The road to hell is paved with good intentions. Or, in this case, the road to disaster was paved by architects that didn’t think things through. Most assume that when massive, multi-million dollar construction projects are launched they are carefully planned. Indeed, a great deal of planning does go into construction. But sometimes ambitions just straight up outweigh reality.
These are architectural projects that didn’t just end badly, they ended in disaster. You’ll notice that in almost all these cases the reason for the failure was, plain and simple, not considering all the angles.
1976 saw the opening of the now infamous Kemper Arena. The massive stadium was, and still is, impressive to behold, with the standout feature being the elaborate trussed roof. All were impressed by the design, though few considered how difficult it would be to keep rainwater from pooling on the massive rooftop.
A system had been designed to allow rainwater to slowly drain from the roof, but this system had a flaw. Namely, water pooled before being drained, meaning that the structure had to temporarily support enormous weight. 1979 saw record rainfall, and, sadly, the roof collapsed under the weight. After a redesign and rebranding the stadium still stands to this day.
Standard Oil Building
When opening in 1974 the Standard Oil Building wowed everyone. Not only is the structure the third tallest in Chicago, it also happens have an exterior of Italian Carrara marble. Beautiful to behold, but with serious design flaws.
The marble slabs, firstly, were much thinner than should have been allowed. This meant that in the Chicago heat the slabs bent and deformed dramatically. Before even opening for business one of the slabs detached and fell into a surrounding building, causing moderate damage. After it became obvious that a repeat incident was highly likely major repairs had to be implemented. Imagine sitting down to check out the latest horse racing betting in Australia, only to have a giant marble slab smash through your roof?
Perhaps the most tragic architectural failure of all time, the CNA tragedy is deeply unsettling. The fatality is a reminder of just how serious a thing structural integrity really is. The building opened in 1972 to much fanfare, with few realising how big a problem was brewing. It turned out that the 44 story behemoth had a serious flaw. Namely that the windows were no given room to expand in their housing. When the glass panes expanded in summer heat they had nowhere to go, meaning that, eventually, they cracked.
In 1999 a piece of cracked window fell into the street below, causing a fatality. After an $18 million lawsuit the case was settled, the windows were refurbished, and the matter put to rest. But, notably, the most tragic part is that the problem wasn’t a secret. Consultants head already discovered the problem, only for no tangible action to be taken. The disaster, and the death, could have been avoided. Truly a devastating design flaw.