30 Architectural Disasters That Shocked The World

OMG June 24, 2019 By Hugo

From poorly-designed buildings to structural collapses that shocked the world, the worst architectural disasters of all time are quite something.


Some resulted in the lives of thousands of people while others remain standing to this day- but only just. Here are 30 shocking examples. 

1. The Lotus Riverside Complex

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In tragic circumstances, one of the Lotus Riverside buildings collapsed in 2009, taking the life of one construction worker. Hurried and poor planning techniques were to blame after the entire 15 storeys of the apartment block fell to the ground.

As well as taking the life of one man, half the properties had already been sold, leaving investors penniless. Six officials were later found guilty in a court of law.

2. Tacoma Narrows Bridge


The 1940 opening of the Tacoma Narrows Bridge in Washington was supposed to herald a new dawn of civil engineering, but what was supposed to be the world's third longest suspension bridge quickly turned to rubble when it collapsed after just 4 months!

After much scrutiny and investigations, it was determined that the use of cheap girders were to blame. Even when it first opened, warning signs were spotted by drivers themselves, who compared the wobbly suspension to that of a bucking bronco! Following winds of 64 kilometers on the 7th of November, 1940, it soon collapsed. 

3. Dhaka Garment Factory


The 2013 Dhaka garment factory was one of the worst of its kind when a structural failure led to the deaths of 1,1134 workers.

The tragedy occurred on 24 April 2013 when an eight-story commercial building in the Savar Upazila of Dhaka District, Bangladesh called Rana Plaza fatally collapsed.

4. Sampoong Department Store Disaster


The Sampoong Department Store collapse is one of South Korea's worst architectural tragedies with 502 people losing their lives. The collapse happened on June 29, 1995, in the Seocho-gu district of the South Korean capital, Seoul.

It remains the biggest peacetime disaster in South Korean history with 937 injuries on top of the 502 fatalities.

5. CNA Center 


This 1972 building took the mould of a high-rise, 44 storey, building in America's famed city of Chicago. The building was devised by Graham Anderson, Probst & White and decorated a lively red. However, in 1999 a substantial piece of window fell from the 29th floor, taking the life of a passerby.

An investigation soon found that thermal expansion was to blame.

6. The Leaning Tower of Pisa


The Leaning Tower of Pisa presents tourists with a golden selfie opportunity as they pretend to lean against this rusty white structure. But it is only the third oldest structure in the City's Cathedral square.

Indeed, rather than it simply being a case of a relic on its last legs, the construction process was littered with shortsighted planning leading to inadequate foundations and unsuitable grounds. Ever since its completion, the Tower continues to sink around 1cm a year. In a bid to stop it collapsing, stable weights were added in the '90s to preserve one of Italy's most famed buildings.

7. Kemper Arena


This indoor stadium in Kansas City was opened to the public in 1976 and made waves for its noticeable trussed roof. However, in June of 1979, a strong storm besieged the city and the stadium's roof.

This troubled design enabled rainwater to collect and merge on the roof. It weakened as more rainwater seeped through causing the roof to eventually give way.

8. Aon Center


Chicago's third tallest building opened its doors in 1973. Back then it was named the Standard Oil Building and was quite the spectacle. The construction team went all out, decorating the entire exterior with Italian Carrara marble.

However, because of how thin the material was, all it took was one slab to detach in 1974 and crash onto the nearby Prudential Centre. An investigation soon determined that the marble was unsafe for use. A fine example of vanity taking precedent over architectural practicality!

9. MI5 & MI6 Buildings


Whilst we are in no way slamming our transatlantic brothers for their ill-thought out buildings, the home of British secret service agents at MI5 and MI6 looks more like a Mayan Temple than a place where kickass secret agents meet up for tea.

Could they have at least tried to make it a bit more sleek and secretive?

10. Ray and Maria Stata Center


Renowned architect Frank Gehry was the mastermind behind this 2004 building which houses MIT's Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Labs, the Department of Linguistics and Philosophy and the Laboratory of Information and Decision Systems. Critics were in awe of it and heralded it as a new dawn for buildings that defy the laws of physics.

However, just 3 years later, Gehry was being sued after it unravelled that there was a host of design flaws and structural problems. Problems with drainage made the walls crack and bulky icicles dangled on the ceilings during winter months. The repairs would end up costing almost $1.5 million dollars.

11. Pier one Playground, Brooklyn Bridge Park

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Playgrounds don't often conjure up images of architectural brilliance as they are relatively straightforward to design but Pier One is an exception to the norm. The boffins installed climbing structures purely out of steel, not thinking that on hot days the sun would radiate right through and make them dangerously hot.

It got so bad that one parent even measured the structures on one hot summer's day at 127 degrees!

12. The Greek Olympic Stadiums


When a country wins the rights to host an Olympics, pandemonium usually ensues, and what culminates is a three-week event filled with jingoistic celebrations and sporting prowess. But when the closing ceremony is done and dusted, you are left with a series of empty buildings, and for Greece, they didn't have much of a backup plan in place.

From baseball fields, to kayaking arenas and stadiums built just for judo, most of these once-magnificent structures remain unused to this day.

13. Walkie Talkie Centre


Yes, there really is a building in London called the Walkie Talkie Centre. In fact, it's an award-winning structure found in the centre of the English capital. Once heralded in certain architectural quarters, complaints from drivers soon flooded in: the main one being that the building focused sunlight onto local streets.

In the summer months, locals have said that the reflective sunlight can make adjacent streets so hot it is possible to fry an egg on the road. Maybe the designer had a thing for eggs?

14. Varda Hotel & Spa

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This unique hotel is famed for its curved structure- but for all the wrong reasons. Whilst there was nothing wrong with the curve, it happened to be situated at an angle which caused the giant solar collector to focus the sun's rays directly into the swimming area.

Guests soon started complaining about being "burnt", with one guest, in particular, going as far as saying that the solar panel caused his hair to burn!

15. Mets Citi Field


The New York Post put it best when they wrote, "The Mets always look stunning in April and start crumbling by September, so fans say it’s only fitting their new stadium is imploding on cue".

Indeed this rather apt description was of comic amusement to fans of the famous baseball team, who were supposed to be enjoying life in a stadium that was a supposed upgrade on the New York Mets Shea Stadium. But despite an $850m renovation, the building experiences constant water leaks, mould and faulty elevators.

16. The Experience Music Project


Spawned from the "Experience Music Project" festival founded by Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen, the design was the brainchild of one of the most famous architects in the world: Frank Gehry.

This is Gehry's second building to make the list which is at odds with his reputation as an innovative genius. In Gehry's words, the design idea came from "collecting pictures of Stratocasters, bringing in guitar bodies, (and) drawing on those shapes in developing our ideas". However, it didn't have the desired effect. Herbert Muschamp described it as “something that crawled out of the sea, rolled over, and died.”

17. The Millenium Dome


Londoners will know all too well what the Millenium Dome was: A big pile of rubbish. For years, it was nothing more than a place for weird conventions and little else. As the name suggests, it was made a statement piece to call in the year 2000 by designer Richard Rogers.

But for some time, the impressive but largely forgettable structure deemed destined for little more than a reminder of what it could have been until the Greenwich Peninsula in London was redeveloped into the world-renowned 02 music venue.

18. Ryugyong Hotel

Shutterstock/Torsten Pursche

The Ryugyong hotel in North Korea doesn't have many reviews online for pretty obvious reasons, but not for the ones you might think! Rather than it being a hotel that makes it illegal to leave bad reviews, the hotel is yet to open.

It is thought the project cost around 2% of North Korea's fiscal budget. Despite being incomplete, it is currently the 22nd largest skyscraper in the world. 

19. Kangbashi District, Ordos City


From one expensive mistake to another, the Kangbashi District of Ordos lies around 29 kilometres from the main city with the roads themselves costing a mouthwatering $352 million dollars.

Unlike North Korea's grand project, the Chinese structure did get built, but investors purchased most of the apartments so most remain empty. The surrounding area is also a ghost town, despite being built for more than 1 million citizens. 

20. Chelsea Waterside Park

Hudson River Park

This architectural embarrassment was given quite the stick when it was unveiled in 2000. You might not be surprised to hear that the designer was a competition winner following a contest by the Department of transportation.

It was so bad that numerous water fountains appeared to take on a near-phallic formation. But the competition winner saw the upside.

"We definitely got people talking. People can say what they want to say, but the intent is harmless.”

21. W.E.B. Du Bois Library, University of Massachusetts

Named after one the leading American civil rights pioneers of the 20th century the University of Massachusetts library is one of three libraries in the building, the Music Reserve Lab and Science and Engineering Library being the others.

However the most distinguished is the W.E.B Du Bois library as it is the tallest library in America with 26 storeys. Of course, supporting 26 storeys requires a lot of planning, something that was lacking as evidenced when the brickwork began to spall.

22. The Dubai Aquarium


Think of Dubai, and your brain conjures up images of great, colorful things, and the Dubai Aquarium is a befitting example of this image. Housing over 400 sharks and stingrays and 33,000 other types of the most exotic and rare fauna on this planet, the 2.5m gallon aquarium is undoubtedly impressive. But it soon transpired that the structure was, like most things in Dubai, built with vanity in mind as opposed to practicality.

Why? Because it was housed in the middle of a shopping centre. By February 2010, the central mall had to be evacuated as water was found flowing from the tank! Six divers were called in to rescue the fish, and thankfully no animals were harmed. Here's hoping Dubai planning authorities have a little more sense when building commences on their umpteenth, multi-billion dollar project.

23. John Hancock Tower


At first glance, you'd be forgiven for thinking that the 60-storey John Hancock Tower is a shining beacon of American architectural brilliance- and in 1976 many felt the same.

But despite the initial praise, the minimalist structure's windows crumbled. The building was featured in an article titled "Why buildings fall down" by Matthys Levy and Mario Salvadori, with thermal stresses being cited as the cause of mass destruction of the 10,000 windows.

24. Walt Disney Concert Hall


Frank Gehry's Walt Disney Concert Hall is the third building of his to make this list. Like most of his structures, the Walt Disney Concert Hall is ambitious and shiny with elegant curves formed unevenly.

Of course, this design attracts a lot of reflective sunlight, which has the potential of blinding nearby drivers and burning up neighboring buildings by 9 degrees Celsius. The Frank Gehry curse strikes again!

25. Zizkov Tower

Shutterstock/Jaroslav Moravcik

Taking seven years to build, you'd think the Zizkov Television tower in Prague wouldn't only serve its purpose as a unique transmitter tower in Prague but also as a premier example of how good high-tech architecture can be. But it proved quite the opposite.

Whilst some might take a fancy to it, locals have complained of it being an eye saw. A weird art installation on the roof in 2001 didn't help matters either, but it still stands, dividing opinion to this day.

26. Longaberger Company Offices


You might be wondering why the Longaberger company offices make the list. After all, they are just trying to make ends meet as a premier distributor of handcrafted maple wood baskets! However, by trying to build a structure in keeping with its slogan "Medium Market Basket", it scored a horrendous own goal.

Taking on the shape of a basket in building form, the company occupied the unique space from 1997 and 2016. 

27. The Biomuseo

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Frank Gehry, the most lauded and criticized architect (at least by us) is back with another architectural mess, this time in the shape of The Biomuseo. His first building in Latin America, the design- like most of his buildings- was certainly eye-catching when it opened in 2014.

However, most people think that it looks like a pile of rubbish. Poor Frank! 

28. The Versailles Wedding Hall Disaster 


The Versailles wedding hall disaster took the lives of 23 people, the majority of whom were attending the wedding of Israeli couple Keren and Asaf Dror. The wedding took place in Talpiot, Jerusalem, Israel just hours before the collapse at 22:43 on May 24, 2001.

Part of the third floor of the four-story building crumpled, causing 380 non-fatal injuries on top of the 23 people who lost their lives.

29. Pemberton Mill


The Pemberton Mill disaster in Lawrence, Massachusetts collapsed on January 10, 1860, and led to one of "the worst industrial accident in Massachusetts history" as well as "one of the worst industrial calamities in American history".

It is thought that some 45 workers lost their lives on top of the 166 injuries.

30. Grenfell Tower


The Grenfell Tower tragedy sent shockwaves around London when a 24-storey building burnt in flames, taking the lives of 72 people. What remains is a derelict 24-storey residential tower block following the fire in June 2014 which was caused by faulty wiring in a malfunctioning fridge freezer on the fourth floor. The building's cheap and flammable cladding caused a rapid escalation of the fire, something residents felt was the fault of the local council for not installing the tower with safer installations sported on the private apartments nearby. This type of cladding remains on more than 300 public tower blocks in the UK.

The tragedy remains Britain's deadliest residential fire in the post-war period.

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