Vitruvius believed that “Good Architecture” was based on 3 principals that were essential for a successful structure. Firmitas defined the durability and longevity of a structure, Utilitas stressed on the need for a functional building that served its purpose and Venustatisindicated the aesthetics of the building and the beauty that had the power to astonish and delight its audience. While an Architect’s priorities may differ with their respective styles and preferences, all three elements are kept in mind and are essential while designing. Complete disregard of any of the 3 may result in undesirable consequences, incur unwarranted losses, and would be an example of a structure that has failed.

Given below are 10 examples of Architecture gone bad:

1. Lotus Riverside Complex, Shanghai

The Residential Complex built in the Minhang District of China originally consisted of 11 13-storeyed towers. Construction began in 2007 and was completed prematurely in 2009 due to the constant political agendas and economic pressures. The same year, block 7 of the complex collapsed, taking the life of a construction worker on site and around 120 families were shifted to hotels by the local government. Foundation failure was said to be the primary cause of the fall and investigations showed that an underground garage was being excavated on the south side of the building. The soil excavated was dumped on the north side which caused a sudden increase in soil pressure aggravated by heavy rainfall prior to the fall. The pile foundation that snapped caused the building to topple entirely but almost all windows remained intact.

Lotus Riverside Complex, Shanghai - Sheet1
Lotus Riverside Complex ©Archdaily
Lotus Riverside Complex, Shanghai - Sheet2
Lotus Riverside Complex ©Archdaily

2. Aon Center, Chicago

Aon Center, located in Chicago is the tallest marble-clad skyscraper in the world with 43,000 slabs of Italian Marble and stands at a height of 1136 ft. An aesthetically pleasing and ethereal structure, the building is known for its facade. But the facade is also the primary reason for its failure. A 350-pound slab of Carrara marble broke off during construction and punctured the roof of the adjacent Prudential Tower. The marble slabs used for the facade cladding were much thinner than the required thickness and a few years after its opening, numerous cracks were found on the slabs and the facade had to be redone using white Mount Airy Granite which proved to be very costly for the investors.

Aon Center, Chicago - Sheet1
Aon Center©Forbes
Aon Center, Chicago - Sheet2
Aon Center©Chicago Tribune
Aon Center, Chicago - Sheet3
Aon Center©Open House Chicago

3. Ryugyong Hotel, Pyongyang

A quote by Brenda Laurel justifies the reason for the failure of Hotel Ryugyong. “A design isn’t finished until someone is using it”. Ryugyong Hotel holds the Guinness World Record for being the tallest structure in the world to remain unoccupied. Construction of this 1080 ft. tall pyramid-shaped hotel began in 1987 and was delayed multiple times due to political and economic crises. It was first scheduled to open in 2012 on the birthday of North Korea’s founder, Kim Il Sung, but remains unopened to date. Now known as the “Hotel of Doom”, the structure is used as a grand backdrop for cultural functions and as a screen that displays propaganda messages with led lights.

Ryugyong Hotel, Pyongyang - Sheet1
Ryugyong Hotel ©Financial Express
Ryugyong Hotel, Pyongyang - Sheet2
Ryugyong Hotel ©Wikipedia
Ryugyong Hotel, Pyongyang - Sheet3
Ryugyong Hotel ©South China Morning Post

4. Walkie Talkie, 20 Fenchurch Street

Commonly known as the Walkie Talkie Tower, due to its unique shape, this commercial skyscraper has been in the news for all the wrong reasons. It was awarded the Carbuncle Prize for the worst new building a year after its opening. Initially criticized for its aesthetics and planning, it was soon evident that the Walkie Talkie tower did not respond well with the weather conditions too. It was responsible for creating a strong draught on the street below and its concave shape created solar glare problems causing the body works of the cars to melt, hence giving it the name, “Fryscarper”. The much-awaited “sky garden” was also compared to an airport and was considered a disappointment.

Walkie Talkie, 20 Fenchurch Street - Sheet1
Walkie Talkie Tower ©Dezeen
Walkie Talkie, 20 Fenchurch Street - Sheet2
Walkie Talkie Tower ©Wikipedia
Walkie Talkie Tower ©Businessinsoder

 5. Longaberger Company Offices, Newark

The Longaberger Company is known to sell and manufacture handmade maple wood baskets and other household products. It was the wish of the founder to have all his office buildings in the shape of a basket. Mimetic Architecture is not known for its popularity among architects and often leaves an odd impression on its visitors. The “Basket Building” was soon abandoned by its owners and they stopped paying property taxes. It was purchased by another developer who soon decided to put it up for sale but due to a lack of buyers, they decided to renovate it into a luxury hotel to salvage the structure.

Longaberger Company Offices, Newark - Sheet1
Longaberger ©Wikipedia
Longaberger Company Offices, Newark - Sheet2
Longaberger ©Tripzilla
Longaberger Company Offices, Newark - Sheet3
Longaberger ©The Architect’s Newspaper

6. Ray & Maria Stata Center, MIT

Gehry’s Academic Complex for MIT opened with mixed reactions from the critics and visitors. Some acknowledged the designer’s creative illustration and declared it to be one of Gehry’s finest works, others called it a disaster. Dangerously angled columns and walls looked like it would fall any minute and left its visitors with an uneasy feeling. Moreover, the random use of materials and geometry gave it an unfinished look that seemed like the designer did not put much thought into it. While An individual’s opinion on aesthetics can differ based on their preference, the building’s failure is based on its delayed timeline, inflated budgets and MIT’s lawsuit against the designer for faulty design decisions that continue to cause leakage and drainage issues.

Ray & Maria Stata Center, MIT - Sheet1
Ray &Maria Stata Center©Mitcsail
Ray & Maria Stata Center, MIT - Sheet2
Ray &Maria Stata Center©Pinterest
Ray & Maria Stata Center, MIT - Sheet3
Ray &Maria Stata Center©Flickr

7. Millennium Tower, San Francisco

The 58 storeyed Mixed-Use structure primarily used as a residential tower was reported to be sinking and tilting like the Leaning Tower of Pisa. Investigation showed that the building had sunk 16-inches and had a 2-inch tilt at the base and a 6-inch tilt at the top. Several Lawsuits followed and within 2 years the building had sunk 2 inches deeper and tilted up to 14-inches. Residents complained of creaking and popping sounds and discovered cracks on windows that were supposed to be hurricane resistant. Underpinning was suggested as a solution and the renovations are estimated to reach around $ 100 million.

Ray & Maria Stata Center, MIT - Sheet - Sheet1
Millennium Tower ©Dezeen
Ray & Maria Stata Center, MIT - Sheet - Sheet2
Millennium Tower ©Archdaily
Ray & Maria Stata Center, MIT - Sheet - Sheet3
Millennium Tower ©Wikimediacommons

8. Zizkov Tower, Prague

The 709 ft. high Television Tower built in Prague was unanimously considered as one of the ugliest buildings in the world and with its hi-tech style and overpowering height, the locals resented it for disturbing their conventional traditional skyline. The tower is said to be located over a cemetery causing the locals to despise it more for disrespecting the buried. Several nicknames emerged that discredited the structure and it only gained back some reputation when 10 copper baby sculptures were added to it, which presumably made the structure more humane.

Zizkov Tower, Prague - Sheet1
Zizkov Tower ©Pinterest
Zizkov Tower, Prague - Sheet2
Zizkov Tower ©Flickr
Zizkov Tower, Prague - Sheet3
Zizkov Tower ©Wikipedia

9. Kemper Arena, Kansas

The Kemper Arena, currently renamed as the Hy-Vee arena was a 19,500-seat sports arena before it got converted into a youth sports arena. It won several architectural awards and had multiple popular tenants but the roof of the stadium collapsed after heavy winds and rainfall. The collapse was caused due to miscalculation of the strengths of structural members and a sagging phenomenon caused due to drainage issues. The problems were rectified immediately after the disaster and reopened a year later.

Kemper Arena, Kansas - Sheet1
Kemper Arena ©Wikimedia Commons
Kemper Arena, Kansas - Sheet2
Kemper Arena ©The Business Journals
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Kemper Arena ©Exponent

10. John Hancock Tower, Boston

200 Clarendon Street also known as “The Hancock” is known for its elegant minimalistic features and structural failures. Problems emerged during the excavation stage itself, with warping walls and mudslides that damaged utility lines. Large window panes came crashing down due to oscillation and thermal stress. Residents of the upper floors suffered from motion sickness as the building swayed due to wind pressures. Seismic Dampeners and steel bracings were installed to avoid this and around 10,344 window panes were replaced to avoid further mishaps.

John Hancock Tower, Boston - Sheet1
John Hancock Tower ©Wikipedia
John Hancock Tower, Boston - Sheet2
John Hancock Tower ©Wikipedia
John Hancock Tower, Boston - Sheet3
John Hancock Tower ©Pinterest

Meghna Madanmohan, an Architect by profession, Anxious by nature and an Aspiring Author by choice. She believes that empathy is the true path to being a successful Human and Architect. Her quest to seek answers continues now from one design to the next article.

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