11 amazing underground structures

Over the past few years, interest in living and working underground has grown. This is partly because building and tunnelling techniques have both evolved, but new building materials are also making it easier and cheaper to build below the surface.

Gone are the days when the only bunkers and secret labs were built underground. As you will see, there are some truly amazing structures already out there, with many more on the drawing board waiting to be brought to life. In virtually every country, you will find stations, houses, shopping centres and entertainment centres being built underground.

Fascinating mines

When most people think of underground structures, mines are the first thing they think of. These structures are certainly remarkable feats of engineering, so we would be remiss if we did not mention them in this article.

1. Mponeng gold mine, Johannesburg, South Africa

Mines come in many different forms. Some are quite small, but the most impressive ones are huge. The Mponeng gold mine in Johannesburg, South Africa is between 2.4 and 3.9km deep.

2. Wilgie Mia, Weld Range, Australia

Some of these huge mines have taken thousands of years to grow to their current size. Wilgie Mia, which is located in the Weld Range in Australia, has been mined for at least 40,000 years. This red and yellow ochre mine produced the pigments that used to create many of Australia’s ancient rock art.

Re-invented mine structures

There is growing interest in giving spent mines new leases of life. These huge places make perfect entertainment venues.

3. Salina Turda Amusement Park, Romania

Perhaps the most impressive example is the Salina Turda Amusement Park in Transylvania. This startling venue houses a Ferris wheel, a bowling alley and a mini-golf course. Much of the salt mining machinery is still in situ, so it is also a museum.

4. Salt Cathedral Zipaquirá, Cundinamarca, Colombia

The salt mines in Zipaquirá, Cundinamarca, Colombia were first put to use in the 5th century BCE. At some point, the miners carved out an underground sanctuary.

In 1950, a full-scale cathedral was constructed, which was inaugurated in 1954. Able to hold 8,000 people, it had to be shut in 1992 because of concerns about structural integrity. At the time, the mine was still in full-scale operation, which is thought to have led to the instability.

However, the cathedral had been a huge success, so construction of a replacement began immediately. The new one was built 200-feet under the old one and was inaugurated in 1995. For the most part, the caves left behind by the mining operation were utilised.

Taking this approach allowed the 14 Stations of the Cross chapels to be created at the entrance. This area then opens into the stunning cathedral.

This mine also incorporates several museums, famous sculptures and geology displays. It is gradually becoming a major tourist attraction.

Ancient underground cities

Interestingly, living underground is something that humans have been doing for centuries. In fact, whole communities used to live in subterranean cities. One of the most famous examples of this was found in 1963, in Cappadocia, Turkey.

5. Derinkuyu, Cappadocia, Turkey

This amazing complex was built at a depth of 85 meters. It includes stables and churches, as well as enough living quarters to accommodate 20,000 people. This area of Turkey has 36 of these amazing underground city complexes.

6. Dixia Cheng, Beijing, China

There are far fewer examples of modern underground cities, but they do exist. One of the most famous is Dixia Cheng, Beijing. This city was built to act as a bomb and nuclear attack shelter. It includes schools and hospitals, as well as sleeping quarters. Today, it is a very popular tourist attraction.

Underground shopping and entertainment centres

Some of the most fascinating and well-used underground structures are to be found in Canada.

7. RÉSO, Montreal, Canada

Montreal has a 20-mile long network of tunnels and arcades running under its streets. Included in the RÉSO network are seven metro stops, a library, several cinemas, galleries, restaurants, hotels and over a thousand shops. At some points, the structure is four storeys deep.

8. PATH, Toronto, Canada

Toronto is home to an even bigger underground shopping and entertainment complex. Its PATH network includes 4,000,000 sq. ft of retail space.

9. COEX mall, Seoul, South Korea

South Korea also has several huge underground shopping malls. Many of them are built alongside subway stations. The largest of these is called the COEX mall, and is located in the Samsung Station in Seoul.

The world’s most beautiful underground structures

So far, we have picked structures for their scale and interesting engineering. Now, we are going to take a quick look at some of the world’s most beautiful underground structures.

Many of them are quite unlike anything you have seen above ground. The architects and designers of the most stunning looking structures have taken full advantage of the unique surroundings.

10. The Temppeliaukio Church, Helsinki, Finland

The walls of this striking church are just rough-hewn rock. That may not sound promising, but the visual effect is stunning. It really is an amazing place with a unique ambiance.

11. Wieliczka Salt Mine, Poland

The salt works in Wieliczka, Poland produced table salt from the 13th century right through to 2007. This made it one of the world’s oldest salt mines. Over that time, the miners created some amazing salt sculptures, even chapels. So, when the mine closed, the idea of continuing to use it did not seem strange at all.

Today, it is a big tourist attraction. The crystalline structure of the salt creates a wonderful reflective, otherworldly environment. It is classy and contemporary with a luxurious vibe, so it is unsurprising to learn that this structure is a very popular wedding venue.

The future of underground structures

There is no doubt that we are going to see more structures being built under the surface. In many places, land is expensive and in short supply, so developers are digging down as well as building upwards.

The fact that we also need to start building in a more eco-friendly way is also likely to drive demand. Underground structures consume hardly any energy, as they maintain their temperatures almost regardless of what the outside temperatures or conditions are like outside.

Posted by Mark
October 31, 2018

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