Dick and Dom head to New York to piece together the genius ideas that have seen buildings soar to incredible heights.
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-Welcome to the genius world
-..of monster engineering.
'Each show, we are going to introduce you to three geniuses...'
'..whose ideas have quite literally built the world.
'We put all their epic brilliance to the test...'
Hit it! Hit it!
'..when we tackle our own genius monster build.'
-Don't you dare demolish this.
Why is it swinging?
'All in the name of science.'
That is a massive piece of construction.
What could possibly go wrong?
'This show takes us to the dizzying heights of the skyscraper.'
It is so hot.
'Getting up close to the scorching material that made them possible.
'Finding out how some genius technology made
'tall buildings feel a whole lot smaller.'
You missed a bit.
'And how current skyscrapers may soon be staring up at new rivals.'
We're here in the Big Apple, New York City,
because this show is all about a monster of engineering,
We're going to be looking at the genius engineers and their ideas
that have made all of this happen.
We'll find out how over 150 years, buildings like this have gone from
two to three storeys to giants like those.
And whether in the future, we'll be building mile-high cities.
Today's towns and cities are running out of space,
so rather than build outwards, engineers are building upwards.
The first true skyscraper as we know it was built in
Chicago in 1885 and had ten floors.
The current world's tallest - the Burj Khalifa, in Dubai -
has a whopping 163.
But wanting to build a big isn't a new idea.
In the early days, tall structures like the pyramids or big churches
were all about getting attention
with incredible jaw-dropping structures.
Basically, showing off.
Skyscrapers may be a very modern idea but throughout history,
people have always wanted to build big.
But for hundreds of years,
this place was the tallest building in the world.
It is Lincoln Cathedral.
The cathedral is a pretty big and pretty impressive building.
But for a time, it was even taller.
It once had a huge spire on top that
made it the world's tallest building.
The cathedral is built out of stone,
which meant the higher they built it, the heavier it got.
This meant there was a limit as to how high it could go.
Heavy stone buildings like this physically couldn't go any higher.
The weight would cause the building to sink or topple.
Like the leaning Tower of Pisa.
To build bigger than this, engineers needed to find a new material.
So, in stepped genius number one, the man who gave us steel,
Help, I'm scared of heights.
Join the club, mate.
The start of the Industrial Revolution in
the 18th and 19th centuries brought with it a need to use metal.
Engineers used materials such as iron
to build things like machines and bridges.
But progress brought with it an ambition to build bigger and bigger
and iron just wasn't strong enough.
Then in stepped Henry Bessemer with a genius plan to
turn iron into steel on an epic scale.
-It is so hot!
Now, steel completely transformed the way we could build.
It was cheaper, stronger and more shapeable than
materials previously available.
I'm going to have to move out of the way.
And steel was a must-have for all engineers.
It enabled them to build bridges, skyscrapers, boats, you name it.
It's still the material behind most of our big buildings today.
Yeah, steel was a game changer.
It's still hot!
We're going to meet genius helper, materials engineer Mark Miodownik.
He's going to explain exactly how Bessemer made his steel.
-Mark, how are you doing? Good to see you.
Now, when we saw you from back there, it looked like you were
stood underneath a massive R2-D2 statue.
But clearly it's not. What is it?
This is a Bessemer converter. It's very close to my heart.
This is the first way
that Henry Bessemer found to mass-produce steel.
So, what was his genius? What was Bessemer's genius?
Steel existed for thousands of years before that
but no-one could make very much of it, only tiny little bits of it,
and he said, "I'm going to make it on a big scale,
"so everyone can use it." And he produced this.
Unfortunately, this doesn't work any more, but I will show you how
it does work. Follow me.
Could I come too?
So, how did Bessemer do it?
Well, Mark is taking us to Sheffield Uni
to recreate Bessemer's superheated chemical reaction.
-How does it fit, sir?
-Well, it's absolutely massive.
'This is going to be hot work, so we're putting on some
'pretty nifty heat-resistant clothes.'
Let's go and make some steel.
Mark, what have we got here?
This is iron. The problem with it is it's got too much carbon inside it.
And that makes it weak and brittle.
Iron was used to make things like steam engines and machinery,
but because it's brittle, it's of limited use
in building tall structures.
So, in stepped Bessemer's process to refine the iron.
We've got to get the carbon out and then
we'll be left with steel.
-How are we going to do that?
-We're going to blow oxygen through
the liquid iron and that's going to react with the carbon,
creating a gas that is going to go...BOOM!
And we'll be left with steel.
Oh, right. Listen, just to recap, melt the iron,
pump in some oxygen, the carbon comes out and steel.
-Man, can't wait.
-We'll need the visors down.
All right, then.
To melt iron, we need a temperature of over 1,500 degrees C.
That's hundreds of degrees hotter than lava from a volcano.
So this is the liquid iron. We need to measure how hot it is.
This is a fancy thermometer.
-Can you dip this in?
-Dip it in?
-Just dip that tip in there.
Have a look at the temperature at the back.
12, 13, 14, 15, 16...
1,610 degrees Centigrade.
That is one hot liquid metal.
-It's so bright, you can't even look at it.
-Look at that.
'Now the iron is hot enough, let's make some steel.'
It's like bright orange water.
Here it comes.
-Look how bright that is.
-Is that oxygen?
'Now for the dangerous bit.
'Mark's about to blast the liquid iron with oxygen.
'The oxygen is reacting with carbon in the iron.
'It's giving off carbon dioxide and the huge sparks you can see.'
You can feel the heat from here.
Now, imagine this happening on an industrial scale.
Look at it bubbling.
OK, so you're going to pour it into that crucible.
'With most of the carbon removed,
'the next stage is to pour the liquid metal into a ceramic mould
'until it sets as a solid piece of steel.'
Look at it. It pours like water, that's the amazing thing.
-It really does. It's like cream, isn't it?
Take your visor off, look how bright that is.
Wow! That is bright.
So, when that cools, you get this,
which is one we did earlier.
A piece of steel.
-That is heavy. I didn't expect it to be that heavy.
Of course, that could be turned into a skyscraper,
a boat, a plane, a car.
Yeah, that process changed the world.
Bessemer, you genius.
Oh, stop it. You're making me blush.
Bessemer had worked out how to manufacture steel
on a truly mammoth scale.
And by doing so, allowed the automobile industry to take off,
for a boom in bridge building
and for the construction of the first skyscrapers.
'Still to come, Dick tests his fear of heights
'on some pretty old technology.'
-Are you ready?
-Yes. Well, no, not really.
'Dom gets a very high window washing assignment.'
Why is it swinging?
'And we attempt a truly unique monster tower build
'of our very own.'
We're back in New York City to find out how genius engineers
took Bessemer's steel building blocks to the next level.
Our first genius gave us the materials we need to build big.
But for engineers to build this skyline, they would need
more than just a strong material.
Before we could have skyscrapers,
we needed a way of getting up and down them.
Thankfully, genius number two was here to help.
Introducing the genius of Elisha Otis.
The idea of lifts - or elevators as they're called in America -
isn't a new one.
In Roman times, the Coliseum had lift systems pulled by humans.
A bit dangerous.
But early lifts were dangerous.
-If the rope or cable were to snap...
..the lift platform would plummet, injuring those travelling on it.
All of this changed when Elisha Otis invented the safety lift.
An ingenious system that would catch a lift if the cable broke.
Suddenly, stairs were so yesterday.
Jolly good. Jolly good.
-Otis' invention was hugely important.
-We'll show you.
Yes, heads or tails?
Stairs for you.
How much further?
Lifts made the idea of a skyscraper practical.
Before lifts were invented, the only way to get to the top of
a building was by using the stairs and that's
not the dream, I can tell you.
But they meant it was possible to travel up buildings
quickly and easily.
That's it. Five floors is my limit.
And that's why in the olden days before lifts,
buildings were only five or six storeys tall
because people get tired.
Don't blame them, really.
The lift a meant that engineers could test the limits
of how high buildings could go. The skyscraper was born.
To find out how Elisha Otis convinced the world that
lifts could be safe for us to use,
we're heading just out of New York to the Otis lift test centre.
We're meeting genius helper Rick Pulling.
He's been in the lift industry for 30 years.
-Rick, how are you doing?
-Lovely to meet you.
-Dom, nice to meet you.
-Very good to see you.
We want to know more about Elisha's genius. What exactly did he do?
Well, he invented a method to stop an elevator from falling.
He invented the safety brake.
He worked in a bed manufacturing company
and every time the rope would break,
the platform with the goods would fall to the bottom
and the beds were damaged.
Luckily for us, Rick has an exact replica
of Otis' very first safety platform.
If a person was on this platform, and that rope would break,
the tension would be released and it would push these two arms out.
When the rope snaps, it will release two pins,
they should lock into metal grooves at the side,
hopefully stopping the platform from falling.
Do you mind showing us?
-If you'll join me.
-No, he'd love to join you.
No, surely you need someone heavier to test
-out the weight load, don't you?
I think it's you, my friend.
'Well, as Dick's on the platform,
'I think I'll do the honours and cut the rope.'
-Right, up we go then, Rick.
-I'm ready. Raise the platform.
It's not that high.
'It may not be high, but I'm still not 100% sure about this.'
-Put on our glasses.
-They're not going to help us, are they?
-Are you ready?
-Well, no, not really.
-Well, Dom, cut the rope.
And then we'll find out whether 150-year-old plans
still stand the test of time.
If that did fall, it would hurt.
Yeah. It wouldn't be very good on your back, would it?
'I'm putting a lot of trust into some pretty old plans.
'Especially when the only thing holding me up is this bit of rope.'
-All right, Dom. On the count of three.
-My heart's beating.
Three, two, one... Cut the rope.
-There we are.
'So, just moments after the rope was cut, the pins engaged,
'which meant the platform fell just a few centimetres.
'I don't know what I was worrying about.'
Well, Rick, thank you very much indeed.
-It's been brilliant.
-Dom, it was great.
-Richard, a pleasure, thank you.
It was my idea. Thank me.
By giving us safe lifts, Otis enabled the construction of
buildings to go higher than ever.
The skyscraper was born and the skylines of our cities
were changed forever.
Skyscraper dreams could at last become a reality,
but not all tall buildings are created equal.
It's time for some random genius-nessss.
In Bangkok, some brainy so-and-so
decided to mix his love for big buildings
with his love for elephants. And this is the outcome.
I'd rather have a room in the trunk than in the bottom,
thank you very much.
British architects also love their weird-shaped towers.
In London, there's one in the shape of a walkie-talkie,
and a cheese grater.
But in Spain, they're still building this thing,
the geniusly squiggly Sagrada Familia.
Construction started in 1882
and won't finish for at least another decade. Get a move on!
We are here at the top of One World Trade Center,
the tallest building in New York and America.
With an amazing view.
You can see the whole of New York. It is breathtaking. It's amazing.
-It is terrifying. And for a very good reason.
It's because right now, we are one third of a mile high
-in the sky.
-And our next genius not only
inspired this building, he came up with a plan to go even higher.
Surely that's not possible. Maybe it is.
All thanks to one genius architect, Fazlur Khan.
Higher and higher, baby.
Sometimes referred to as the Einstein of structural engineering,
American architect Fazlur Khan designed skyscrapers for a living.
He created the Hancock and Sears Towers in Chicago.
And in making them
created an entirely new way of building skyscrapers.
Khan took the normal way of building a skyscraper
and turned it inside out.
To find out more about Khan's genius idea, we've left New York
and headed back to London
to see a building built using his principles.
We're going to meet genius helper Roma Agrawal.
She designs skyscrapers for a living.
-Lovely to meet you.
-Lovely to meet you as well.
And what a view. Look at this.
So, Fazlur Khan, what did he do?
So, Fazlur Khan came up with a totally different way
of building skyscrapers. Before him,
the skyscrapers had a spine, a bit like our body,
which kept them strong.
So the main construction that held it all together
-went right in the middle?
-And then what did Fazlur Khan do?
Fazlur Khan took that from the inside of the building
and spread it all around the outside.
-So it's a bit like a turtle shell, like an exoskeleton, perhaps.
The old method of construction was to make a heavy
steel frame in the middle of the building.
Shall we go downstairs then, have a look at this turtle shell?
Well, I'm not going to make things that easy for you.
-I've got something special organised.
Don't like special. Special is not good. Go on, then.
'Roma doesn't seem to be taking us downstairs.
'I'm getting a bad feeling about this.
'What she got in mind for us?'
-This is the surprise.
Well, the plan is that one of you is going to get into this cradle
and that way, you'll be able to dangle outside the building
and see Fazlur Khan's genius work up-close and personal.
So one of you is going to get into there,
-lower yourselves down the outside of the building...
And clean some windows.
You clean the windows from the inside.
Get rid of the grubby fingerprints and I'll be here with Andrew,
having a better time. All right?
'Yeah, I think I've been stitched up here.'
Why is it swinging?
'Yeah, I've definitely picked the short straw here.'
Stop making it wobble.
Bye-bye, everybody. Bye-bye.
That's it, nice and clean, please. You missed a bit.
Roma, why am I doing this anyway? What's the point?
'Roma is going to tell you.'
The real reason is because you can see really clearly
Fazlur Khan's genius,
so those big huge bits of steel
in front of you are the exoskeleton that he designed
to make really tall buildings.
Ah, I see. But I could see them from the inside.
-It does look a bit streaky, I'm afraid.
-So these massive pieces of steel form the
big exoskeleton around this building,
which helps keep it nice and strong.
'The exoskeleton design meant less steel would be needed
'and buildings could be built lighter than was possible before.'
Why is it so important?
So, this system actually makes it much, much easier
to go really tall with skyscrapers.
-Well, the Burj Khalifa in Dubai,
which is the tallest building, is more than 800 metres tall.
-But I mean, you could go as tall as
you wanted, really, in theory.
The dream of a mile-high city could become reality?
-It could. It absolutely could.
-All because of Fazlur Khan.
Yes, it could.
Aim high, baby.
Khan's amazing designs allowed for new shapes
of skyscrapers to be made.
Suddenly, far less steel was needed to build big
and it meant that for engineers, the sky was now literally the limit.
'So far, we've learnt how our first
'genius gave us the material we needed to build big.'
You can feel the heat from here.
'How our second genius made it a lot easier to get
'to the top of big buildings.'
Cut the rope.
'And how Khan's exoskeleton designs have pushed super tall buildings
'to even greater heights.'
Why is it swinging?
Thanks to our three geniuses, super tall buildings
have gone from being a dream to a skyscraping reality.
And they are absolutely everywhere.
Today's monster build challenge is to build our very own skyscraper.
Out of a household object that I can guarantee has never been
used to build a skyscraper before.
Here's the plan. Our challenge is to create
a scaled-down version of the world's tallest building,
the Burj Khalifa in Dubai.
Except our Burj will be made entirely out of drinking straws.
Flimsy, bendy straws. Nothing else.
It'll need to be at least five metres high
and sturdy enough to support its own weight
and then strong enough to be battered by huge wind machines.
I think we're going to need some help.
When structures get us scratching our heads,
thankfully we have superstar engineer Yewande
to call on for help.
-We need your help.
All right, you've come to the right place.
We're trying to recreate the world's tallest building...
-..the Burj Khalifa.
-But we want to build it out of straws.
-Out of straws?
How do we do that?
-Cos if you are putting straws one on top of another...
-..five metres high...
-..it's just gone to fall over, isn't it?
We already know Fazlur Khan's amazing idea of actually putting
the support mechanism of the building round the outside.
Just like that. But he had another idea.
Right, so his idea was pretty much bundling up structures together.
Right, so what you're saying is that a straw on its own
is only as strong as a straw, whereas if you bundle it together
with ten, then you're going to make it
more than ten times stronger than if it's on its own.
And that makes sense, doesn't it?
And this genius is behind lots of the world's tallest buildings today.
Like the Burj Khalifa.
-Yes, we're going to need some help.
-We need a bundle expert.
'Yewande is taking us to a workshop where they are more than used to
'making all kinds of unusual structures.'
-We have the straws.
Gosh. OK, guys.
-Another bag of straws.
-Look at the straws we've got.
'So, we've got the straws but how do we make the structure?'
Right, let's get a production line going.
I'll pick up the straws.
Have we not got people that can do this for us?
Put that down. Pick up some straws.
-And see if we can get some consistency.
'Somehow, we need to turn these thousands of straws
'into the hundreds of bundles that will make our superstructure.'
-Oh, you've got one.
One down, about 299 to go.
'At this rate, it's going to take forever.
'It's all hands on deck.'
-We've done most...
..most of the work. Just a bit for you to finish off now,
-is that all right?
-Yes, that's fine.
'You little fibber.
'Much bundling later and our straw-building helpers
'have made quite a bit of progress.'
-How many straws do we have here?
But where do we start? How do we put it together?
Do you know what? I'm thinking we start right
-in the middle.
-In the middle?
-Tallest bit first.
-The centre columns, yes.
How about that?
'Let's get started.'
It's looking a bit floppy at the top at the moment. How are we going
-to connect it together? More tape?
-I think more tape.
'This isn't going well.'
Hold on a minute, that's my leg.
Quit messing around.
Right, now what?
'We need some height assistance.'
-That's what we need.
You need more than that.
How do I...?
-We've lost one here.
You're making a mockery of my work.
Oh, dear. Look, it's all snapped here in the middle.
-It does, yeah.
-Too much weight.
He broke it.
Now, now, boys. No arguing.
'The columns are not strong enough to stand on their own.
'So we're going to have to add more bundles
'or this could be a floppy failure.
'OK, let's get ready for round two.'
This time, get it level on the bottom.
I'm not uncutting anything else again.
-Looks pretty solid, that one.
Do you know what? Let's stand it. Let see if it actually stands up.
-Yeah, let's try.
-Are you ready?
-Oh, yeah. Look at that.
-Look at that.
OK, well, we've got it standing up, so now what
we're going to do is put it against the fan.
-That would be a real test.
'Our model is standing up at last but if this were a real building,
'it would have high winds to contend with.
'Where is our number one fan?'
-Turn on the fan.
Here it goes.
-It didn't work.
-It fell over.
-Yes, it did.
-What can we do?
-Right, so, just like a tree...
-..we need to build a
bigger base, right? So a tree has got roots that
go out quite wide out, right? To get a nice firm base.
And that's what we need to do.
More bundles, please.
It was never going to work.
I'll go under.
Right. Another one here, do you think? Two more bits.
Look at that.
-Some tape on this side, please.
-A bit more.
-There you are, solid.
-Good job. But final touch, the three genius flag.
-That can go about there.
-Right. Let's admire it.
-Look at that.
-It looks good. Very good.
'Standing at five metres tall,
'our skyscraper is built from 20,000 straws,
'but will it stand up to the wind machine?'
Now, without the finishing touches, last time, that fell over with
the force of the fan. Do you think this will stand the test of time,
now we've reinforced it?
We've got a bigger base, so it stands a chance, right?
Yes. Turn on the fan.
Fazlur Khan, are you an absolute genius?
Oh, yeah. Look at that! Hey?
'All right, then, not the most elegant of structures,
'but we did it. We erected probably the
'world's tallest tower of drinking straws.'
Oh, yeah. Look at that.
'On this show, we've learned how our three geniuses gave us
'the material and the designs to build soaring skyscrapers.
'Plus the means of getting up and down them.
'City skylines is across the world are becoming super-sized.'
All thanks to these three - Bessemer, Otis, and Khan,
you're all absolute genius.
He's loving it.
I hate it.
Dick and Dom head to the home of the skyscraper, New York City, to piece together the genius ideas that have seen buildings soar to incredible heights. Braving the scary heights of some mammoth structures, the boys become human guinea pigs at a lift-testing facility, get right up close to the blistering heat of a steelworks and attempt to build their own skyscraper from a very unexpected material.