When you think about it, there is nothing we unconsciously rely on more than architecture. From the home you sleep in to the office in which you work, you are constantly trusting the design and engineering of people you have probably never met. For the most part, this is a non-issue, and we can go about our lives without a second thought to the stability of the buildings surrounding us. However, there have been some times in history where architects have really, really screwed up. Like, embarrassingly so. If you think you’ve ever made a major mistake in your workplace, this list may cause you to rethink the severity of your shortcomings. From scalding hot playgrounds, to giant skyscrapers built on spongy, shaky ground, there are many specific, strange ways in which architects can fail.
And then there are the architects that are just plain weird. Nothing wrong with the structural integrity or functionality of their designs, but just....weird. Buildings that make you stop whatever you’re doing to either scratch your head or take a photo. Buildings that just make you ask who, what, when, where, and why?
25 Weird: The Ørestad Housing in Copenhagen, Denmark
Copenhagen is known for its innovative, if not eyebrow-raising, architecture. A firm called PLOT completed this complex in 2005. The structure holds 230 housing units, each with a private balcony. According to Architecture Reviewed, the design is inspired by a concept called “Steps up a Mountainside.”
Whatever the inspiration, it sure is a strange, beautiful building!
24 Weird: A Basket Somewhere in Ohio
The Longaberger Company operated in Frazeysburg, Ohio. They primarily manufactured maple wood baskets. So why not make your headquarters into the shape of a giant basket, right?
According to Curbed.com, the building was specifically built to mimic the company’s top seller, the “Medium Market Basket” in 1997. It cost the company founder, David Longaberger, approximately $32 million. Now, that’s a lot of love for baskets.
23 Weird: The High Heel Wedding Church in Taiwan
This church, completed in 2016, is designed to specifically cater to the dreams and desires of women in love. Aside from the obvious external appearance, the interior of the church houses loveseat benches, biscuits and cakes, and maple leaf decor.
However, according to Atlas Obscura, there is also a darker, dual meaning behind this unconventional structure. Aside from alluding to the story of Cinderella, the glass slipper calls to mind a local legend of a girl named Blackfoot who contracted a disease. So, whether the glass slipper is supposed to symbolize romance or something more sinister....well, that’s for you to decide.
22 Weird: The Rotating Tower in Dubai, United Arab Emirates
Okay, so one isn’t officially completed until 2020...but I can still put it on the list, right? According to WhatsOn, the architectural firm Dynamic Group has plans for a tower whose eighty separate floors rotate, causing the building’s appearance to change every day (or hour, or minute, or second...).
Basically, if you stay in the Rotating Tower, you can direct your room depending on your preferred view. Plus, the tower will generate its own power through solar panels and wind turbine systems installed between every floor. Efficient, weird, and pretty to look at.
21 Weird: The Casa Batlló in Barcelona, Spain
This is only one in a series of buildings in Barcelona by the architect Antoni Gaudí. However, this building may be the weirdest...but actually, just do a quick Google search on Gaudí. Everything he does is pretty weird. Gaudí was a practitioner of Catalan Modernism, and all of his works contain a twisted combination of stained glass, swooping curves, and funky ceramic mosaics.
20 Weird: The Liebian International Building in Guiyang, China
This particular building is so strange because it is ridiculously impractical. Completed in 2018, this skyscraper consists of a 108-meter-high waterfall facade. According to Dezeen, the massive amounts of water required for this display cost £90 per hour.
Because of this, as of July 31, 2018 the waterfall was only in operation a total of six times. So what, exactly, isn’t the point? Who knows, but it certainly is beautiful and weird.
19 Weird: Casa do Penedo in Portugal
This looks like something straight out of the Flintstones, right? Well, despite the outwardly ancient appearance, the Casa do Penedo was actually built between 1972 and 1974 by a Portuguese engineer to facilitate his relaxation in the countryside.
According to Ancient-Origins, the home is actually built between four large boulders, which serve as the home’s walls and ceiling. Now, the strange, rustic home attracts thousands of visitors to its secluded spot in the Fafe Mountains every year.
18 Weird: The Haines Shoe House in Pennsylvania
“There was an old woman who lived in a shoe”....wait, this really exists? Yes, but the original inhabitant was an eccentric man, in slight divergence from the nursery rhyme. According to Atlas Obscura, the shoe home was built in 1948 by Mahlon N. Haines.
He became a millionaire manufacturing shoes, so naturally, he decided to live in one at age 73. The shoe is now owned by Jeff and Melanie Schmuck, who offer tours of the home, accompanied by homemade baked goods and ice cream.
17 Weird: The Nakagin Capsule Tower in Tokyo, Japan
Built in 1972, this capsule tower was initially designed to house travelling businessmen in Tokyo. Aside from it’s unique, quirky appearance, the capsule tower is sustainable and rather ingenious in its design. According to ArchDaily, the architect Kurokawa designed the tower with a central concrete core, and identical capsules fixed to the core at various angles. Therefore, each capsule unit is replaceable. Additionally, the capsules have the potential to connect to one another, resulting in larger rooms. It’s basically like a giant, real-life LEGO playset. Pretty cool right?
16 Weird: The Atomium in Brussels, Belgium
This one is straight out of your tenth-grade chemistry textbook. According to Visit Brussels, this strange conglomeration was built in 1958 for the first post-war World Fair. The nine spheres represent a single iron atom, magnified 165 billion times. Obviously, constructing a massive model of a single atom alludes to the development of the power of the atom bomb and nuclear energy in the Second World War. If you are ever in Brussels, you can walk through the tubes and spheres, and explore magnificent views of the city.
15 Messed up: The Famous Tacoma Narrows Bridge in Tacoma, Washington
You’ve probably seen videos of this wiggling, dancing online. But how exactly does something like this happen? How do architects - even in 1940 - make a bridge that sways like a spaghetti noodle? Well, the bridge was actually designed by Leon Moisseiff to be exceptionally flexible.
According to History.com, engineers at the time did not consider the various, innumerable directions in which aerodynamic forces could affect the bridge. Because of the Tacoma Narrows Bridge collapse, architectural engineers discovered the importance of open trusses. These allow wind to flow through a roadbed, which decreases the effects of wind on the bridge.
14 Messed up: The Vdara Hotel and Spa in Las Vegas, Nevada
If you look at the photo of the Vdara, you might be confused a second to why this is a failure. Well, this is a building that fails in a more subtle way. According to Business Insider, the curved design of the building causes it to reflect a “death ray” onto the pool and deck area when the sun hits the glass at a certain angle.
The Vdara is located in a desert, so the sun has ample opportunities to create this. In 2010, the Vdara mitigated the problem by installing umbrellas. However, guests continue to complain about the intense heat, claiming that the concrete around the pool is dangerously hot, and even briefly exiting the shaded areas can result in burns.
13 Messed up: The Aon Center in Chicago, Illinois
This beautiful skyscraper, previously called the Standard Oil Building, was completed in 1973. Designers decided to cover the building in Carrara marble to add to the building’s opulent appearance. Soon after completion, a windstorm hit Chicago. This is a rather common occurrence, but apparently not one that the skyscraper could withstand.
A marble tile detached from its surface and struck the window of a nearby building. According to Skyrise Cities, a single tile of Carrara marble weighed about 350 pounds...so the Aon Center was a problem waiting to happen. In a several million dollar renovation, the entire skyscraper was completed refaced by the early 1990s.
12 Messed up: The Morandi Bridge in Genoa, Italy
On August 14, 2018, the Morandi Bridge, a vital roadway in an Italian port city, collapsed. According to the BBC, ongoing maintenance of the bridge may have contributed to the collapse. Additionally, the company Autostrade, responsible for maintaining the bridge, has been under suspicion for potentially skirting routine security checks in favor of fatter dividends.
Whatever the cause, the Morandi bridge collapse is a rather unprecedented, tragic event in this day and age.
11 Messed up: The CNA Center in Chicago, Illinois
Like the Aon Center in Chicago, the CNA Center is also guilty of shedding projectiles into the street below. However, rather than dropping marble, the CNA Center loses its windows. Yep, you heard right...and unlike the Aon Center, the CNA Center’s injury potential became an actuality. Ana Flores, a 37-year-old Chicagoan, was hit in 1999 when a piece of cracked glass fell from the 29th floor of the tower. According to the Chicago Tribune, there were indications of the tower’s instability as early as 1994, when a pedestrian was hit by a smaller piece of cracked glass.
Several consultants hired by CNA found that the building's glass could not withstand thermal stress, which occurs when a warm area of glass expands against a cooler area. Eleven months after the incident, CNA finally announced a plan to address its window problems. This project was completed in 2003.
10 Messed up: St. Mary’s Church in Stralsund, Germany
The bell tower of St. Mary’s has an unstable, tumbling history. The Protestant church was initially built in 1298. According to Revolvy, the bell tower collapsed in 1382, and took nearly 100 years to rebuild. Less than 20 years after completion, the church tower was ravaged and collapsed by a windstorm.
The determined Germans built the tower again, this time even taller. Then, in 1647, this exceptionally tall tower proved the ideal target for lightning. The tower was struck and burned down.
Finally, the tower was rebuilt as a Baroque dome, which can still be seen today.
9 Messed up: The Millenium Tower in San Francisco, California
In this example, architects got everything right. They drafted a flawless design, they used the right materials for the building, ....they just didn’t consider the ground upon which they built. According to Business Insider, the building has sunk 17 inches and tilted 14 inches since its completion in 2008.
Millennium Partners, the firm behind Millenium Tower, blames the sinking on nearby transit construction, claiming that the construction process pumped too much water out of the ground. However, others claim that the Millenium Tower was initially built on an inadequate foundation, drilling only 80 meters into sand rather than 200 meters into bedrock.
Regardless, the tower continues to sink and tilt, proving worrisome in a region rather prone to earthquakes.
8 Messed up: The Walkie Talkie Tower in London, U.K.
Similar to the Vdara, the Walkie Talkie Tower in London has a curved design that flings blinding, scalding hot light onto pedestrians below. According to the Daily Mail, the building reflected so much heat that it melted cars and motorcycles. Londoner Martin Lindsay parked his black Jaguar below the building, only to return to find that parts of his car had “buckled” and smelled of burnt plastic.
The City of London addressed the issue by fitting the surface of the Walkie Talkie with a massive shade. Now, Londoners only complain about the building’s ugly, awkward appearance.
7 Messed up: The Pier 1 Playground in New York City
This is yet another instance where architects failed to consider the materials of their structures. The Pier 1 Playground in New York City was innovatively designed with minimalist climbing domes and creatures. However, these objects were built entirely out of steel...which, as anyone who has played on a playground knows, gets extremely hot in direct sunlight.
According to the New York Post, the Pier 1 Playground had to be covered with tarps and barricades because the steel surfaces severely burned a frolicking toddler.
6 Messed up: The Mall Aquarium in Dubai, United Arab Emirates
Luckily, the aquarium now appears as it does in the above photo - intact and full of water. However, in February 2010, mall goers were not so lucky. According to the Daily Mail, a crack manifested at the top of one of the glass panels. The 167ft x 66ft aquarium, full of sharks and other menacing sea creatures, spewed water at an alarming rate.
After the area around the aquarium was evacuated by police, a team of divers entered the tank and coordinated with mall employees outside of the water in order to patch the problem.
5 Messed up: The Lotus Riverside Apartments in Shanghai, China
This apartment complex collapsed in a nearly intact fashion in 2009. According to the Wall Street Journal, the fall is attributed to the construction of a garage beneath the apartment complex. As Earth was removed for the garage and piled into a landfill, the weight caused a nearby riverbank to collapse, which in turn allowed water to seep into the ground. This resulted in a squishy foundation below a heavy, towering structure.
4 Messed up: The Hancock Tower (or Plywood Palace) of Boston, Massachusetts
Like the CNA in Chicago, the Hancock Tower in Boston also had issues with toppling glass. Beginning in 1972, the heavy glass windows began to pop out of their frames and crash to the ground during wind storms. According to Celebrate Boston, approximately 133 of the 10,344 glass panes fell from their frames. The empty frames were temporarily filled with wooden boards, leading to the nickname, “The Plywood Palace.” Eventually, each of the 10,344 windows were replaced in a $7 million renovation.
3 Messed up: The Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, Florida
Looking at the above photo, you’re probably wondering what is wrong. No, this isn’t the photo of a stadium pre-collapse. Nothing tragic happened here, and there is actually nothing wrong (technically) with the structure of Tropicana Field. It’s just that the architecture of the stadium is not suitable for its primary function, which is housing baseball games.
In the photo, you can see rings of catwalks supporting the stadium ceiling. According to USA Today, players often hit these catwalks while batting. This causes the ball to be thrust downward at odd angles back onto the field of play, which severely affects the outcome of hits (that sometimes may otherwise be home runs). And if you’re a baseball player, this is very, very frustrating.
2 Messed up: The Fidenae Arena in Italy
Fidenae Arena is an architectural failure from way, way back, in 27 AD, during the reign of the Roman Empire. According to GineersNow, an entrepreneur named Atilius decided to build an arena in Fidenae (a town just north of Rome) to celebrate an end to Emperor Tiberius’ ban on gladiatorial games. As you can imagine, design was not exactly supported by thorough engineering back in 27 AD.
The Fidenae Arena was built out of cheap materials (primarily wood) in a rush to begin staging gladiatorial games. On opening night the citizens of Fidenae flocked to the arena, which very quickly collapsed. Between 20,000 and 50,000 people perished, and the builder of the arena was banished from the Roman Empire.
1 Messed up: The Civic Center in Hartford, Connecticut
On January 17, 1978, approximately six hours after the University of Connecticut defeated the University of Massachusetts in basketball, the Civic Center roof collapsed under the weight of a heavy snowfall. Luckily, there were no casualties.
The Civic Center contained an innovative space frame roof, which was essentially a system of connected beams. Aside from being visually interesting, this roof saved the builders both time and materials during construction. According to UNC Charlotte’s Engineering Resources, the space frame roof was one of the first structures to be built with the assistance of computer modeling in order to predict the amount of weight that could be supported by the design.
In the actual building process, the materials behaved differently to the computer predictions. In fact, the deflection (the way a material moves under weight/stress) of the roof in the building process was twice the amount predicted by computer analysis. Still, the Civic Center engineers trusted the computer analytics over the reality of the building.
The Civic Center was completed in 1973 and stood for five years before the collapse shown above.
References: usatoday, businessinsider, skyrisecities, bbc.co.uk, chicagotribune, revolvy, dailymail.co.uk, nypost, architecturerevived, curbed, atlasobscura, archdaily,