Only by analyzing the failures of our past can we learn how to prepare for a better future. This is one of the core principles behind forensic science, and candidly, it is what personally drives me forward every day.

InterestingEngineering.com compiled a list of “25 Extremely Embarrassing Architectural Failures,” although I would like to clarify that many of their chosen examples have little to do with failure on the part of the architect. In fact, many of the examples are failures on the part of a trade contractor, the owner/developer’s miscalculation of the market, poor understanding of existing soils conditions, or in some cases, just plain bad taste.

Here is the intro:

Welcome to our list of 25 incredible architectural failures throughout history. The following collection of architectural failures is an eclectic mix. They range from the most poorly designed, ugly or downright dangerous architectural projects throughout history. Our list is far from exhaustive and not intended to be definitive. They are also in no particular order. Enjoy!

Some familiar projects are featured:

  • The “Leaning” Tower of Pisa
  • Galloping Gertie (featured here recently)
  • The Kemper Arena roof collapse
  • several Gehry projects
  • The John Hancock Tower

One of the projects featured is the Lotus Riverside Complex in Shanghai, which you can learn more about in the video below:

Astrophysicist and author Ethan Siegel, writing for Forbes, just helped to expose a longtime myth about good ole’ Galloping Gertie, a bridge that (in)famously collapsed just a few short months after opening to public traffic.

To help jog your memory, here is footage uploaded to YouTube of the bridge twisting and bouncing around:

The story we learned in Physics class back in school was that Galloping Gertie’s fatal flaw was related to “resonant frequency” — the same phenomena responsible for wine glasses shattering when exposed a tone of specific frequency. Siegel proposes an alternative explanation:

But it wasn’t resonance that brought the bridge down, but rather the self-induced rocking! Without an ability to dissipate its energy, it just kept twisting back-and-forth, and as the twisting continued, it continued to take damage, just as twisting a solid object back-and-forth will weaken it, eventually leading to it breaking. It didn’t take any fancy resonance to bring the bridge down, just a lack of foresight of all the effects that would be at play, cheap construction techniques, and a failure to calculate all the relevant forces.

This wasn’t a total failure, however. The engineers who investigated its collapsed began to understand the phenomenon quickly; within 10 years, they had a new sub-field of science to call their own: bridge aerodynamics-aeroelastics. The phenomenon of flutter is now well-understood, but it has to be remembered in order to be effective. The two bridges currently spanning the Tacoma Narrows’ previous path have shorn up those flaws, but London’s Millennium Bridge and Russia’s Volgograd Bridge have both had “flutter”-related flaws exposed in the 21st century.

Don’t blame resonance for the most famous bridge-collapse of all. The true cause is much scarier, and could affect hundreds of bridges across the world if we ever forget to account for, and mitigate, the fluttering effects that brought this one down.

Read all of Siegel’s piece for the details…

Thomas Musca, writing for ArchDaily, compiled a list of nine examples of the worst architectural claims, disputes and lawsuits:

What did Pritzker Prize winner Frank Gehry get when he designed the Stata Center, an exuberantly whimsical academic complex for MIT? A very large check, plus a major lawsuit, alleging negligence and breach of contract due to rampant leaks, mold, cracks, drainage problems and sliding ice. Sometimes the most inspired designs can go awry. And when they do, some clients lawyer up. Here are 9 fascinating examples.

(more…)

Within the construction defect industry, we sometimes joke that the repairs proposed by some parties represent a much more costly approach than is truly necessary to solve a particular situation. You might hear comments like “that’s the Cadillac repair” or “how can this be so expensive — what are they trying to do, gold plate the building to keep leaks out?”

So when I learned that there was an artist using gold to fill cracks as part of a new installation, I couldn’t help but take a closer look. Allison Meier, writing for Hyperallergic, highlighted the work of Rachel Sussman inspired by an ancient Japanese art form known as kintsukuroi. (more…)

Housing shortages abound throughout the modern world, and in the UK, the situation is not much different than here in the US. Also not much different: substantial claims of defective construction due to cut corners in an effort to meet demand.

In fact, the country’s National House Building Council, which provides 10-year warranties covering most newly constructed homes, reportedly paid out £90-million (US$110,852,100) to homeowners in 2015-2016. According to the Guardian, this is nearly triple the amount paid to resolve claims from a decade before. Here’s more on the story:

This week the Guardian reported that Bovis is set to award people who live in some of its newbuild homes a total of £7m in compensation, in response to claims that houses have faulty plumbing or wiring, missing insulation, and other serious defects. Some people say they were offered money to move into homes that have not been completed. When the news broke, the Bovis share price fell by 10%, wiping £100m off its stock market value.

This is just one part of a bigger story of complaints about Britain’s construction giants – and what happens when the rush to build leads to corners being cut and houses left either unfinished or deeply defective. On social media there are hundreds-strong groups telling their personal stories: “The toilet leaked into the living room and when my plumber came to fix it he found the toilet had not been installed correctly”; “having my kitchen ripped out for the second time”; “no insulation in roof”; “mould growing all over the house … too dangerous too live in as I have asthma”.

Meanwhile, the pressure is on to build as many new homes as possible. Even if it is behind on its targets, the government still wants a million to have been put up by 2020. The year 2015 saw a big jump in completed builds: 142,890 homes were finished, a 20% year-on-year increase. Last year the number was put at more than 150,000.

So this is satire, just to be clear… John Frank Weaver, writing for the always hilarious McSweeney’s, offers a wonderfully hand-crafted glimpse into the imaginary life of an Artisanal Attorney.

Weaver opens his piece with the question, “Are you tired of large corporate law firms making the same cookie cutter litigation?” (I know that I am not alone in the construction defect industry that immediately thinks of one law firm in particular upon reading that question.

How is an artisanal attorney different from any other attorney? Like other artisans, I pay close attention to my ingredients and process; I am intimately involved in all stages of creation. Other attorneys print their documents on paper they buy in mass-produced boxes, tens of thousands of sheets at a time, using ink that mechanically jets onto the page. I make my own paper by hand, using the traditional methods of 14th-century book publishers, who printed their works on linen and vellum. The flax for the linen grows along the sides of a nearby swimming hole, and the plants’ growth is influenced by the laughter of children in the summer, when I pick it by hand. The vellum comes from the grass-fed cows of an area farm; to give the cows more agency in the vellum-making process, I let them choose the pumice I will treat their hides with after slaughter. I also make my own ink, using the ink of squid I raise myself in a PETA-approved salt-water aquarium in my office. You can meet all my squid during our initial meeting and pick which one you want for the ink on your will or healthcare power of attorney…

Don’t be lulled into a complacent life filled with more cheap, manufactured goods than you’ll ever need and lawsuits that don’t reflect your uniqueness. Insist on a life well-lived with food, experiences, and litigation that reflect people and skills, not factories and automation. The next time you need to settle a boundary dispute with your neighbor, consult with me – I’m your artisanal attorney. You can find me on Bedford Avenue, in between Ruby’s Fluoridation-Free Fire Sprinkler Installation and Otto’s Mustache Groomery.

Source: McSweeney’s