The big picture: In addition to offering insight into how earlier civilizations erected elaborate structures, the research could help to design and build structures today in locations where heavy machinery can't go. It could also allow forces to put up barricades when a threat is imminent, such as rising flood waters or to keep protesters at bay.
Researchers from design lab Matter Design in collaboration with construction specialist CEMEX have developed giant concrete structures that can be maneuvered by hand. Their work, inspired by megalithic structures like Stonehenge and the Moai statues on Easter Island, demonstrates how science can effectively be leveraged to pull off a feat that would otherwise seem impossible.
In 2014, the researchers started studying how ancient civilizations built giant structures without the aid of modern equipment like cranes and other heavy machinery. Putting their knowledge to the test, they created huge structures using variable density concrete with rounded edges and handle points to help move them.
Key to their mobility is precisely calibrated centers of mass that ensure stability on the go.
In the end, the design lab was able to successfully craft multi-level platforms, walls and even staircases using the individual components – all assembled by hand. Some of the concrete pieces weighed as much as 25 tons.
As impressive as it sounds on paper, it’s even more compelling to watch people move the massive blocks with ease.
Sure, it takes some time and patience to “walk” everything into place, but it certainly beats having to drag heavy stones using sheer strength alone.