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Thread: Architectural blunders

  1. #1
    OH....IO Hink's avatar
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    Architectural blunders

    http://realestate.yahoo.com/promo/5-...-failures.html

    Interesting topic. I think the list is pretty weak though. I do like the quote:

    In "The Yale Book of Quotations," the legendary American architect Frank Lloyd Wright is quoted as saying, “The physician can bury his mistakes, but the architect can only advise his client to plant vines.”
    Any other massive architectural blunders you can think of?

    Cabrini Green?
    A common mistake people make when trying to design something completely foolproof is to underestimate the ingenuity of complete fools. -Douglas Adams

  2. #2
    Unfrozen Caveman Planner mendelman's avatar
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    Cabrini Green? No, more a social engineering blunder.

    And for the examples in the article - the Tacoma bridge and the residential tower in China were engineering blunders rather than architectural.

    As more my example would have been the former fortress design around the Ren Center (now GM Corp Headquarters) in downtown Detroit. Mercifully, GM dismantled the fortress walls when they moved in.
    I'm sorry. Is my bias showing?

    The ends can justify the means.

  3. #3
    Cyburbian Linda_D's avatar
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    I agree with mendelman that some of the examples they gave aren't really architectural failures but engineering failures. Architectural blunders, IMO, are sound structures that end up being ugly or unadaptable, requiring excessive maintenance or functioning poorly. I found it funny that the article quoted FLW because he created his own "massive architectural blunder" in the Larkin Administration Building in Buffalo.

    It was an extravagant building built in 1904, with very thick outer walls with lots of windows and a central atrium covered by either a 1 large skylight or several smaller ones (I forgot which it was). The main floor was open space supported by pillars. The upper floors opened to the atrium. Linky

    From the get-go there were problems with it: the skylight(s) leaked. The lighting (it was an office building) was unsuitable for clerical work. There were issues with heating, ventilation, and maintenance. When the Great Depression struck, the Larkin Company couldn't afford to run it "as is" but they couldn't adapt it to make it better. The company tried reconfiguring the interior space by closing off the exterior offices from the atrium, but the continuing economic problems eventually forced the company into bankruptcy.

    Nobody wanted the Larkin HQ building because it was too large and too unadaptable. The Buffalo Schools refused it, even for free, because of the high maintenance. Finally, in the 1950s, it was sold by the City of Buffalo and demo'd.

    Preservationists in Buffalo still whine about the loss of this building but the reality is that it was a true architectural blunder: too big, too massive, too poorly designed to be economically feasible except in the extravagant "good times" when it was built at the very end of the "Gilded Age".

  4. #4
    The World Trade Center plaza was an absolute blunder: hard surfaced, cold, and utterly uninviting. Nobody stopped to enjoy the space -- everyone hurried through it to their destination. The former buildings themselves were the subject of great derision at the time of their design as well.
    On pitching to Stan Musial:
    "Once he timed your fastball, your infielders were in jeopardy."
    Warren Spahn

  5. #5
    Cyburbian mgk920's avatar
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    Howabout that complex of four state office building towers within a few blocks of the state capitol building in Albany, NY?





    Mike

  6. #6
    Cyburbian
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    Isn't SUNY Albany considered one of the ugliest college campuses in the country due to its brutalist architecture? Brutalism has a place but I don't think a college campus is one of them.

    That reminds of this article which discusses how all the security upgrades on federal buildings after the Oklahoma City bombings have had a negative influence on the built environment.

  7. #7
    Cyburbian Mud Princess's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by mgk920 View post
    Howabout that complex of four state office building towers within a few blocks of the state capitol building in Albany, NY?





    Mike
    You mean this?


  8. #8
    Cyburbian HomerJ's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Blide View post
    Isn't SUNY Albany considered one of the ugliest college campuses in the country due to its brutalist architecture? Brutalism has a place but I don't think a college campus is one of them.

    That reminds of this article which discusses how all the security upgrades on federal buildings after the Oklahoma City bombings have had a negative influence on the built environment.
    It's funny you mention that because I always had mixed feelings about UIC's campus. I actually thought that during the summertime with the landscaping in full bloom and the skyline in the background the campus (which is definitely an example of brutalism) looked pretty attractive. During the winter, not so much.

    Anyone ever been to Boston's City Hall? Isn't that supposed to be a crazy brutalist building? I wonder how nice it actually is or how the space works...
    Insanity in individuals is something rare - but in groups, parties, nations and epochs, it is the rule.

  9. #9
    Cyburbian DetroitPlanner's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by mendelman View post
    As more my example would have been the former fortress design around the Ren Center (now GM Corp Headquarters) in downtown Detroit. Mercifully, GM dismantled the fortress walls when they moved in.
    Unfortunately it still has the brutalist architecture underpinnings.... can't hide ugly.

    How about that giant shopping mall somewhere in china that cost like $2 billion that has no stores, and never did?
    We hope for better things; it will arise from the ashes - Fr Gabriel Richard 1805

  10. #10
    Cyburbian mgk920's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Mud Princess View post
    You mean this?

    Yepper.



    Mike

  11. #11
    Cyburbian Linda_D's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by mgk920 View post
    Howabout that complex of four state office building towers within a few blocks of the state capitol building in Albany, NY?





    Mike
    Quote Originally posted by Mud Princess View post
    You mean this?

    It's even uglier from the ground. It's called the Empire State Plaza. In addition to the 4 office towers, there's the other taller office tower and the Egg, a high class auditorium. They are all connected by a large hard surfaced plaza with a concourse and parking garages below.

    Viewed from the Hudson River and surrounding neighborhoods, the east side of this thing looks like a fortress.

  12. #12
    Cyburbian mgk920's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Linda_D View post
    It's even uglier from the ground. It's called the Empire State Plaza. In addition to the 4 office towers, there's the other taller office tower and the Egg, a high class auditorium. They are all connected by a large hard surfaced plaza with a concourse and parking garages below.

    Viewed from the Hudson River and surrounding neighborhoods, the east side of this thing looks like a fortress.
    I've seen it all in person, too (I forgot about the other tower and that 'egg' when I was hurriedly writing that other post). Don't forget the uncompleted freeway that passes under it, ending in a 'U' turn to go back the other way. That 'U' turn is visible between the houses in the neighborhood by that long, low part of the complex on the lower left.

    Mike

  13. #13
    Cyburbian Linda_D's avatar
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    Many SUNY campuses seem to be afflicted with God-awful architecture, not just SUNY Albany. Two examples I'm familiar with:

    My alma mater, Buffalo State, had its new academic quad (circa 1968) bounded by the massive bulk of the student union on the west, the library on the east, and a round, largely windowless brick building affectionately called "the Silo" on the north. Since the new brick on the Silo and the library had little "knobs" and some color variation that were supposed to simulate old bricks, and the entire quad was hardscaped with bricks and concrete, I suppose the quad was supposed to simulate a medieval town. I guess.

    Of course, the SUNY Buffalo North Campus' "academic core" made Buff State's medieval town look quaint. The academic core was made up of massive scale academic buildings connected by walkways that always reminded me of something created by an admirer of totalitarian dictatorship. Creepy.

    BTW, SUNY didn't get these wonderful designs by stealing ideas from architectural school drop outs. They paid well-known architects good money to build these monstrosities.

  14. #14
    NIMBY asshatterer Plus Richmond Jake's avatar
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    I'll go with a landscape architectural blunder. Universally hated in San Francisco: the infamous Villancourt Fountain.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Vi...rtFountain.jpg

  15. #15
    Quote Originally posted by HomerJ9139 View post

    Anyone ever been to Boston's City Hall? Isn't that supposed to be a crazy brutalist building? I wonder how nice it actually is or how the space works...
    Boston City Hall, which wins awards and is much loved by Modernist preservationists, is horrendous to work in (I used to work there). The HVAC system is dysfunctional, the working spaces uncomfortable, acoustics are maddening, wayfinding in the building impossible. The only nice thing about it is that it is one of a kind and doesn't have a twin someplace.

  16. #16
    Cyburbian Masswich's avatar
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    Actually I like the exterior of Boston City Hall. Its City Hall Plaza and, more importantly, the inside of City Hall, that are disasters. I wish they could just rehab the whole interior of City Hall and the plaza and then maybe the building would be more likeable. They rehabbed Brookline Town Hall, which is an architecturally bland building at best, and now it functions much better and is much more environmentally friendly to boot.

  17. #17
    There are many who go ballistic on the exterior of Boston City Hall. If they could find a way to open up the blank brick walls that wrap around 50% of the base, it would be fine in my opinion.

  18. #18
    Cyburbian
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    Saw this one in the news yesterday. The building hasn't been built yet but basically this proposed 50 story apartment building in Korea is getting a ton of flak for resembling the collapsing World Trade Center.

    I definitely see what the critics are saying but I think the backlash is largely unwarranted. I can totally believe this design was innocent when you look at a lot of post modern stuff out there. I honestly don't think the design looks that bad either.

  19. #19
    Cyburbian
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    Quote Originally posted by Gotta Speakup View post
    There are many who go ballistic on the exterior of Boston City Hall. If they could find a way to open up the blank brick walls that wrap around 50% of the base, it would be fine in my opinion.
    Has anyone heard the theory of the second architect? A long time ago I sat in on a lecture that explain how every great building from the past has had at least two architects work on it - one to come up with the initial grand concept and the other to fix the problems with it. They listed many of the great European buildings from the Middle Ages through to the Victorian age and showed how the second architect had altered the building. Sometimes this happened during construction, sometimes hundreds of years later. The moral was that there is no shame in improving a building after its “finished”.

  20. #20
    Cyburbian Streck's avatar
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    Brazillia, the city!

    Buildings are to widely separated with deserted open space between them.

    Street right of ways are too big and impossible to cross as a pedestrian, and building set-backs are too great.

    Feeling of isolation rather than community.

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