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Five Construction Fails

Engineers and architects don’t, alas, always get it right. And with something as public as a building, there’s no getting away from problems when they arise. Construction fails are set in stone for all and sundry to see, and ridicule. Yet for some buildings they have in fact secured their notoriety, and infamy, thanks to such failures. Yet for others, as you’ll see, they’ve literally come crashing down. Here’s our round-up of five very public building faux pas.


The Tower of Pisa 1. The Tower of Pisa, Italy

Italy’s most famous architectural failure has become one of its biggest tourist attractions. Pisa’s now infamous bell tower is of course known for its lean, a problem caused by inadequate three-metre foundations built into soft subsoil. The tower’s lean was apparent even during its almost 200-year construction, gradually worsening across the centuries. Today the building has been reinforced and is now one of the most photographed in the world, often pictured with tourists posing in the foreground as if pushing it back up.


Shanghai Apartment Building

2. Apartment Building Collapse, Shanghai

It is the worst nightmare of anyone working in the construction industry: a full building collapse. And in 2009 that was the situation in Shanghai, when a 13-storey unoccupied apartment block collapsed, killing a construction worker. Built next to a large river, the collapse happened as deep excavation work under the construction caused the river bank to subside. The developers were later found to be working illegally.


Walkie Talkie Building

3. Walkie Talkie, London

Next and a rather more inane design flaw, but a potentially serious one nevertheless. One of the newest additions to London’s skyline, 20 Fenchurch Street, otherwise known by its moniker the Walkie Talkie, caused car owners to be up in arms in 2013 when reflections from the building melted parts of their vehicles. The building was subsequently fitted with shading, leaving the architects somewhat red-faced.


4. The Church of St. Mary and All Saints, Chesterfield

Chesterfield Church

Next and the sun is continuing to wreak havoc in the UK. This image isn’t from a Walt Disney theme park, or a Gaudi-inspired creation. The Church of St. Mary and All Saints in Chesterfield is a medieval Gothic church which over time has seen its spire twist, causing a unique phenomenon to occur. The lead that covers the spire is heated on the south side during the day, causing it to expand at a greater rate than the lead on the other side. This has been a major contributing factor to this now iconic twist.


Chinese Mountain Villa

5. Mountain Villa, China

And finally, returning to the murky world of Chinese construction regulations, is an almighty construction fail. With no planning permission to speak of, one man spent years creating his very own mountain-top villa, in the middle of the city and on top of his apartment building. Complete with rocky gardens and sun-terraces, this amateurish pet-project was ordered to be removed by Chinese authorities for fear that the entire building would buckle under the weight of the mountain up on the roof.

So whether it’s considering the awesome power of the sun, or changing the plans for your new roof garden, it’s vital to keep on learning lessons from others.

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This entry was posted on Thursday, July 14th 2016 and is filed under Construction & Engineering. You can subscribe to our RSS 2.0 news feed here.