6 Infamous Architectural Fails

If you’ve had Marc or another surveyor point out an issue in your building recently that was due to poor design, you might feel comforted by knowing that mistakes like those happen all over the world and on a, frankly, awe-inspiring scale. Architectural fails and designs that just haven’t been thought through are causing some issues that would actually be very familiar to Marc but some would probably surprise even him so here are some of the most notorious:

No Consideration of the Weather

The Standard Oil Building in Chicago in the USA was opened in 1974 clad in very stylish Italian Carrara marble. As a much thinner material than most cladding materials, it was not ideally suited to Chicago weather which can change from very warm in summer to very cool in winter. These temperature changes caused the marble panels to bow outwards and eventually – very dangerously – to fall off the very tall building. Weather changes causing material to expand and contract causing issues is certainly something Marc sees a lot of.

Style over Substance

Another issue Marc is familiar with are drainage problems. The Ray and Maria Stata Center in Cambridge, Massachusetts in the USA had drainage issues for a very unusual reason though. In trying to make the design as cutting edge and interesting as possible, the architect had simply overlooked this as a requirement. Not only did the development suffer water damage that caused walls to crack as a result of poor drainage, it also formed icicles so huge they terrified passers-by.

Too Bright

One issue we doubt any surveyor sees very often was the one caused by the Walkie Talkie building in London. The way this building is narrower at the bottom than the top makes it very distinctive but it also causes it to reflect sunlight onto the roads below at such temperatures that it once melted a Jaguar car which was parked outside. It has since been fitted with a sunshade but, apparently, the streets below can still get hot enough to fry an egg on.

Not Fit for Purpose

Buildings not being properly designed for the purposes they need to fulfil is a fairly common issue but the W.E.B Du Bois Library managed to be designed in a way that never took the weight of lots of books into consideration. Shortly after opening, the brickwork began to spall and it was found that it was slowly sinking into the earth under the weight of all those books.


Something needing to flex and not being able to is another issue that many a surveyor would point to as something they see a fair bit. The John Hancock Building opened in 1976 but before it opened, in 1972, it began raining glass. An outer layer of reflective chrome had been rigidly welded to the outside of the window frames which meant they couldn’t flex in the wind and thus, they cracked.

The Most Famous Subsidence

Do you know what made the Leaning Tower of Pisa lean? Yep, it was subsidence; Marc’s favourite. With inadequate foundations and being built on the wrong sort of soil, the Leaning Tower of Pisa was doomed to lean from the start. Slightly amusingly, you can see where the builders tried to correct this by building higher layers at the opposite angle but it was remedial work done between 1993 and 2001 which ultimately saved it from falling and reduced the angle of the tilt.

We really hope that none of our local residential customers have architectural failings this bad but if you do have any issues caused by subsidence (especially if you’re building a big tall tower), materials expanding and contracting with weather changes or building mistakes, please do get in touch with Marc for a proper diagnosis and advice on how to put it right by calling 01273 281624 or email info@tatesurveyingservices.co.uk.

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Tate Surveying Services,
Freedom Works, Unit 7 Hove Business Centre, Fonthill Road, Hove, BN3 6HA

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