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The most polluted countries on the planet are looking for ways to create greener, more sustainable cities. Credit: Foster + Partners.

  • Tungsteno

The green revolution in the world's most polluted cities

Nine out of ten people around the world breathe polluted air, according to the World Health Organisation. Combating pollution is essential in countries such as Bangladesh, Pakistan and India, which are the worst examples of Asian overpopulation. How do cities in Asia aim to create greener and more sustainable spaces?

ISABEL RUBIO ARROYO | Tungsteno

 

Bangladesh, Pakistan and India share something in common. They top the ranking of the most polluted places on the planetaccording to the Swiss air quality company IQAir. Pollution is undoubtedly one of the environmental challenges of the century. Some cities in these countries are already working to reverse the situation and lay the foundations to become more liveable urban centres for their residents.

 

A vast natural lung in India

 

India is home to 22 of the 30 most polluted cities globallyaccording to IQAir's 2020 Global Air Quality Report. The most polluted months in cities like Delhi correspond to the agricultural burning season, which runs from October to December. "2020 was a particularly severe year for agricultural burning, an illegal but common practice in which farmers set fire to crop residue after a harvest," it notes. Added to this is the pollution produced by millions of cars, factories and construction sites.

Amaravati, a city designed by the British architectural design and engineering firm Foster + Partners and strategically positioned on the banks of the River Krishna, aspires to be one of the world's most sustainable cities. The 217-square-kilometre site is intended to be a natural lung: at least 60% of the area will be occupied by greenery or water. The idea is that the electricity that supplies the buildings will be completely green and come from renewable sources such as photovoltaics. In terms of transport, dedicated cycle routes will be built and the use of electric vehicles and water taxis will be encouraged. It is still too early to tell whether Amaravati will truly become one of the greenest cities in the world, as the project is still at an embryonic stage. It is expected that 3.5 million people will live in the city in 35 years' time.

 

Amaravati aspires to be one of the most sustainable cities in the world. Credit: Foster + Partners.

 

A breath of fresh air for Bangladesh

 

The atmosphere and rivers of Bangladesh, the world's most polluted country, are toxic. In 2016, the Buriganga River, which supplies some 180,000 people in Dhaka, ceased to support life. The tanneries in the Hazaribagh neighbourhood discharge an estimated 21,600 cubic metres of untreated and toxic waste into the capital's main artery every day, according to the Bangladesh Department of Environment. These discharges, together with the lack of sanitation systems and the rubbish dumped in the water, pose a health hazard to local residents.

This is just one example of how pollution has spread across this Asian country. But some cities in Bangladesh, including Rajshahihave already begun to take steps to combat pollution. There was a time when it was necessary to shut windows in summer because of choking smog, a haze of dust and particulate matter typical of industrial cities. But this city, which borders India, has been completely transformed in just a few years. It now breathes cleaner air and enjoys a greener, less polluted environment.

The authorities have restricted diesel and petrol-powered vehicles on the roads, according to the Dhaka Tribune. In addition, many brick kilns, which emit toxic black smoke, have been moved away from the city. Those that still remain in Rajshahi now have better chimneys. Trees and flowers have also been planted in different parts of the city and rubbish is now collected daily and dumped only in designated places. In addition, machines have been installed to measure air pollution in real time. "If we find anything wrong, we take action immediately to keep the air pollution-free," Mamunur Rashid, deputy director of the Rajshahi Department of Environment, said in 2020.

 

Rajshahi has been transformed in recent years to reduce air pollution. Credit: Wikimedia Commons.

 

A green city from scratch, within Pakistan's capital

 

In Pakistan, polluted air is also endangering people's lives, charges Amnesty InternationalProlonged exposure to polluted air "can cause serious health problems such as asthma, lung damage, bronchitis and heart problems and reduce life expectancy." In fact, a 2015 study published in the prestigious medical journal The Lancet indicates that nearly 22% of annual deaths in Pakistan are caused by pollution. "Something is very wrong when the air is so toxic that no one can breathe without getting sick," says Rimmel Mohydin, Amnesty International's South Asia campaigns officer.

There are some projects that represent a step towards a more sustainable future. One example is Capital Smart City, an initiative that aims to build a smart city in an area of Islamabad, the capital of Pakistan. A plot of land measuring almost 28,000 square metres has been set aside for the construction of residences and businesses using the latest technology. Although the first works to build this city began in 2018the project is still at an early stage. The design of the city has been led by Surbana Jurong, a Singapore-based consultancy with expertise in smart city design.

In addition to smart homes and schools, Capital Smart City will have solutions to improve and streamline traffic congestion and energy distribution, and even reduce air pollution. The new city will have, for example, automated traffic lights and streetlights to control traffic and prevent traffic congestion and accidents, solar panels and a smart wastewater treatment plant. Its creators stress that the "natural elements of forests, hills and rivers surrounding the site provide opportunity for scenic views and potential green corridors."

 

Capital Smart City will feature solutions to improve and streamline traffic congestion and reduce air pollution. Credit: PK Marketing.

 

Taking steps to move towards a greener future is imperative in a world in which more than 90% of the global population breathes polluted airaccording to the World Health Organization (WHO). Various studies have found that pollution is linked to respiratory infections; for example, it can cause asthma, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. In addition, the WHO reports that around seven million people die each year from exposure to fine particles in polluted air. Countries around the world, including several Asian countries such as Bangladesh, Pakistan and India, are taking steps to prevent this with greener and more people-friendly cities.

 

· — —
Tungsteno is a journalism laboratory to scan the essence of innovation. Devised by Materia Publicaciones Científicas for Sacyr's blog.

  • Smart cities
  • Pollution
  • Contamination

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Investor Day 2021

We are pleased to invite you to our next Sacyr Concesiones Investor Day, which will take place via streaming on Thursday, 7th October at 11.00h (CEST). We look forward to your participation.

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Results reports

Continuing our effort to be even clearer, more transparent, and more attractive to our shareholders, investors, and other stakeholders, we provide you with our results reports from recent years published at the National Securities Market Commission (CNMV), in addition to related presentations and multimedia content.

 

The first half 2021 results presentation was held on July 30th at 13:00 CEST.

To access the webcast replay, click here 

  • Sacyr Concesiones Investor Day

To access the Webcast of our next Sacyr Concesiones Investor Day of 7th October at 11.00h (CEST) click here

Our next Sacyr Concesiones Investor Day will take place via streaming next Thursday 7th October at 11.00h (CEST).

To follow it live and register, please  click here

 

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Results Presentations

Consult and download all the presentation of results from recent years, published in the National Securities Market Commission (CNMV).

 

The first half 2021 results presentation was held on July 30th at 13:00 CEST.

To access the webcast replay click here 

  • Results 1H 2021

The results of the first semester demonstrate the soundness of our business model

Despite the complex scenario caused by the pandemic, our results grow: turnover (2.164 M€, +4%), cash flow (282 M€, +29%), and net profit (40M€).

In the first six months of the year all our activities increased their EBITDA: Concessions (+26%, 212 M€), Engineering and Infrastructures (+8%, 158 M€) and Services (+8%, 44 M€). Net profit shrinks due to the lack of extraordinary results in 2021. Discounting this effect, profit grew by 233% (from 12 million to 40 million). Profitability, measured on the margin on EBITDA, grows and reaches 18.6%, as opposed to 16.7% a year ago.

 

Our backlog grows 15%

The backlog is the best indicator of our success at securing new projects. The future revenue backlog ended the first half of the year at 45,091 million euros, 15% higher than at the end of 2020. We grow in all our priority markets, with the first infrastructure project in Canada, new P3 projects in Chile, Italy and Brazil and other construction and services projects in the United States, Spain, Italy and Chile, among others.

 

Outstanding figures

402 MILLION EUROS OF EBITDA 1H 2021

45,092 MILLION EUROS OF FUTURE REVENUE BACKLOG

18.6% MARGIN ON EBITDA

 

Concession business

In the first semester of 2021, our concession business has contributed 82% of the company’s EBITDA, five points more than last year. Furthermore, 80% of the group’s backlog is from concession assets, which contain latent EBITDA of over 22,500 million euros to come to fruition in the future.

One of our goals is to reduce net recourse debt. This year, Sacyr has used two innovative financial instruments linked to sustainability targets: green financing of up to 160 million euros (120 million already drawn and 40 million as previously awarded projects come into operation) in Valoriza Servicios Medioambientales, directly linked to the fulfillment of green KPIs; and the first social bond issued in Latin America linked to an infrastructure project for US$ 209 million to refinance the Montes de María road (Colombia).

 

Evolution by business area

Concessions. Sacyr Concesiones achieved a turnover of 566 million euros (+1%). Most of its assets have limited demand risk, and remuneration is based primarily on availability criteria.

EBITDA totalled 212 million euros, up 26% due to the entry into operation of several stretches of road and projects such as Tláhuac Hospital in Mexico and the University of Idaho in the USA.

The future revenue backlog, which stands at 35,992 million euros (+16%), includes the award of the A3 Naples-Salerno highway (Italy) and the RSC-287 in Brazil.

Engineering and infrastructure. Turnover of this division reached 1,283 million euros, 5% higher than the first half of 2020. EBITDA grew by 8% to 158 million euros, and EBITDA margin reached 12.3%, compared to 11.9% in the previous year. This division’s backlog reached 6,421 million euros, 14% higher than in December thanks to the company’s success in the tenders in which it participated.

The first projects awarded in Canada, which are included in the road map set for the 2021-2025 period, the increase in the backlog in the US and Chile, and several construction projects and concessions in Italy are noteworthy. The backlog is 82% international and ensures 30 months of activity. 50% corresponds to Sacyr Concesiones projects.

Services. Turnover of this division shrunk by 1% to 494 million euros. The EBITDA amounted to 44 million euros (+8%), and the EBITDA margin was 9%, up from 8.3% in the first half of 2020. The services backlog stood at 2,678 million euros (+0.4%), with the incorporation of new contracts.

Featured projects

Brine channel of the Muchamiel Desalination Plan (Alicante)

  • With Sacyrean accent

Brine mining to make the most of desalination processes

Brine mining consists of obtaining salts and chemical products from brine salt concentrate that can bring economic value to other industries.

In the past few years, desalination has become a new water resource that allows to supply populations, industries, and irrigation in times of drought and helps mitigate the effects of climate change over water shortages. Considering that one in every nine people in the world lacks access to drinking water and that 97.5% of the water on the planet is in oceans, its necessity and opportunity are more than evident. 

Currently, there are about 18,000 desalination plants in the world with the capacity to produce almost 100 million m3 of water daily. Spain, with leading industry and sector, is one of the countries with the greatest installed capacity (the fifth) in the world.

One of the environmental aspects that tend to worry the most about desalination is the practice of dumping concentrate salt and residues, also known as brine. When the dumping is done correctly, by previously diluting it and using diffusers (like in developed countries), the impact is practically undetectable, as the salt concentration goes back to sea levels at just a few meters away from the dumping point.

 

Perth Desalination Plant

 

Take the Persian Gulf, the region with the highest concentration of desalination plants and the largest dumping volume, the increase in salinity levels due to desalination concentrate is estimated to be 5% lower than the increase caused by water evaporation.

In any case, dumping is not the only possible solution in brine residue management. In the past years, the brine mining field has developed greatly. Brine mining consists of obtaining salt and chemical products from this salt concentrate.

Perhaps the most evident application could be using concentrate in salt evaporation ponds to produce table salt. However, except for some facilities in Greece and Israel, there are not many known large-scale examples of this use.

Some other salts or chemical products that can be obtained from the concentrate arise greater interest for their economic value, whether it comes from seawater desalination or brackish water.

On the one hand, we can generate Sodium hypochlorite in situ through technologies like electrochlorination (a common technology already used to add chlorine to pools), or use new technologies based on different variants of electrodialysis to produce chemical products, like Hydrochloric acid or Sodium hydroxide.

Through processes like evaporation-crystallization and other more or less conventional technologies, there have also been reports of obtaining salts like Anhydrite (CaSO4), Bischofite (MgCl2 6H2O), Calcite (CaCO3), Carnallite (MgCl2 KCl 6H2O), Dolomite (CaMg(CO3)2), Epsomite (MgSO4 7H2O), gypsum (CaSO4 2H2O), Halite (NaCl), Hexahydrite (MgSO4 6H2O), Kieserite (MgSO4 H2O), Langbeinite (K2SO4 2MgSO4), Mirabilite (Na2SO4 10H2O), Sylvinite (KCl+NaCl), Sylvite (KCl) and Thenardite (Na2SO4). 

 

Crystals from different salts obtained from brines

 

Likewise, there are eight elements of especial economic interest in brine: Phosphorus, Cesium, Indium, Rubidium, Germanium, Magnesium, Sodium chloride, and Potassium chloride. Their extraction could be technically and economically viable.

About using brines, it is worth mentioning that some work is currently being done on developing processes such as forward osmosis or bipolar electrodialysis to produce energy from mixing salt currents with freshwater. That is, generating energy due to the salinity gradient created from mixing these waters.

The first director of the Nobel Institute, Svante Arrhenius, calculated in 1903 the amount of gold in the sea, estimating 6 mg per ton of water. Perhaps the process to extract it is not viable, but there are studies and works to obtain the new “white gold” of the 21st century from the sea: Lithium. This material used in batteries is more precious by the day. Lithium is present in seawater, and it could be extracted, hence, meriting the name “new white gold”.

 

Sacyr Agua/Sacyr Water pilot brine evaporation-crystalization plant

 

Did you know…? 

 

  • The first reference to desalination was in the Bible when Moses turned saltwater into freshwater with a touch of his staff.
  • Unfortunately, this low-consumption energy technology has been impossible to reproduce to this date. 
  • Aristotle wrote several works on seawater and desalination.
  • Pliny the Old described desalination methods in his Natural History Encyclopedia.
  • Roman legions used solar desalination in their African campaigns. 
  • Vikings used the sails of their ships as fog nets to collect freshwater (this process is still used today in some parts of the Andes).
     

  • desalination
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Corporate

Sacyr boosts its ebitda by 16% to 402 million euros and increases turnover by 4%

  • In the complex global scenario due to the Covid-19 pandemic, Sacyr improved its operating cash flow, turnover and EBITDA, demonstrating the strength of strategy, focusing on concession assets
  • Concession assets contributed 82% of EBITDA in the first half, five percentage points higher than in 2020
  • Its future revenue backlog grew by 15% in the first half, to 45,091 million euros, thanks to the success achieved in contracting
  • Sacyr will not renew derivatives it has contracted on 5% of Repsol, so the company’s stake will be reduced from 8% to 3% in the second half of 2021

30/07/2021

Sacyr increased its EBITDA by 16% in the first half of 2021, to total 402 million euros, thanks to its good business development and the company’s strong focus on concessions. Indeed, concession assets, with limited demand risk, accounted for 82% of this EBITDA, five percentage points higher than in the same half year of 2020.

Group operating cash flow grew by 29% to 282 million euros.

This growth was achieved in a challenging environment due to the Covid-19 crisis. Turnover grew by 4% to 2,164 million euros between January and June, and profitability (margin on EBITDA) climbed to 18.6%, significantly higher than the same value in the first half of 2020 (16.7%).

Net profit reached 40 million euros, compared to 70 million in the first half of 2020, as extraordinary results were recorded due to the sale of the Guadalmedina highway in the previous year. Discounting this effect, profit grew by 233% (from 12 million to 40 million).

The future revenue backlog ended the first half of the year at 45,091 million euros, 15% higher than at the end of 2020, due to the incorporation of new construction and concession projects. Of this backlog, 80% is concession assets, which contain latent EBITDA of over 22,500 million euros to come to fruition in the future.

Sacyr won significant contracts in its strategic markets between January and June. That was the case for the A3 and A21 highways in Italy; the RSC-287 highway in Rio Grande do Sul (Brazil); the first two construction projects in Canada; and the four new road contracts in Florida and Texas (USA).

Reduction in net recourse debt

Sacyr has set recourse debt reduction as a strategic line within its Strategic Plan 2021-2025. During the second quarter of the year, the company reduced its net recourse debt by 108 million euros to 883 million at the end of June. The generation of operating cash for activities with recourse prior to investment was 63 million euros, a very significant milestone for this objective in the half year.

The company continues to work on various operations to reduce debt further during the year. Sacyr used two innovative financing instruments linked to sustainability targets in the first half of the year.

The first was green financing of up to 160 million euros (120 million already drawn and 40 million as previously awarded projects come into operation) in Valoriza Servicios Medioambientales services subsidiary. This financing is directly linked to achievement of sustainable agenda-related targets and the fulfilment of green KPIs.

The second novel instrument is the first social bond issued in Latin America linked to an infrastructure project. The bond issue, for US$209 million, refinanced the Montes de María road (Colombia).

The group’s net debt, mainly associated with projects, stood at 5,679 million at the end of June.

Stake in Repsol

Part of the derivatives Sacyr has contracted to cover its 8% stake in Repsol are set to expire in the second half of 2021. The company will not renew these derivatives, corresponding to 75.4 million shares. This operation will not affect Repsol’s share price as it is not a market transaction.

Its stake in the energy company will go from 8% to 3% at the end of the year in this way. This operation will enable Sacyr to simplify the group’s balance sheet and concentrate its resources on its strategic plan and its focus on concessions.

Attractive shareholder compensation

Shareholder compensation is one of the main points of the Strategic Plan to 2025. Sacyr has made two scrip dividend payments worth 0.096 euros per share this year, representing a dividend yield of 4.6%, meeting the objective and commitment acquired with the market.

Evolution by business area

Concessions. Sacyr Concesiones achieved turnover of 566 million euros (+1%). The majority of its assets have limited demand risk and remuneration is based primarily on availability criteria.

EBITDA totalled 212 million euros, up 26% due to the entry into operation of several stretches of road and projects such as Tláhuac Hospital in Mexico and the University of Idaho in the USA.

The future revenue backlog, which stands at 35,992 million euros (+16%), includes the award of the A3 Naples-Salerno highway (Italy) and the RSC-287 in Brazil.

Engineering and infrastructure. Turnover of this division reached 1,283 million euros, 5% higher than the first half of 2020. EBITDA grew 8% to 158 million euros, and EBITDA margin reached 12.3%, compared to 11.9% for the previous year.

This division’s backlog reached 6,421 million euros, 14% higher than in December thanks to the company’s success in the tenders in which it participated. The first projects awarded in Canada, which is included in the road map set for the 2021-2025 period, the increase in the backlog in the US and Chile and several construction projects and concessions in Italy are noteworthy.

The backlog is 82% international and ensures 30 months of activity. Of the total, 50% corresponds to Sacyr Concesiones projects.

Services. Turnover of this division contracted by 1% to 494 million euros. EBITDA totalled 44 million euros (+8%) and EBITDA margin was 9%, up from 8.3% in the first half of 2020. The services backlog stood at 2,678 million euros (+0.4%), with the incorporation of new contracts.

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  • Sponsorships

We promote Olympic athletes to turn their challenges into successes

The Spanish women’s and men’s national handball teams and the triathlete Mario Mola participate in the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games with Sacyr’s support.

  • Spain

Supporting sports and healthy lifestyle habits are part of Sacyr’s DNA. Furthermore, since 2015, the infrastructures and services company promotes high-level handball and triathlon. If there is a great sporting event marked in our calendars, that is the Olympic Games. The Tokyo 2020 edition will take place between July 23 and August 8 will also have Sacyr’s “participation”.

We arrive in Tokyo hand in hand with the Spanish handball teams, the Guerreras and the Hispanos. And in the shoes of three-time triathlon world champion Mario Mola. Furthermore, our other triathlete, Carolina Routier, will go too as a substitute for the Spanish women’s team.

Go for broke!

The Olympic Games will hold 339 events of 33 different sports and 50 disciplines. While there will be five new sport events introduced in Tokyo (baseball, karate, skateboarding, sport climbing, and surfing), we have our eyes set on handball and triathlon.

The Hispanos already know what it is like to be Olympic medalists, as they have three bronze medals under their belt: 1996, 2000, 2008. They also won the bronze in this year’s World Championship in Egypt. These Olympic Games will be the farewell of team captain Raúl Entrerríos, and what better way than going out with a bang and claiming another medal. Even better if it’s gold.

 

The Guerreras, world sub champions know what it is like to climb the Olympic podium too, as they placed third in London 2012. The women’s team faces the first great sporting event of the summer season that will conclude in December with the World Championship in Spain.

 

Mario Mola is the three-time triathlon world champion (2016, 2017, and 2018) and he participated in the previous two editions, London 2012 and Rio de Janeiro 2016, in which he placed 13th y 8th, respectively. Mario is one of the most certain options for Spain to obtain a medal. Furthermore, he will also compete in the new triathlon mixed relay event as part of the team formed by Javier Gómez Noya, Fernando Alarza, Miriam Casillas, and Anna Godoy.

 

Sacyr, with Olympic athletes

These will be the second Olympic Games in which Sacyr promotes our athletes’ talent and potential. In 2015, we began our sponsorship of the Spanish Handball Federation. Last June 14, we renewed our support until 2023.

Mario Mola will dress the Sacyr colors for the first time as we began supporting the three-time world champion in 2017. This 2021 edition in Tokyo will be his third time competing in the Olympics.

 

Save the date

The Hispanos will start their Olympic journey on July 24 at 7:15 h (GMT+2) against the German national team. After that, they will play on alternate days against Norway (7:15 h), Brazil (12:30), France (7:15), and Argentina (7:15).

The Guerreras will debut Sunday, July 25 against Sweden. They will also play on alternate days against France (12:30), Brazil (02:00), Hungary (12:30), and Russia (7:15). Based on results and classification, the men’s handball quarterfinals, semifinals, and finals will be on August 3, 5, and 7, and the women’s, on August 4, 6, and 8.

Mario Mola competes on the men’s triathlon Monday, July 26 from 6:30 to 9:00 h., and on the mixed triathlon relay Saturday, July 31 at 7:30.

  • Spain
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Construction of the Great Wall of China would be abandoned and resumed over the course of more than 2,000 years. Credit: Unsplash.

  • Tungsteno

Four constructions that took centuries to complete

The Great Wall of China measures more than 21,000 kilometres—almost half the circumference of the Earth. Its dimensions are such that it took two millennia to build. It tops our list of structures built by the efforts of many generations.

ISABEL RUBIO ARROYO | Tungsteno

 

More than seven dynasties and 2,000 years. That's how long it took to construct the Great Wall of China, a colossal fortification that was built in several phases. There are other constructions around the world that also took centuries to complete, from the prehistoric monument Stonehenge (England) to the iconic temple of Kukulcan in Chichen Itza (Mexico) and the emblematic Alhambra (Spain).

 

The Great Wall of China (2,000 years)

 

The Great Wall of China is undoubtedly one of the greatest engineering works on the planet. If there is one thing that makes this fortification stand out, it is its stratospheric dimensions. It has thousands of watchtowers and measures more than 21,000 kilometres long, which is almost twice the diameter of the Earth and half its circumference. Its construction, which was the work of several dynasties, began around 200 BC. It is believed that the first emperor of a unified China, Qin Shi Huangdi, ordered the construction of a huge defensive line against the nomads of the northern steppes. Construction was abandoned and resumed over 2,000 years, until 1644, and under the rule of seven dynasties.

Although there are no official figures, some historians estimate that more than a million people helped to build the wall during this period, from labourers and soldiers to peasants and prisoners. It is estimated that as many as 400,000 people died during construction of the wall. In fact, the Great Wall of China has sometimes been called "the longest graveyard in the world". Although some people were buried in the vicinity of the fortification, there is no evidence that their bones were used to build the wall itself. It is also a myth that this fortification can be seen from space, according to NASA.

 

The Great Wall of China has thousands of watchtowers and measures more than 21,000 kilometres. Credit: Severin.stalder.

 

Stonehenge, England (1,500 years)

 

About 5,000 years ago, hundreds of people transported some 80 stones weighing up to two tonnes each to the south of England. They were used to build Stonehenge, one of the most famous prehistoric monuments in the world. Why this iconic megalithic structure was erected is still a mystery. Apart from a burial site, the main hypotheses speculate that it may have been an astronomical observatorya monument to seal the peace between local peoples, a religious temple or a meeting place for druids.

But Stonehenge was not built all at once, over a specific period of time, but was erected in phases over a period of about 1,500 yearsThe structure that stands today consists of an inner circle of six large stone blocks topped by three colossal lintels, and an outer circle of seventeen monoliths with lintels. This is all that remains of a monument that once included more than 160 stone blocks. It is now considered by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) to be the “most architecturally sophisticated prehistoric stone circle in the world.” The organisation highlights the large size of the megaliths, the shape of the stones, their concentric design and the precision with which they were built.

 

Stonehenge, one of the world's most famous prehistoric monuments, once consisted of more than 160 stone blocks. Credit: Max Pixel.

 

The Temple of Kukulcan, Mexico (700 years)

 

Chichen Itza, one of the main archaeological sites of the Yucatan Peninsula (Mexico), is one of the seven new wonders of the modern world—chosen by more than 90 million people in an international competition in 2007. The main structure of this iconic Mayan city is the Temple of Kukulkan, also known as El Castillo or “The Castle”. This pyramid, which normally receives more than 2.5 million visitors a year, was erected in several stages of construction, ranging from the 6th to the 14th century. Its present appearance corresponds to the last phase, dated between AD 1000 and 1300.

The temple stands on a large esplanade that was the religious, cultural and political centre of the Mayan empire. It has nine levels, four facades—each with a central staircase—and a small temple at the top. It is thought that this pyramid is the representation of the Mayan calendar. Each of its 364 steps represents one day of the year. Added to the upper platform of the temple, they would give the 365 days of the solar year.

For its construction, the Mayans observed in detail the behaviour of the seasons and the trajectory of the Sun. In fact, twice a year an astronomical phenomenon known as the "light and shadow" equinox takes place. During certain hours, the effect of sunlight and shadow on the temple steps produce the undulating shape of a serpent's body, which appears to descend from the summit of the pyramid.

 

The temple of Kukulkan stands on a large esplanade that was the religious, cultural and political centre of the Mayan empire. Credit: Unsplash.

 

The Alhambra, Spain (600 years)

 

When the Alhambra was erected much of the work was done at night, and because of the fires and torches lit by the workmen, when viewed from afar it appeared reddish. This is supposedly the origin of its name, which in Arabic means "red castle", according to one of the main hypotheses. The complex took some 600 years to build. Situated in a strategic position on Sabika Hill in Granada, this palatine city is one of the most representative examples of Nasrid and Hispano-Arabic architecture. It consists of a complex of palaces, gardens and defensive fortresses, including the Nasrid Palaces, the gardens of the Generalife and the Alcazaba (military zone).

Although many historians suggest that buildings probably existed on the hill before the arrival of the Muslims, the Alhambra is first recorded in the 9th century. The main improvements were made under the Nasrid dynasty in Granada under monarchs such as Muhammad ben Al-Hamar (Muhammad I). The constructions, made of materials such as ceramic, marble and plaster, are characterised by their lightness. But if there is one thing that makes these structures stand out, it is the innumerable details that adorn them. The engravings mainly deal with plant motifs or Mocárabe decoration (honeycomb vaulting). They also include texts and poems written in classical cursive and Kufic calligraphy.

 

The Alhambra is made up of a complex of palaces, gardens and defensive fortresses. Credit: Unsplash.

 

· — —
Tungsteno is a journalism laboratory to scan the essence of innovation. Devised by Materia Publicaciones Científicas for Sacyr’s blog.

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These cookies allow us to count visits and sources of circulation in order to measure and improve the performance of our site. They help us know which pages are the most or least popular, and see how many people visit the site. All information collected by these cookies is aggregated and therefore anonymous.

Name Provider Purpose Expiration Type
_gat Google It is used to throttle the request rate - limiting the collection of data on high traffic sites Session HTTP
_gid Google It is used to store and update a unique value for each page visited Session HTTP
_ga Google This is used for statistical and analytical purposes for increasing performance of our Services Session HTTP