame/clad in Marble slips. If marble was not the required finish, we would specify a lighter cladding, such as Trespa. This is a compressed paper in resin product, hard wearing, durable and lighter/easier to install, which would reduce construction timescales.

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