When Buildings Attack: A Six-Part Series of Unfortunate Architectural Events | Features
Image: Niall Patrick Walsh/Midjourney
In the worlds of horror and thriller, buildings sometimes seem to take on a life of their own. Of The brilliants Overlooking the hotel at That of the observer 657 Boulevard, the architecture and the space become more than a backdrop or a vehicle but rather become main characters in their own right; sometimes at the peril of their occupants.
Contrary to Hollywood, real-world buildings don’t always follow a script. Even works of architecture overseen by some of the world’s best-known architects can become unexpected antagonists for those who compose or surround them. Below, we’ve rounded up six such examples, from Heat Rays to Ice Daggers to Flying Ceramics.
Unlike the many serious real estate disasters analyzed in our editorial lately, these six stories fortunately did not lead to serious injuries or deaths. Humanity did not come out unscathed, however. In one case, a lawyer’s hair nearly caught fire, while in another, some insurance company investors suffered stomach aches. Tragic, indeed.
It’s fitting that we start our Halloween-themed roundup on Fenchurch Street, an area of London that was once home to the infamous Jack the Ripper. It is also here that we find the 20 Fenchurch Street designed by Rafael Viñoly – colloquially known as walkie-talkie tower.
Reluctant winner of the 2015 Carbuncle Cup for the UK’s Worst Building, the Walkie-Talkie has occasionally channeled its inner Ripper into terrorizing the streets of East London, but thankfully not with comparable tragic results. In 2013, ultra-bright light reflecting off the concave glass facade of the building melted cars parked in the street below, would be six times brighter than direct sunlight. Passers-by complained of being blinded by the dazzling beam, as were shopkeepers who claimed the intense beam burned and scorched a doormat in their premises.
This was not the end of the Walkie-Talkie horror show. In 2015, the building returns to the headlines once again after locals complained of strong winds near the base of the tower, prompting a “rigorous” assessment of whether the tower had created a wind tunnel effect. “I almost got blown the other day walking past the building,” a person told the BBC. “When I got around the corner, everything was fine. I was afraid to go back.”
Vdara Hotel & Spa, Las Vegas by Rafael Viñoly Architects
The Walkie-Talkie isn’t the only Viñoly building with a feisty attitude. The architect’s Vdara Hotel & Spa in Las Vegas came under intense scrutiny in 2010 when it was discovered that, like the walkie-talkie, the tower’s concave glass facade was concentrating sunlight intense on the surrounding areas.
The “death ray”, as the locals called him, raised temperatures in the hotel pool by around 20 degrees, with a guest saying the pool reached 107.6 degrees Fahrenheit and an attorney saying his head nearly caught fire. Fortunately, the hotel’s use of giant blue umbrellas over the pool means the architects are, for now, running out of hot water.
Frank Gehry once called his Walt Disney Concert Hall a sailboat”. Although lauded for its trademark curves, the building’s history has not been entirely straightforward. As in Viñoly’s Tale of Two Towers, Disney Hall played the pantomime villain soon after it opened in 2003, when the sun’s rays bounced off the building’s highly reflective surface. blind drivers passing in front of the building. The overwhelming light was accompanied by intense heat, with nearby residential buildings reporting increased use of air conditioning as a result.
The problems were finally resolved when the faceplate was sanded down by workmen to dull the shiny metal. “The reflection was not my fault” gehry said of the incident. “I told them it would happen. I was taking the heat for the whole thing. It made the list of the ten worst technical disasters of the decade. I saw it on TV, on the History Channel. I was number ten. “It’s another day, another list, for the shining star of Disney.
Ray and Maria Stata Center, Boston by Gehry Partners
Across the country at his Disney Hall, Gehry’s Ray and Maria Stata Center in MIT suffered from the extreme adverse weather. In 2007, the institute filed a complaint against Gehry for a series of structural problems. Most terrifying, perhaps, was this CNBC refers to as “daggers of icicles hanging from the roof like deadly belt weights.” The trial also claimed that snow and ice would dangerously cascade from planters and other roof areas, blocking emergency exits and damaging the building itself.
MIT ultimately paid more than $1.5 million for repairs to address sliding ice and snow, as well as drainage issues that caused cracks in walls and mold to grow on the exterior brick cladding of the building.
John Hancock TowerBoston by IM Pei & Partners (now Freed Pei Cobb & Partners)
Since its completion in 1976, The John Hancock Tower remained the tallest building in New England. Conceived by Henry N. Cobb for IM Pei & Partners, the building has been a staple of the Boston skyline for nearly half a century.
The lofty heights, however, came at a cost to the employees of the John Hancock Life Insurance Company, who occupied the building when it opened. As reported by CBS, the building would twist and sway back and forth a few centimeters in normal wind conditions, causing motion sickness in occupants of upper floors. The problem was eventually solved by installing a tuned mass damper.
The episode was one of many for the tower throughout his life. During construction, the foundation’s retaining walls damaged sidewalks and nearby buildings, while the 10,334 panes of glass in the tower’s facade have been replaced after several detached and fallen from the building.
Palau de les Arts Opera Reina Sofía, Valencia, Spain by Santiago Calatrava
Despite being the tallest opera house in the world, by Santiago Calatrava Palau de les Arts could never hope to match the height of the John Hancock Tower. It could, however, match his story of doom. A year after it opened in 2005, the opera house’s main stage collapsed as it held an entire production of Don Giovanni, forcing organizers to postpone the remainder of their inaugural opera season. One year later, heavy flooding again damaged the newly reconstructed main stage, while water in the building’s lower floors destroyed the building’s complex stage equipment.
For the building’s government owners, the final act of drama came in 2014 when parts of the opera house’s iconic ceramic roof blew off in high winds, forcing the building to close to the public for two months. The regional government continued Calatrava for the cost of repairs — one of the several trials endured by the Valencian architect.