Strap yourself in, select a date and location, and off you go. But before your mind’s eye blinds you with dazzling fortunes from gambling on past Super Bowls (knowing who will win and by what point spread), try to focus your thoughts in a constructive direction. Think about witnessing some of the most awe inspiring man-made structures on the planet as they were built. I’ll bet you could come up with some wonderful ideas. Here are a few I have considered:
- The Great Pyramids of Giza. Without question, this site would be first stop on my itinerary. About once a month, I find myself glued to the History Channel or Discovery Channel, and I’m watching yet another archaeologist make up stories about how, when, and why these marvelous creations were constructed-all without massive cranes, diesel engines, labor unions, or OSHA regulations! A time-lapse video of pyramid construction would eclipse any network reality TV ratings, even my favorite-”Amazing Police Videos.”
- Rome. Say what you want about the movie “Gladiator,” but the Coliseum and St. Peter’s Basilica would have been extremely cool places to see under construction. Imagine how many secret tunnels, dungeons, tombs, chambers, aqueducts, and mechanical rooms are within those facilities! The Romans were pretty sophisticated architects and engineers, but I wonder how the Pope handled change orders? Do you think the Coliseum contract had schedule/penalty clauses that included facing lions?
- Windsor Castle. No trip in time would be complete without a construction site visit to a huge, authentic castle with medieval armament. Another remarkable feat, considering the lack of today’s surveying equipment, power tools, and DuPont Tyvek vapor barriers! I wonder if William the Conqueror considered potential IAQ lawsuits in the 21st century when he and his builders were reviewing punch lists and noticing the first signs of mold?
- The White House. Here’s another great facility that’s probably full of surprises under the floors and within the walls. I bet there isn’t any single person who knows all the deep, dark secrets this modern fortress holds-or how many coats of paint might be in each room! It would have been cool to have top secret clearance to watch the “People’s House” get built. How would you like the responsibility of maintaining those as-built documents or an even tougher assignment-emergency planning for the leader of the most powerful nation on earth!?
- Statue of Liberty. Imagine the fabrication of this beautiful symbol of liberty. I’ve seen documentaries on the scaling, designing, and modeling of the great lady, but to witness her construction would have been fascinating. My only trip to the “Big Apple” was about 20 years ago, and at that time, she was draped head to toe in scaffolding for renovations. Even that was an impressive sight from the harbor.
- The Eiffel Tower. If you’re easily offended, you might just want to skip this one. Despite our appreciation for the beautiful and priceless gift to the U.S. (mentioned in the previous entry) and our gratitude for France’s assistance while we rid our nation of British oppression, I haven’t been a big fan of the French government for many years. But personalities aside, the giant erector set on the Seine would have been an awesome construction project to behold. An Eiffel Tower Web site says there are 40 tons of paint and 2.5 million rivets on this structure.
- Stonehenge. Personally, I just don’t get it. People think this place is so incredible that aliens must have landed and put these rocks on top of each other. If that’s true, we don’t have anything to worry about if there is an alien invasion. I’ll admit, I’m no da Vinci, but if aliens assembled Stonehenge, they should have paid a few extra bucks and bought the optional instruction manual. Can you imagine Fred Flintstone and Barney Rubble walking away from that transaction, giggling at the two headed green idiots who just traded oil lamps, fur coats, and a couple new bowling balls for a few useless rocks? It barely makes my list, but I admit to being a little bit curious about how they moved those heavy rocks without elephants or hydraulic jacks; better yet, why did they even bother?
- World Trade Center. I have intentionally tried not to include facilities with relatively recent video footage of their construction. But for this sentimental favorite, I thought you would forgive an exception. (Maybe you’ll even forgive my France jokes; I really do love everyone.) Imagine being witness to this bold skyscraper coming out of the ground and soaring into the heavens. Some of you probably were in Manhattan during this period and had the opportunity to watch this spectacular marvel of facilities engineering and human accomplishment.
It’s unfortunate (and somewhat ironic) that the “youngest” facility on the list is also the only one that’s been taken from us prematurely. And with that, I apologize for ending my shortlist on a somber note.
Meanwhile, I know I’m not the only one out there whose imagination would run wild if given access to a time machine. Why would you want to travel in time, if the opportunity presented itself? Would you be interested in visiting certain places or manipulating some events?
Crane is amechanical engineer and regional property manager with Childress Klein Properties, a leading real estate developer and property management services provider in the Southeast.