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:

There are some in the building industry — perhaps even a majority of people — that believe concrete is either waterproof, or that it is somehow immune to any negative effects from exposure to moisture. However, typical concrete is porous, with many tiny cracks, allowing water to penetrate. Exposed to freeze-thaw weather cycles, that water can cause the existing micro-cracks within the crystalline structure of the concrete to expand, and ultimately weaken the assembly’s integrity allowing for much larger cracks.

If only there was a concrete that could resist water, and minimize cracking.

Under the direction of civil engineering professor Konstantin Sobolev, researchers at the University of Wisconsin at Milwaukee think that might have something for the building industry that will do just that. Laura Otto at Phys.org has more:

Super-strong polyvinyl alcohol fibers or high-density polyethylene fibers, each the width of a human hair, are mixed into the concrete and bond with it. When cracks begin, the fibers prevent them from opening and becoming larger gaps.

In fact, Sobolev isn’t trying to eliminate cracking. He wants to direct the process in a preferred way, resulting in evenly distributed microcracking. This disperses the load so that tiny cracks remain small while the material’s superhydrophobic features form a water barrier.

This architecture, Sobolev says, allows the material to withstand four times the compression of traditional concrete and have 200 times the ductility, or flexibility under stress.

Since science is more fun with a video, here is the professor and postdoctoral researcher Marin Kozhukhova demonstrating some of their findings:

With 1.4-million square feet of habitable space, spread out among 61 floors, the Salesforce Tower in San Francisco is projected to be the tallest building “West of the Mississippi” topping out at 1,070 feet above ground.

(It should be noted that while the top of the spire at the Wilshire Grand in LA will reach 1,099 feet, Salesforce will still have the highest occupied floor at 970 feet. Until, of course, some third building is erected to surpass both of the former…) (more…)

All this week I’ve been observing destructive testing at a high rise. At a building across the street, workers are taking down scaffolding from a 20+ story condo project after repairs were made to the building’s exterior.

More than a few times over the past several days my colleagues and I have observed workers not tied off to proper fall protection performing extreme acrobatic feats while carrying fairly large and unwieldy sections of scaffolding using both hands.

Watching these hard working folks putting their life on the line with every step has been eye-opening  and terrifying, while at the same time providing me a real sense of gratitude that my job isn’t nearly as risky.

And then I saw this: 

(Via Construction Junkie)

Who even knew that there was a contest to see who can demolish stuff the best? Canadian firm Priestly Demolition, Inc. (PDI) won the 2016 World Demolition Award for best project for their masterful work on a project in Ontario, Canada.

Due to environmental concerns, a bridge needed to be removed without using explosives. In just a week’s time, braving subzero temperatures, PDI successfully dismantled the bridge. Construction Junkie’s Shane Hedmond has more:

The original Nipigon River Bridge was constructed in 1937 as a simple steel deck truss bridge. 37 years later, in 1974, steel girders replaced the truss and it had remained the same ever since. In 2013, a $106 project was started that would replace the old bridge with a new 4 lane bridge and close down the old one. PDI was contracted as the demolition company responsible for removing the old bridge.

The Nipigon River is the largest tributary of Lake Superior and, because of that, there were many environmental concerns for the river wildlife and surrounding habitats. Not only that, but the company had to worry about the recently constructed first half of the new bridge which sat directly adjacent to the old bridge. The old bridge stood 100 feet (30m) above the water and spanned 827 feet (252 meters). Without being able to disturb the water below, the team ultimately decided to jack the bridge up and use hydraulic rollers to move the girders off of the supporting piers and onto land.

Without further ado, I present a 24-minute long video produced by PDI showing the process in depth:

Microsoft’s HoloLens is yet another entrant in the race for virtual/mixed/augmented reality domination. Via the Microsoft website:

World-famous architect Paulo Mendes da Rocha has expressed his delight after Microsoft and Trimble helped to recreate some of his most well-known buildings using HoloLens.

The 88-year-old Brazilian said it was “fantastic” that he could see his creations using Microsoft’s mixed-reality headset, which places computer-generated holograms in the real world.

Mendes da Rocha’s designs were recreated using Trimble’s SketchUp, before being uploaded to SketchUp Viewer for HoloLens, the first commercial app for HoloLens available via the Microsoft Store.

Here’s a short video:

Garrett Huffish, writing for Digital Trends, reports that the first on-site 3D-printed residential home was built in Russia for about $10,134:

Printing the self-bearing walls, partitions, and building envelope took the machine 24 hours to complete. The final result is the first house printed as a whole with an area of 409 square feet.

Erecting the house during the coldest time of the year in Russia was no easy task. The concrete mixture used in the printing only sets right in temperatures above 5 degrees Celcius. Meanwhile, the outside temperature was sitting at minus-35 degrees Celcius. A simple solution was found by setting up a sealed tent around the construction site to keep it warm enough.

Here’s a video:

Learn more at Apis Cor’s website.

Fortunately, nobody was injured in this wild adventure. During construction of a facility, the concrete crew lost control of a gas-powered concrete polisher, and neighbors looking on captured the fairly dangerous but equally hilarious scene on video.

Normally, the polisher’s handlebars are held by a worker who sort of floats the spinning polisher at the bottom of the machine over the freshly-poured surface of the concrete to create a smooth texture. In this case, the polishing disc is stationary, but the rest of the machine is spinning around. Sort of like the tail wagging the dog.

It is more difficult to describe the action than just show it. Without further ado, I present the adventure of the rogue concrete polisher:

(Via BoingBoing)

One of my favorite things about the new Apple TV is the screensaver that comes on after sitting idle for a bit. There are several slow-moving, but highly cinematic low flyovers of several iconic cities. The pass over Abu Dhabi in Dubai is stunning, to say the least.

In a country known for outlandish skyscrapers, and currently holding the record for the tallest building (Burj Khalifa), it should come as no surprise that it will also play host to the world’s first rotating skyscraper.

What is a rotating skyscraper and why would you want one? Mashable says:

The “Dynamic Tower,” which was proposed in 2008 by Israeli-Italian architect David Fisher, will feature 80 rotating stories that make the building look as if it’s in constant motion. Not to mention it’ll produce insanely cool views.

Each different story of the futuristic apartment building will rotate 360 degrees and move independently, so residents can control their speed or decide to stop movement altogether with simple voice commands. The downside? Each unit costs $30 million.

Before you put down a deposit, make sure to check out the promo video: