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Spectacular fails

Fodor’s, a famed international travel guide, cites notorious construction phenomena. Whether by poor site selection, lousy building materials, or oversights in architectural design, each of the guide’s featured buildings manifests spectacular problems.

"Walkie Scorchie!"

For example, The Walt Disney Concert Hall, London’s “Walkie Talkie Tower,” and the Verda Hotel and Spa in Las Vegas can curve class and turn metal into a “death ray.” At the Verda Hotel in 2010, guests reported heat enough in the pool area to melt plastic cups and singe hair. In 2015, the Walkie Talkie building—nicknamed the “Walkie Scorchie” by Londoners—fried an egg, cracked tile, and melted Jaguar dashboards. The Walt Disney Concert Hall’s curved metal gleam blinded drivers on approaching roads.

The Verda Hotel responded to complaints by constructing pavilions festooned with umbrellas. Disney hired metal-dulling contractors to remove the building’s hazardous-to-motorists glare. However, the Walkie Talkie Tower’s problems persist; no easy answer exists to reduce the excessive heat emitted by the £200 million building’s glass façade.

Falling from the sky

Other architectural nightmares include the John Hancock Center in Boston and the Aon Center in Chicago, not cited for their gleam but for their loss of it. The John Hancock Center’s glass panels fell out; each weighed 500 pounds. This forced building owners to replace every panel in the 62-story structure. Likewise, the Aon Center’s marble veneer peeled away and tumbled to the street. This forced workers to strip 43,000 marble panels and replace them with granite: an $80-million endeavor.

At the Shangri-La Hotel in London, located in The Shard, one of the tallest buildings in Europe, Visitors learned to their dismay that at night the unique windows turned into mirrors through which they could see into other guests’ rooms. Privacy screens fixed the issue.

The Vessel in Manhattan’s Hudson Yards features 154 staircases in honeycomb. Tourists once flocked to this exciting building. But the facility closed in 2019 due to its tendency to be a suicide hotspot. Some believe the building will never reopen.


Finally, Fodor’s highlights perhaps the most notorious architectural mishap: the Leaning Tower of Pisa. Construction started in the year 1173. From the beginning, problems occurred. It took 200 years for builders to complete the already-leaning tower. Italy closed the building in 1990 for renovation. Engineers brought it from a 5.5-degree cant back to 3.99 degrees. Poor design didn’t create the problem; Italians can blame the soil.

Whether by disastrous locations, shoddy design, or just plain bad luck, Fodor’s points out some of the most unfortunate architectural flaws and the unlikely problems caused by them.

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