5 Architectural Fails

February 21, 2013


Tacoma Narrows Bridge, Tacoma, WA
The Tacoma Narrows Bridge was a suspension bridge that connected the port city of Tacoma, WA,
with the Kitsap Peninsula. It was the third-longest suspension bridge
in the world when it opened to the public on July 1, 1940, but it
closed four months later after a spectacular collapse.

The cause of the collapse was inadequate girders that were used to
keep construction costs low. They failed to keep the bridge deck in
place, allowing it to sway violently whenever a strong enough wind

This situation was already noticeable to construction workers, who
nicknamed it “Galloping Gertie.” The name stuck when the general public
crossed the bridge and noticed its similarity to a bucking bronco. It
finally collapsed on Nov. 7, 1940, under the stress of a 40
mile-per-hour wind.

Lotus Riverside, Shanghai, China

The Lotus Riverside is a residential apartment complex in Shanghai
consisting of eleven 13-story buildings. On the morning of June 27,
2009, one of them toppled over, just barely missing an adjacent
building. Had it not missed, it might have caused one toppled building
to topple into the next, creating a horrifying domino effect that,
thankfully, did not come to pass.

The cause of the collapse was attributed to excavation that was in
progress to create an underground garage. The earth removed from
beneath the building was dumped into a landfill near a creek, and its
weight caused the river bank to collapse. Water from the creek then
seeped into the ground, turning the building’s foundation into mud.


Highway 19 Overpass

Location: Laval, Quebec

Year of Fail: 2006

A 66-foot section of the De la Concorde overpass in this Montreal suburb gave way in 2006, crushing two vehicles under concrete and causing a third to fall over the edge of the roadway. Five people were killed and six others were seriously injured. Built in 1970, a number of factors contributed to the ’06 collapse: poor initial design, incorrectly placed rebar reinforcement, low quality concrete and a fracture along the horizontal plane that had grown in the years before the catastrophe.


Ronan Point Apartment Building

Location: London

Year of Fail: 1968

Built from pre-fabricated concrete panels held together by bolts, Ronan Point was such a large undertaking that quality control by the architects was almost nonexistent during construction. When an explosion in a single apartment caused an entire corner of the 22-floor building to topple like dominoes, it was found that water-damaged bolts and joints filled with newspaper, rather than concrete, caused the wall panels to crack and collapse. Miraculously, only four of the 260 people in the building were killed in this 1968 disaster.


The Aon Center

Location: Chicago, IL

Year of Fail: 1974

Built in 1973, the architects placed form above function, neglecting to realize that while stunning, the Carrara marble they used to construct the exterior of The Aon Center was thinner and lighter than more typical building materials. A year after the building went up, one of the marble slabs detached and crashed into the roof of the Prudential Center next door. When an investigation revealed that this might not be a one-time occurrence, the building was resurfaced at a cost of over $80,000,000.


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One comment on “5 Architectural Fails”

  1. I would kindly ask for a permission to use the picture of the Highway 19 collapse in Laval in my TED Talk. Appreciate your prompt response as my talk is next Saturday and i am running out of time.


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