By Carlin Gerbich

Kevin Bacon has a lot to answer for and it’s not just sugary movies from the 80s and 90s. No, the American actor is at the heart of a game movie buffs like to play where they’re challenged to link anyone in Hollywood to the Footloose star in six steps or fewer.

Dubai Marina Phase 1.
Dubai Marina Phase 1.

The idea stems from the theory that everyone in the world can be linked, via a chain of friends-of-friends coincidences, to everyone else in the world.

It’s a novel theory that got the team at Construction Week thinking. Could two of the world’s most recognisable structures be linked by a similar series of coincidences through contractors, engineers, consultants and developers?

The question of a starting point was relatively easy. The Eiffel Tower in Paris is one of the world’s most easily recognised structures, dominating the skyline of the French capital for the past 121 years.

It’s a symbol of survival having outlasted its original intentions as a temporary structure to mark the first centenary of the storming of the Bastille. It has weathered the storm of controversy that surrounded its formative years, survived two world wars and an order by Hitler to have it pulled down and junked by troops.

It is also a structure that continues to astound engineers today. The skeletal design helps reduce the wind forces exacted on the structure, meaning extra reinforcing for cladding and the additional aerodynamic effects simply isn’t required.

The Eiffel Tower was the first structure to surpass the 300m barrier and held the record as the world’s tallest building for 40 years. As a starting point for our Six Degrees of (construction) Separation feature, the Eiffel Tower ticks all the right boxes.

The second task was to find an end point, and Dubai’s world-topping 828m-tall Burj Khalifa seemed the logical choice. Not only does it now hold the title once claimed by the Eiffel Tower as the world’s tallest building, it too offers a unique insight in to the cutting-edge engineering principles of its time.

While it may look as though the skyscraper is based around the ‘bundled tube’ concept devised by SOM structural engineer Fazlur Khan in the 1960s, the Burj Khalifa has a new structural system called the buttressed core, which consists of a hexagonal core reinforced by three buttresses that forms its ‘Y’ shape. This structural system enables the building to support itself laterally and keeps it from twisting.

As the new holder of the Eiffel Tower’s crown, the Burj Khalifa has attracted millions of visitors to the Downtown Dubai development since it was opened just over a year ago. But how can the two structures be linked by a series of six engineering firms, developers or architects? Flick to the next page to find out.

1. Eiffel Tower
Developer: City of Paris.
Architect: Stephen Sauvestre
Contractor: Gustave Eiffel and Cie
Opened: March 31, 1889

Built by 300 workers who used 2.5 million hot rivets to connect the 18,038 pieces of puddled iron together, the Eiffel Tower was inaugurated on March 31 1889 and opened on May 6 in time for the Exposition Universelle of 1889.

Eiffel’s civil engineering background was vital in developing the structure, and calculations behind its technical aspects still stump architects today.

The tower was supposed to stand for 20 years, but its use as a radio mast meant it was too valuable to scrap. Eiffel’s company still exists, operating as the Eiffage Construction Group.

7,300 – Tonnes of puddled iron used in the structure

2. Millau Viaduct
Developer: Ministry of Public Works, France
Architect: Foster + Partners
Contractor: A consortium led by Eiffage
Opened: December 14, 2004
Link with previous project: Eiffel’s company survives as Eiffage which led the consortium that landed the project

More than a century after the Eiffel Tower opened to the public, the ribbon dropped on the Millau Viaduct – a project that harked back to Effiage’s civil engineering roots.

With the Channel Tunnel project under its belt, Eiffage led the winning bid for the Millau Viaduct project.

Designed by British firm Foster + Partners, the Millau Viaduct stands 343m and stretches 2.5km across the Tarn River Valley. It remains the highest cable stayed bridge in the world.

$540m – Cost of construction, in 2004

3. 30 St Mary’s Axe
Developer: Swiss Re.
Architect: Foster and Partners
Contractor: Skanska SA
Opened: April 28, 2004
Link with previous project: Both the Millau Viaduct and Gherkin were designed by Norman Foster

It’s not the tallest or most spacious building, but 30 St Mary’s Axe, or The Gherkin as it is known, is one of the most prominent on the London skyline.

Designed by Lord Norman Foster, the 40-storey tower was built by contractors Skanska, with structural engineering by Ove Arup and Partners.

The 180m building was completed in 2003 and it is now owned by IVG Immobilien AG and UK investment firm Evans Randall.

£630m – Building sale price in 2007

4. Heathrow Airport
Developer: British Airports Authority.
Architect: Richard Rogers
Civil engineers: Arup and Mott MacDonald
Opened: March 14, 2008

Link with previous project: Arup was responsible for the structural engineering on both the Gherkin and above ground aspects of Heathrow’s Terminal 5

While Heathrow’s Terminal 5 was dogged during its first few weeks of operation, the building itself is a fantastic structure. The main terminal building is 396m long, 176m wide and 40m tall, making it the biggest free standing building in the UK.

Its four storeys are covered by a single-span undulating steel frame roof, with glass façades angled at 6.5 degrees to the vertical.

Arup was responsible for the above ground work, while Mott MacDonald was responsible for foundations and substructures for rail, road, wastewater and passenger transfer services.

£4.2bn – Cost of construction of the terminal

5. Dubai Marina Phase 1
Developer: Emaar Properties
Architect: HOK
Engineer: Mott MacDonald
Completed: 2004
Link with previous project: Mott MacDonald was involved as a key contractor on both projects

Dubai’s Marina is one of the most prestigious areas of the city to live, thanks to the work of two well-known engineering firms.

While Halcrow was appointed as engineers for the Marina itself, Mott MacDonald took on the lead engineer role for the $327m Phase One of the project, including the complete structural and building services design for six residential towers and infrastructure covering a 10 hectare site.

Mott MacDonald completed the work for developer Emaar in 2004, and Phase 2 is now well underway.

25 acres – Size of Marina development in Dubai

6. Burj Khalifa
Developer: Emaar Properties.
Architect: SOM
Contractor: Arabtec, Samsung and Besix
Opened: January 4, 2010
Link with previous project: They are both Emaar developments

Emaar’s penchant for pushing the limits is personified by not only the Burj Khalifa, but in every project it conducts.

The company logged a titanic 2010 with the completion of the Burj Khalifa and the Armani Hotel, posting an annual revenue of $3.3b, 44% higher than the 2009 figure of $2.29b.

The Burj holds a list of world records, not only for its status as the world’s tallest tower, but also for hosting the world’s highest mosque, highest night club, highest swimming pool and other claims.