World Architecture, Architecture, Architectural Disasters

7 Most Notable Architectural Disasters In Modern History

Everybody makes mistakes, some happen on the job and some at play. For the ones that happen on the job, fixes are made to correct it and people forget them within few minutes. But, when a workplace mistake is made by an Architect, it becomes hard to ignore.

From the glorious Bruj Khalifa in Dubai to the extraordinary Buckingham palace in the United Kingdom, our world is home to few of the most brilliant architectural benchmarks. Sadly, not all architectural marvels are successful in garnering an iconic position. Poor questionable design, challenging weather conditions, false economies to sloppy workmanship, modern history is plagued with architectural disasters. Let’s take a look at the 7 most notable ones.


7 Most Notable Architectural Disasters


1. Aon Center – Chicago

Originally named the Standard Oil Building, Aon Center was the 3rd tallest building in Chicago. Construction of Aon center was completed in the year 1973, this building was truly a visual wonder to behold and the entire credit went to the Italian Carrara marble that sheathed the entire structure.

Despite being visually impressive, the marble was too thin to be used as a cladding material. The negative effect of using such an unsuitable material appeared just one year after the completion of the construction. A large slab of the marble detached and crashed into the Prudential Center’s roof.

Investigations revealed the totally unsuitable marble was cracking from all over the exterior. Ultimately, the marble was replaced with granite which cost more than $80 million.


2. John Hancock Tower – Boston

This 60-story skyscraper placed in Boston was unveiled in 1976, it was designed by I.M. Pei & Partners architectural firm. This striking looking skyscraper has a discreet appearance but was found plagued with problems.

One of the major issues with this building was with the windows: they were falling and crashing down to the pavement hundreds of feet below. This problem was arising due to unanticipated, recurrent thermal stresses to the panels. Eventually, all 10,000 windows had to be replaced which cost nearly 5 million dollars.

The next significant problem the John Hancock Tower encountered was that it was swaying a bit too much. Well, skyscrapers are meant to sway in order to absorb the strong gusts of wind. Normally this sway is not felt by the residents of the building, but people on the higher level of this skyscraper complained of motion sickness. The issue was solved by Cambridge engineer William LeMessurier who tuned in a mass damper which reduced the mechanical vibrations.


3. Vdara Hotel & Spa – Las Vegas

When researching hotels for an upcoming trip, potential guests tend to look for specific amenities, like a mini-bar, a gym, or close proximity to sightseeing. But, the Vdara Hotel & Spa located in Las Vegas bids on a unique accouterment that neither its visitors nor its architect anticipated—A Death Ray.

This hotel was opened in the December of 2009 and included a unique, curved structure. But, its unique design collected the solar rays and beamed them to the hotel’s pool area. People sunning themselves nearby were frequently burnt. One of the complaints came from Bill Pintas, who claimed that the hotel’s impromptu death ray burnt his hair and melted the plastic bag he was carrying with him.

The hotel took action to correct this by installing anti-reflective film across the building structure.


4. Basmanny Market – Moscow

In February 2006, the snow-laden roof of this vegetable market fell down, killing nearly 66 people. While heavy snow-build up was one vital factor, corrosion caused by insufficient waterproofing and general maintenance inattention by the building’s management was mainly to blame. Flaws in design are also said to have contributed to the failure.

Another building designed and constructed by the same architect experienced a similar roof collapse which killed 28 people two years prior to this incident.


5. Lotus Riverside – Shanghai

A residential apartment complex consisting of eleven 13-story buildings in Shanghai. On the morning of June 27, 2009, one of the 11 buildings toppled over, just missing the next building. Well, if it didn’t miss, it would have successfully caused another building to topple into the next, creating a dismaying domino effect.

The main cause of the collapse was credited to excavation that was in process to create an underground garage. The earth excavated from underneath the building was discarded into a landfill near a creek, and its weight instigated the river bank to collapse. Water from the stream then seeped into the ground, which turned the entire building’s foundation into mere mud.


6. Kemper Arena – Kanas City

This is an indoor stadium located in Kansas City, which was opened in 1974. It won raves for its unique design and has also been the site of 1976 Republican National Convention. The structure eliminated columns and maximised the floor space by suspending the roof from the trusses on its exterior.

On June 4, 1979, the roof collapsed after a heavy storm hit the city. Luckily, the stadium was not in use at that time, so there were no fatalities or injuries, but it was a surprise to the city on the other hand.

Around one million dollars were spent on the repairs on the building. Also, the nine-month closure resulted in lost earnings of 1.1 million dollars.


7. CNA Center – Chicago

This 44-storey high -rise building opened in the year 1972 was designed by the firm of Graham, Anderson, Probst & White. Painted bright red, this building is surely something that no passer-by can ignore.

In the year 1999, a huge piece of a window came loose from the twenty-ninth floor of the building and jumped to the ground, instigating one fatality. The criminal was thermal expansion, and after an $18 million settlement, each of the building’s windows was replaced. Even now, each window is inspected on a monthly basis.


Final Thoughts


Architecture’ is the art of Building Dreams, but the art of building dreams can also take a form of the greatest architectural disasters ever seem by the mankind even with the smallest of mistakes and the above examples prove just that.


Read: 10 Most Popular Styles In Indian Architecture


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Curated by editor at  Wienerberger India

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