Society - History
By: - at June 22, 2015

15 Biggest Architectural Blunders

Throughout history, man has strived to create the biggest and most impressive buildings. From the increasingly tall cathedrals found across Europe, the drive to build higher and higher spread all over the world. This resulted in some of the most incredible skyscrapers, notably the Burj Khalifa in Dubai, the tallest building in the world.

Opening Ceremony for Burj Khalifa
Burj Khalifa
By King of Hearts via Wikimedia Commons

This passion for architecture, combined with constant changes in how we perceived art, resulted in architecture that strayed from the traditional brick and mortar style of building that Europe had become used to. Today, all over the United States, Europe and indeed the rest of the world, architects come up with daring and exciting new designs for buildings. While sometimes these new buildings are entirely functional and visually stunning – let’s not forget the incredible work by Gaudi in Barcelona, with La Sagrada Familia – oftentimes, things just go totally wrong.

La Sagrada Familia
La Sagrada Familia
By Bernard Gagnon via Wikimedia Commons

We have drawn up a list of the biggest 15 architectural blunders that resulted in buildings being destroyed or permanently changed.

15)  Hotel New World, the Lian Yak Building
The Hotel New World was known as the Lian Yak Building, and was an impressive six-story building that was built in 1971. The building also had a basement, and the top three floors were owned by one wealthy tenant. The second level also had a restaurant and a nightclub. Located in Singapore, the building soon became the focus of international media, when in March 1986, the building fell apart in less than one minute.

Lian Yak

The collapse of the building occurred at 11:25 in the morning, and the quick collapse meant that very few people were able to make it out of the building alive. Witnesses claimed that before the collapse occurred, an explosion was heard. It was, however, later confirmed by the police that the collapse was not a result of a bomb or terrorist attack.

lian yak

The collapse resulted in an extensive inquiry, and it was later discovered that the problem lay in the architect’s design. Whoever had designed the building had made an error when calculating the structural load of the building. The dead load of the building, which is the term used to describe the weight of the building and not its contents, was not taken into account when calculating the overall load of the building. This meant that over time, the building became weaker and weaker, resulting in three support columns failing.

14)  Basmanny Market
In 2006, the snowy weather resulted in the collapse of the Basmanny Market building in Moscow. On February 23rd, the shopping center’s building had begun holding that much snow that it eventually collapsed on top of a vegetable market. The incident killed more than 56 people, including mostly workers and traders.

Basmanny Market

The incident occurred between 5 and 6am before the market had opened, meaning that the casualties were significantly less than if it had occurred later in the day. Witnesses explained that they saw glass falling from the ceiling and people hiding underneath their stalls as the lights went out.

Basmanny District
Basmanny District

A further 32 people were injured during the incident, but 500 rescue workers managed to save a large number of trapped survivors from the rubble.

13)  The Silver Bridge
In 1967, in West Virginia, a bridge that was completed in 1928 collapsed. The Silver Bridge was a suspension bridge that got its name from the aluminum paint that it was covered in. The bridge connected Gallipolis and Point Pleasant over the Ohio River.

Silver Bridge

On the 15th December 1967, the bridge collapsed when rush hour traffic was traveling over it. The collapse resulted in the deaths of 46 people who were in vehicles, and two bodies were never found after the collapse. The investigation into the collapse of the Mason County bridge concluded that the reason why the bridge collapsed was a failure in one of the eyebars in the suspension chain. The bridge was carrying significantly heavier loads than what is was initially designed to withstand back in 1928.

silver bridge

Two years after the collapse, the American Bridge Company bridge was replaced by the Silver Memorial Bridge.

12)  Husky Stadium
The Husky Stadium at the University of Washington was constructed in 1986, costing nearly $13 million. By the 25th of February, work was nearly complete on the building. Two of the nine sections of the building had nearly been completed, and before 9am in the morning, around 40 workers were on site. It was at around 9am that one worker noticed there was a buckle in a supporting tube, and at this point, all the workers were ordered to evacuate the building.

Husky Stadium
By Jelson25 via Wikimedia Commons

It was soon after the building had been evacuated that the whole stadium buckled, resulting in a tangled mess of metal in place of the near-completed addition to the university’s sports stadium. It was estimated that the damage caused by the collapse reached up to $1 million in costs. Despite the collapse, the addition to the university stadium was started again, and completed in time for the first home game of the football season on September 5th in 1987. The stadium remains in good condition and in regular use to this day!

11)  Skyline Towers
The Skyline Towers were part of the Skyline Plaza, and when designed, were going to be one of the biggest complexes in Virginia in the 1970s. The construction of this new plaza began in the early years of the 1970s, on the site that later became the Washington-Virginia Airport. Should the Skyline Towers and Plaza have been completed, they would have had more than 468 apartments within them.

It was planned that the building would open in August of 1973, and prior to this, every single one of the apartments had been sold.

Witness accounts explain that the workers inside the building had very little time between knowing there was a problem and getting out of the building. One witness, Larry Rivers, says that while working in the basement of the building, he had about two seconds warning to get out. Rivers saw his fellow work mates being crushed by concrete.

Skyline Towers
By Gildir via Wikimedia Commons

The cause of the collapse was investigated by a professor from the University of Illinois, Professor Ingvar Schoushoe. The professor concluded that the collapse happened because a shoring from the floors that had only recently been poured had been removed too quickly. It was then later found out that workmen from the project had noticed that some other workers were trying to rush the job, removing concrete supports much too quickly. It is estimated that the damage cost more than $12.5 million.

10)  Versailles Wedding Hall
The Versailles Wedding Hall disaster was an event that occurred in Jerusalem, Israel. The wedding hall was located in Talpiot, and the disaster that occurred here is the worst civil disaster to ever occur in Israel.

Versailles Wedding Hall

In was on May 34th, 2001 that the wedding of Keren and Asaf Dror was taking place. During the ceremony, a portion of the third floor of the building simply collapsed to the floor below. The four-story building’s collapse resulted in 23 people falling to their death through two stories of the building. Among the victims were an 80-year-old man, and a three-year-old toddler. As well as the deaths, 380 people were injured by the disaster. The bride and groom miraculously escaped.

Versailles Wedding Hall

The event became particularly notorious not only because it was one of the worst events to happen in the country’s history, but also because the whole event was capture on a video camera. The video was later broadcast on national and international television.

9)  Pittwater High School
Pittwater High School is a school found in New South Wales, Australia. The educational institution is operated by the New South Wales Department of Education and Training, and has an extensive history. Established in 1963, the school took the name Pittwater from the natural body of water that is found near Broken Bay. It was this body of water that was explored by HMS Sirius, and was later named after William Pitt the Younger, an early Prime Minister of Great Britain.


The school’s history largely surrounds sporting achievements as it has produced a number of Olympians, however, in late 1986, the school experience an architectural problem. The school had a modern and radical design known as a freestanding binishell. It was this binishell that collapsed, meaning that its school hall was totally destroyed. The students had only left the hall moments ago meaning that no students were killed or hurt, however, the collapse of the structure meant that a janitor was seriously injured. There were numerous other schools across Australia that had similar structures that were soon closed as a precautionary procedure.

8)  Tacoma Narrows Bridge
The Tacoma Narrows Bridge was the very first suspension bridge in Washington state. The bridge opened officially on the 1stJuly, 1940, and just a few months later, the bridge became famous for its dramatic crash into the water below. The bridge, before its collapse, was the third longest suspension bridge in existence.

Tacoma Narrows Bridge
By Srosenow 98 via Wikimedia Commons

The collapse occurred at 11am on November 7th, the same year that it had been finished. The incident was a result of high wind speeds, and the effects of an aero elastic flutter. This is a vibration whereby quick and periodic motion is achieved. This effect occurs when there is a strong fluid or airflow, and with the constant battering and repetitive movements of the wind against the bridge, it began to swing back and forth. The backwards and forwards motion ultimately meant that the bridge buckled and collapsed.

Tacoma Narrows Bridge
By Soerfm via Wikimedia Commons

7)  Vdara Hotel & Spa
The Vdara Hotel and Spa in Las Vegas is no longer only known for its luxurious amenities and services, but also for its extra feature – a death ray! Dubbed the term by the media, the death ray incident occurred as a result of the reflection of the concave, glass building.


The Vdara building focuses light, unintentionally, from the sun right into the pool deck during the day. It was in 2009 that this issue began causing problems. Numerous witnesses have described the pain of being subject to these light rays as like having a chemical burn. Within 30 seconds, skin can quickly begin to fry.

By Jim G via Wikimedia Commons

The hotel management explained that it is difficult to solve the problem, as it would require a total overhaul to the design of the building, which is why a form of shield has been suggested. However, to create permanent shade on a pool area would cause problems for guests who want to be able to enjoy the sun. A film has since been applied to the windows of the building, but the sun is still being reflected as badly as before.

6)  John Hancock Tower
The John Hancock Tower in Boston, Massachusetts was completed in 1976, and later dubbed ‘The Hancock’. The tower is 60-stories high and was initially designed by Henry N. Cobb, a designer and architecture from I. M. Pei and Partners. Today, the tower is still the tallest building in all of New England, and the tallest building in Boston for over three decades.

John Hancock
By Tim Sackton via Wikimedia Commons

Despite being an impressive feat of engineering for the era, the building has a number of design and architectural flaws that quickly became evident after completion.

The first major problem involved warping walls. It was when the builders were creating the foundation for the tower that they used a number of temporary steel walls to surround the area where they would build. These metal walls began warping due to the heavy mud and clay surrounding them. This bend in the world affected the nearby pavement, damaged a number of utility lines and even affected the Trinity Church across the street.

John Hancock
By Bobak via Wikimedia Commons

There were also issues with the glass used in the building. The blue glass windowpanes fell away from the building and fell hundreds of feet to the ground. The area of closed off by the police when winds reached more than 45 miles per hour, as the issue could not be solved. After a scale model was made and tested using a wind tunnel, the problem still could not be solved. Eventually, it became apparent that thermal stress was forcing the windows to fall from the building due to constant expanding and contraction.

Finally, the building was given a $5 million renovation, adding steel bracing to the tower to ensure that it would not collapse in the event of strong winds.

5)  Nazi Navy Barracks
An architectural blunder isn’t always related to a collapse or an adverse affect of glass. In fact, architectural blunders occur because of the poor design in the first place, and the perfect example is the Naval Amphibious base found in Coronado, California. This base was built back in the 1960s and was home to young sailors. There are four buildings, all L-shaped, and they center around a hub where people meet. It was only back in 2007 when Google Earth appeared that the local residents realized the 1960s architecture was actually a swastika.

Google Earth Image
naval barracks

The architect behind the design, John Mock, defended himself by explaining the design was not intentional. In fact, Mock even won an award for the design, but later, the Navy apologized and promised that they would spend up to $600,000 renovating and landscaping the building so that it appeared less like a swastika from above.

4)  The Aon Center
The Aon Center is an iconic tower found in Chicago. The tower was designed by Edward Durell Stone and The Oerkin and Will partnership. The building was eventually completed in 1973 and soon become known as the Standard Oil Building. The new piece of architecture was known for its resistance to earthquakes, its ability to avoid swaying and how it could minimize the amount of column bending that occurred.

By Ryan Dickey via Wikimedia Commons

All was not perfect, however! The building had a huge problem in that it was covered in marble. At the time, the idea didn’t seem all that far-fetched, and more than 43,000 pieces of Italian marble were placed on the building. The marble was thin and designed specifically to be used on the building, but despite this, things soon went wrong. It was in 1974, just a year after being completed, that marble began falling off the building and crashing into the roof of a surrounding building. An inspection then found a number of cracks and bending in the marble around the building.

Aon Center

As a result, all of the marble on the building had to be removed as a safety precaution, costing more than $80 million. Today, the building remains erect and is covered with white granite.

3)  The Lotus Riverside
The Lotus Riverside incident in China saw a huge block of flats collapse to the ground. The block of flats was found in the outskirts of Shandhai, and as it collapsed, it moved sideways and was found lay horizontally.

Lotus Riverside

The construction had not been completed on the building, meaning that nobody was living in the block of flats when the incident occurred. There were a number of identical blocks of flats in the surrounding area, yet all of those remained standing.

Lotus Riverside

It was reported by the Xinhua News Agency that a worker had gone into the block to take his tools, and when he attempted to jump out of the window, the building fell on its side. The Lotus Riverside community can be found in the Minxing district, and this is not the first instance of poor quality building in China. In fact, bad workmanship is a huge concern in the building sector in China, as the country starts rolling out the largest expansion it has ever seen in its cities and in the outskirts of its cities. In order to keep its position as one of the strongest economies in the world, it must grow, and incidents like this are increasingly common.

2)  Leaning Tower of Pisa
The Leaning Tower of Pisa is perhaps one of the most famous architectural blunders. The tower is a freestanding bell tower found in the city of Pisa. The tower is famous for its tilt to the side that was never intended. Despite the tilt, the building has remained standing and is now a popular Italian tourists attraction.

Tower of Pisa
By Saffron Blaze via Wikimedia Commons

The tower is the third oldest manmade structure in the Cathedral Square. There has been lots of discussion regarding the identity of the architect for the tower. For many years, the architecture Bonanno Pisano was given the credit for designing the building in the 12th century, however, this is now thought to be untrue. The most recent studies have shown that an architect names Diotisalvi is in fact responsible for designing the tower, though even this is now in question as his signature has never been found on the bell tower – something that Diotisalvi did with all of his work.

Tower of Pisa
By Rolfg via Wikimedia Commons

The construction of the tower took 199 years overall, with the work on the very bottom of the tower starting in 1173. Over the coming century, the construction continued but only intermittently. There was a 100-year gap, however, when Pisa went to war against Florence and Lucca. When work started again after this century, there was a small 0.2-degree tilt. In order to counteract the tilt, the builders had made floors on the south side of the tower taller. Toda, the tilt has been kept stable through the use of soil in the foundation. More than 70 tons of soil has been used to maintain the tilt since 2008. It has been calculated that the tower will be stable for another 200 years.

1)  Highway 19 Overpass
The very top of our architectural blunders list is the Highway 19 overpass collapse. The event occurred in Quebec, 2006 on the 30th September. The overpass had three lanes and the center section of its south lane collapsed on the Boulevard de la Concorde. When the overpass fell in, it crushed two vehicles that had been traveling underneath. This resulted in the death of five people and the injury of six people who fell over the edge of the overpass when it collapsed.

Highway 19

It has been reported that people living near de la Concorde had reported to the authorities that they had noticed crumbling. Other residents had noticed large gaps in the support structure underneath the overpass, and motorists had even called the police around an hour before the collapse reporting pieces of concrete falling onto the road below. Authorities were sent out to inspect the overpass but the roads were not shut. A full inspection was called for, however, authorities explained that they could not arrange this for at least two days.

Highway 19

This event is one of the many tragedies caused by architectural issues, and was entirely avoidable. The overpass was thought to be safe to use for 70 years, and having been built in 1970, it only lasted half of that.

These are just the top 15, in our opinion! There are architectural blunders happening all the time, ranging from tragic events that result in the death of those in the building, to buildings that just look silly or are totally useless. China is a great place to look to find more architectural blunders, with the country creating replica cities, including a replica Paris that is inhabited by next to nobody. There’s even a replica Eiffel Tower!

There are also examples across Europe and the United Kingdom, with London now being home to yet another skyscraper that creates intense heat rays by reflecting the light from the sun in a concentrated spot. As architects become more daring, we are going to see even more incidents like this occurring, but surely as science improves, we will also continue developing ways to ensure that people remain safe in modern buildings and structures.





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