When you construct a building, you have to make sure that everything is right. You confirm that it is structurally sound, that every bolt and screw is tight, and that you didn’t miss any spots on the walls when you were painting. And if you’re building a skyscraper, you should also probably remember to leave room for elevators.
Unfortunately, the planners behind the Intempo skyscraper in Benidorm, Spain never worked out a way for people to get up and down the building’s 47 storeys, and it doesn’t have any extra space to accommodate lifts and motor equipment, so it seems that if you want to get to the top floor of the Intempo, you’d better be ready for a long stair climb.
As ridiculous as this example is, it’s hardly the only questionable architectural choice (or, in this case, oversight) that has been made over the years. Here are a few more.
Standard Oil Building (now Aon Center), Chicago, IL
Covering your entire building in Italian Carrara marble sounds like a really good idea, until you realize that this particularly expensive type of marble is much thinner than materials normally used on the exteriors of buildings. The people behind this Chicago skyscraper didn’t find that out until it was too late, and in 1974, one of the slabs detached from the building and crashed into the roof of the Prudential Center next door. The marble would eventually be replaced with granite at the cost of $180 million.
Ray and Maria Stata Center, Cambridge, MA
Just because you’re MIT, and just because you get Frank Gehry to design your 720,000-square-foot academic complex, doesn’t mean everything will turn out just right. MIT filed a negligence suit against Gehry three years after the center opened, claiming design flaws in the $300 million building had caused major structural problems.
Lotus Riverside, Shanghai, China
When you build a complex of 11 buildings by the side of a river, bad things can happen. One example would be the time a 13-storey building in the newly finished Shanghai complex collapsed, and came dangerously close to starting a domino effect that would have knocked down all the surrounding buildings as well.
Walt Disney Concert Hall, Los Angeles, CA
Oh look: another beautiful and insane-looking building Frank Gehry building. This one makes the cut because the “excessive glare” caused by this thing basically transforms it into one huge magnifying glass when the sun hits it the right way.
Penn Station, New York, NY
Although we can’t vouch for there being anything wrong with the structural integrity of the station itself, Penn Station is a shining example of what happens when a city thinks it’s trading up and modernizing, but instead it’s destroying something perfect and replacing it with something boring, cold, and ugly. The destruction of the old Penn Station is still one of the great architectural outrages in American history.
Leaning Tower of Pisa, Pisa, Italy
Possibly the greatest “whoops” in the history of architecture.
Pier One Playground, New York, NY
We could dedicate a separate list to really stupidly constructed playgrounds, but we’ll let this New York example, opened in 2010 and constructed from sun-catching material that could heat up to well over 100 degrees in the hotter months, be the representative.
Vdara Hotel & Spa, Las Vegas, NV
Picture this: You’re just relaxing by the pool, trying to sweat out a night of slots and free drinks, and then all of a sudden the rays deflecting off the hotel you’re staying in start to singe your hair. Yeah, that actually happened.
W.E.B. Du Bois Library, Amherst, MA
If you believe everything you hear, then the tallest library in the United States is cursed. First there was the time, two months after its opening in 1974, when the building started to shed bricks from its facade for reasons that remain unknown to this day, and then there’s the legend that the building is sinking.
The sinking thing is thankfully just an urban legend, but the story of the bricks falling might have some validity:
When the library was built, the sides were supposed to be skinned in limestone, but to cut costs bricks were used instead. Because of the weight of the bricks, a support shelf was necessary, and the sealant joint used on these support shelves needed to expand and contract with the weather. However, the sealant weathered differently than the mortar used on the bricks, and to disguise the difference the architects made a special brick shape which was an overlay. This overlay did not hold up under compression, so some small chips began to break off. The bricks have been spalling ever since, and every 10 to 20 years the bricks are checked and repaired if necessary. Although this myth does contain some truth because small pieces of brick have broken off, a whole brick has never fallen from the building, and no one has ever been injured due to the spalling of small pieces of brick.
Pittwater High School, Sydney, Australia
Built using a technique created by architect Dante Bini that involved laying concrete over a balloon of plastic to create a domed structure called a “Binishell,” this Sydney high school caved in on August 4, 1986, about a decade after it was built.
The Cowboy Stadium scoreboard, Arlington, TX
We know everything is bigger in the Lone Star State, but let’s admit it: the Guinness Book of World Records’ World’s Largest High-Definition Video Display is a really horrible idea.
ArcelorMittal Orbit sculpture and observation tower, London, England
We don’t want to beat a dead horse here, but who gave Anish Kapoor and Cecil Bamlmond the green light to build this monstrosity for the 2012 London Olympics? Why would you want something that ugly representing your country when the whole world is watching?
Verizon Building, New York, NY
Another building that isn’t exactly a failure of engineering, the Verizon Building is more just a perfect example of a company deciding that there is nothing wrong with building a massive structure that makes people looking at the iconic New York City skyline sing, “One of these things is not like the other…” Every major city has one of these, but very few has aggravated residents quite like this eyesore.
Barclays Center, Brooklyn, NY
Rounding out the list is the almost one-year-old home of the Brooklyn Nets, the Barclays Center.
There are two chief issues with the arena:
1. It is hideous. Its rusted facade is meant to mimic the area’s iconic brownstone apartments, but it actually looks a lot like a spaceship that’s been left to rust.
2. It has displaced a lot of people and divided the surrounding community. As far as we’re concerned, not caring about the locals ranks high on the Bad Architecture Ideas scale.