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Each year 3.5 million people climb one of the world’s most iconic steel structures, without giving the building’s composition or creative steel drafting a second thought.

Constructed in 1931, New York’s Empire State Building is a thing of beauty, with an art deco interior and some of the most awe-inspiring views on the planet. It has a 57,000-ton steel frame, to hold up 200,000 cubic feet of limestone and granite, and 730 tons of aluminium and stainless steel.

If you asked most people to name the world’s most impressive steel structures, they would probably think only of bridges, or scratch their heads, completely oblivious to the role steel plays in popular tourist attractions.

Architects and steel draughting experts will no doubt have their own ideas on structures that inspire them, and the ones that reinforce their appreciation for versatility and strength of this iron alloy.

Here is our list of the world’s most remarkable steel icons.

The Beijing National Stadium

This must top the list, as it’s the largest steel structure currently in existence.

Also referred to as the Bird’s Nest stadium, it took five years to build as the focal point of the 2008 Olympics. The Beijing National Stadium contains more than 42,000 tons of steel.

The Sydney Harbour Bridge

The world’s largest (but not longest) steel arch bridge is, of course, the unforgettable Sydney Harbour Bridge. It’s an image that is totally synonymous with Australia, but also an engineering masterclass. Not only does it look deeply impressive, but the 52,800 tons of steel in its frame support eight busy lanes of traffic, two train tracks, pedestrian walkways, and a cycle path!

Burj Khalifa

In a pub quiz, would you know the name of the tallest engineered structure on the planet? If you’re an expert in steel drafting, then this is probably an easy question, as this 829.8m skyscraper in Dubai is hard to forget!

Not least as the CAD services and engineering genius used to construct it optimised the steel components by using a bundled tube design. This means that though the steel used in the Burj Khalifa is not heavy, the theory is that it would stretch a quarter of the way around the world if laid end to end.

Brooklyn Bridge

This may not be a world beater in terms of size or weight, but the Brooklyn Bridge is awe-inspiring none the less, as the engineers who created this iconic New York bridge were the first to use steel-wire to support a suspension bridge, way back in 1869!

Shun Hing Square Tower

The incredible ability of the Chinese to design and construct using steel could earn them many places on an architect’s list of top building projects.

A special mention must go to the country’s largest all-steel building, the Shun Hing Square Tower (also referred to as Di Wang Tower). The prowess of the Chinese construction trade is demonstrated in the fact that this 384m tall skyscraper (with office space, a car park, and a 5-storey shopping arcade) rose four floors every nine days as it was being built!

Tokyo Skytree

The last one on our list (though you’re sure to have more) is the 634m high Tokyo Skytree in Japan, with its amazing steel detailing.

The Skytree has 36,000 tons of steel in its frame (the equivalent of 200 jumbo jets according to its website) and provides ample space for a broadcasting business, a restaurant and observation tower.

However, it is perhaps the work of Japanese architectural firm Nikken Sekkei that sets it apart. The concept aimed to signify a fusion between neo-futuristic design and the traditional beauty of Japan. It became a huge symbol of urban revitalisation went it opened in 2012, and it looks stunning.

Contact us to give your feedback on our list of the most impressive steel structures in the world – or to explore how our CAD services can support creativity in your structural steel drawings.