Vancouver, British Colombia played host for a couple decades to a dramatic uprising of concrete-clad condos that permanently altered the city’s skyline. Developers rushing to sell units to (oftentimes  foreign) investors and empty-nesters cut corners, leading to years of litigation followed by tougher standards and improved oversight — particularly regarding the building envelope.

Despite the progress, construction defects have been far from eradicated in the Vancouver region.  According to CTV’s John Woodward, the (presumably unrelated) Woodward building located in the historic Gastown neighborhood is subject to a $1-million (CAD) lawsuit over failing — and falling — concrete. Here’s more:

The suit, which was filed in 2016, refers to a 2014 engineering report done five years after the building opened with designs of transforming the Downtown Eastside.

That survey found fourteen cases of exposed rebar in the exterior of the building, and warned: “Unrepaired exposed steel will corrode and cause more of the surrounding concrete to spall and break off, creating a safety hazard for vehicles and pedestrians below.”

The review found nine cases of staining from corrosion, 12 cases of concrete cracks, as well as 13 cases of efflorescence of concrete–a streaking that is a sign of moisture ingress–and two cases of missing sealant.

Perhaps it should come as little surprise that Sweden’s new Museum of Failure sounds like the perfect museum for a person like me. Jason Zasky, writing for Failure Magazine (which is now one of my favorite subscriptions), reports the following:

The Museum of Failure isn’t on any list of the Top Things to do in Sweden—at least not yet. The new museum, which opened last week in Helsingborg, a city of 130,000 people on Sweden’s southern coast, has already attracted worldwide media attention and is drawing visitors from around the globe. In fact, Chinese tourists have been arriving by the busload “to look at the Donald Trump board game,” notes curator Samuel West, a former clinical psychologist who has more than 70 different failed products and objects on display in the 450-square-meter space.

The underlying message of the museum—that we can all learn from failure, that even the largest multinational companies fail spectacularly, and that business executives have the most to gain from an appreciation of failure—is worth considering. In fact, the museum’s essence recalls the work of the late Robert McMath, who spent decades building a collection of tens of thousands of failed consumer products, housed in his Ithaca, New York-based New Products Showcase and Learning Center, which I had the opportunity to visit in 2000. McMath would go on to write several columns for Failure, including one about Breakfast Mates, which explains how Kellogg’s went wrong when it tried to sell cereal and milk—a winning combination, if there ever was one—together.

Zasky was lucky enough to score an interview with the museum’s curator, Samuel West — which I highly encourage you to read in full. In the interview, West explains that absolutely none of the companies whose products are featured would agree to discuss their inclusion:

Most of the brand managers didn’t even reply to my emails or LinkedIn requests. I do understand that it’s sensitive but I was naïve to think that with the focus of the museum being to learn from mistakes, that they would cooperate. Failure is kind of cool now, and failure isn’t as stigmatized as it used to be—or so I thought. I was wrong.

As for me, I can’t wait for an excuse to visit Sweden to check out the Museum of Failure!

Debra Rubin, of ENR, shares the sad news of the passing of an AEC forensics grandmaster:

John M. Hanson, who, as president, helped guide the growth of Wiss, Janney, Elstner Associates Inc. into an industry-leading forensics and failures engineer and who led probes into high-profile collapses of the Kansas City Hyatt hotel walkway in 1981 and the New York State Thruway Schoharie Creek Bridge in 1987, died on May 26 in Green Valley, Ariz., at 84. The firm did not release the cause of death.

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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.

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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…)