Machu Picchu, one of the Worlds new Seven Wonders, was built by the locals in Peru in around 1450BC and is a dominant example of Inca architecture. Everybody remains astonished as to how the Inca people built their Machu Picchu city out of local materials without any architects.
The vast majority of Machu Picchu follows the classic Inca architecture style of polished dry-stone walls composed of regular shaped stones and use of local available materials like limestone and granite. It is said that Incas were masters in the technique (ashlar) which involved cutting the stones to fit one another tightly and not make use of mortar. They were placed so tight together that to this day you cannot even fit the blade of a knife between the gaps of the stones. The decision for mortar-free construction (especially for important buildings) was for the building to be more earthquake resistant. Since Peru is prone to seismic activity, this type of vernacular construction was very much needed. Adding to this, the Inca people ingeniously built their buildings slightly inclined with their doors and windows in a trapezoidal shape and also tilted inward from the bottom to top. The corners were normally rounded with the interior corners being inclined and the exterior corners tied together by having ''L''-shaped blocks. All this, combined with the Inca's magnificent and precise masonry thoroughness let their buildings of Machu Picchu to have better resistance to seismic activity.
Composed of 140 structures/ features, Machu Picchu boasts of its great features using just nature and readily available materials to achieve its greatness. The flights of stone steps were carved from blocks of granite found locally. Water fountains interconnected by channels and water-drainage perforated in the rock were 'inserted' within the environment thus leading to their local irrigation system. Parts of Machu Picchu were built using another construction method - the ''pillow-faced'' architecture. These buildings were achieved by combining together fired adobe bricks with mud mortar. The locals would then sand and form shaped stones coated in mud and clay. The bricks and stones were then placed together using the mud mortar. This was another simple concept of building that was energy efficient and employed natural materials.
Machu Picchu's Temple of the Sun: Even as ruins, Machu Picchu rises to the stature of great architecture. Brilliant elements of design and stonemasonry can be found around every corner, but perhaps the greatest example of architectural prowess is the Temple of the Sun. A tapered tower, it has the finest stonework in Machu Picchu. A perfectly positioned window allows the sun's rays to come streaming through at dawn on the South American winter solstice in June, illuminating the stone at the center of the temple. A cave below the temple, carved out of the rock, has a beautifully sculpted altar and series of niches that create mesmerizing morning shadows.
The Inca built their cities with locally available materials, usually including limestone or granite. To cut these hard rocks the Inca used stone, bronze or copper tools, usually splitting the stones along the natural fracture lines. Without the wheel the stones were rolled up wood beams on earth ramps. Extraordinary manpower would have been necessary. Hyslop comments that the " 'secret' to the production of fine Inca masonry...was the social organization necessary to maintain the great numbers of people creating such energy-consuming monuments."
Usually the walls of Incan buildings were slightly inclined inside and the corners were rounded. This, in combination with masonry thoroughness, led Incan buildings to have a peerless seismic resistance thanks to high static and dynamic steadiness, absence of resonant frequencies and stress concentration points. During an earthquake with a small or moderate magnitude, masonry was stable, and during a strong earthquake stone blocks were " dancing " near their normal positions and lay down exactly in right order after an earthquake.
Another building method was called "pillow-faced" architecture. Pillow faced building was achieved by using fired adobe bricks and mud mortar. The Incas would then sand large, finely shaped stones coated in mud and clay. Then they would fit the bricks and stones together using the mud mortar into jigsaw like patterns. Pillow-faced architecture was typically used for temples and royal places like Machu Picchu.
Perhaps the most renowned aspect of Incan architecture is the use of terraces to increase the land available for farming. These steps provided flat ground surface for food production while protecting their city centers against erosion and landslides common in the Andes. Modern engineers copy this agriculture architecture method, such as Pepperdine University in Malibu, California. The civil engineers at Machu Picchu built these so well that they were still intact in 1912 when Hiram Bingham re-discovered the lost city.
The central buildings of Machu Picchu use the classical Inca architectural style of polished dry-stone walls of regular shape. The Incas were masters of this technique, called ashlar, in which blocks of stone are cut to fit together tightly without mortar. The Incas were among the best stone masons the world has seen, and many junctions in the central city are so perfect that it is said not even a blade of grass fits between the stones.
Some Inca buildings were constructed using mortar, but by Inca standards this was quick, shoddy construction, and was not used in the building of important structures. Peru is a highly seismic land, and mortar-free construction was more earthquake-resistant than using mortar. The stones of the dry-stone walls built by the Incas can move slightly and resettle without the walls collapsing.
Inca walls show numerous design details that also help protect them from collapsing in an earthquake. Doors and windows are trapezoidal and tilt inward from bottom to top; corners usually are rounded; inside corners often incline slightly into the rooms; and "L"-shaped blocks often were used to tie outside corners of the structure together. These walls do not rise straight from bottom to top but are offset slightly from row to row.
The Incas never used the wheel in any practical manner. Its use in toys demonstrates that the principle was well-known to them, although it was not applied in their engineering. The lack of strong draft animals as well as terrain and dense vegetation issues may have rendered it impractical. How they moved and placed enormous blocks of stones remains a mystery, although the general belief is that they used hundreds of men to push the stones up inclined planes. A few of the stones still have knobs on them that could have been used to lever them into position; it is believed that after the stones were placed, the Incas would have sanded the knobs away, but a few were overlooked.
The space is composed of 140 structures or features, including temples, sanctuaries, parks, and residences that include houses with thatched roofs. There are more than one hundred flights of stone steps-often completely carved from a single block of granite-and a great number of water fountains that are interconnected by channels and water-drains perforated in the rock that were designed for the original irrigation system. Evidence has been found to suggest that the irrigation system was used to carry water from a holy spring to each of the houses in turn.
The architecture of Machu Picchu : When the Incas built Machu Picchu they shaped the stones of the buildings so exact that to this day you can't fit a thin knife between the stones. The stones aren't staying together because of mortar but because of pure craftsmanship.
The homes were shaped like a pentagonal prism. The strange thing about the building in Machu Picchu is they were built without roofs. Some of the buildings were built in a rectangular prism shapes. The doors of most of the buildings were trapezoid shaped. The only buildings with roofs were the homes that were on the outside of Machu Picchu, they were very small huts, and the Sapa Inca's temples.