Wherever you happen to be reading this, there's a good chance that you're doing so with a roof comfortably over your head. But how do you know that whoever designed said roof didn't mistake "used chewing gum" for "roofing nails"? We assume that people who build buildings know what they're doing, but that shit isn't easy, and damn it, mistakes get made.
That's why, even today, we wind up with things like ...
Built in the late 1960s (way before Google Earth blew everyone's minds), San Diego's Coronado Naval Base housed military personnel without incident for decades. Apparently it was designed during a period in human history when people skipped that whole "drawing up plans" step and just showed up on construction day with their building-making pants on, because it wasn't until 2006 that someone took a break from seeing if Google Earth could be used to spot Laura Bush sunbathing in the backyard of the White House long enough to check out what the four L-shaped buildings looked like from above.
The Ridiculous Failure:
The (again, American) naval base formed the unmistakable shape of a swastika, the Nazi symbol that was plastered all over everything from Nazi tanks to the Hindenburg to Hitler's monogrammed thong panties and Indiana Jones' resulting night terrors. Hell, if you look at it in its proper north-south orientation the way it would appear on a map or, you know, an architectural drawing, the base is even aligned in the exact same way as the design on the Nazi flag:
When the general public caught wind of the situation a few years ago, the U.S. government apologized profusely and pledged to fix the problem. One public affairs officer said, "We take this very seriously. ... We don't want to be associated with something as symbolic and hateful as a swastika." Initially, the Navy planned some cosmetic changes that would mask the layout of the buildings at a cost of about $600,000. Fast forward to 2012, and the scheme had ballooned into a full-blown remodel of the entire place, which would turn the base into a four-panel grid that would cost up to $40 million. At the time of writing, the Navy is taking the matter of their "hateful" building so "very seriously" that you can still scope out Swastikagate for yourself on Google Maps.
So why the hell would the Greatest Generation build a monument to their mortal enemy in the first place? Well, despite some wild conspiracy theories to the contrary, it seems that it wasn't so much a case of honoring der Fuhrer as it was of not giving der Fucks. The original plans called for a single L-shaped building, but those plans grew with increasing space needs. John Mock, the original architect, damn well realized what it looked like from above, but apparently said something along the lines of "Eh, fuck it. It's not like the general public will have free, limitless access to satellite imagery in my lifetime."
Bridgewater Place has the dual distinction of being both the tallest and the butt-freaking-ugliest building in Leeds. When viewed from the side, it's easy to see why locals have unofficially dubbed it "The Dalek" -- named after the ungainly cyborgs from Doctor Who -- but that's not the only reason the name is so fitting: Just like the evil, everyone-hating mutant salt shakers from the TV show, Bridgewater Place wants to exterminate you.
The Ridiculous Failure:
As Boston so shatteringly discovered with the John Hancock Tower, you can't build a skyscraper without accounting for wind. All that surface area jutting up into the wild blue yonder like Mother Earth just popped a steely boner means that any super-tall building is going to catch an assload of wind. All that air has to go somewhere, and sometimes that somewhere is straight down. That's the case with the Dalek, which has officially been blamed for creating a hurricane-like wind tunnel in the surrounding area. Bridgewater Place amplifies local gales to the point where people have been thrown to the ground by them, resulting in torn livers (Jesus, that's a thing?!) and transforming people's scalps into something that wouldn't look at all out of place in your local butcher's case.
All in all, the Leeds City Council has pinned Bridgewater Place as the cause of at least 25 "incidents," which, translated from British English, could mean anything from accidentally wind-goosing a Marilyn Monroe lookalike to full-blown homicide. We're not joking, by the way -- there's one documented case of the wind tunnel succeeding in the latter, when an especially strong gust Hulk-smashed a truck right onto an unsuspecting bystander. Let's say that again: This building threw a freaking truck onto someone.
Or, as the British put it, "pitched a bloody solicitor."
A plan is in place to correct the problem, but local experts are skeptical -- it's not like you can just ask the wind to cut that shit out, so the best they can hope for is to redirect it. In the meantime, officials have installed big orange "Beware of Flying Trucks" signs as a stopgap.
David Brillembourg's Venezuelan office skyscraper had a bright future ahead of it. Chock-full of hoity-toity amenities such as a helipad, it was going to be the place to work for all the well-to-do folk in early '90s Caracas. Unfortunately, Brillembourg moved on up to the big high-rise in the sky before his dream project could be completed, and after the government yoinked the property during the following financial crisis, construction never resumed.
Iwan Baan/Messyness Chic
Instead people ripped bits off, apparently.
The Ridiculous Failure:
The Tower of David wasn't destined to stay empty indefinitely. In 2007, the skyscraper was invaded by droves of squatters led by a former gang member who had found religion in prison, and they've been living there ever since. Since most of the 45-story unfinished building didn't yet have the amenities you expect from a home -- like, say, electricity or windows -- residents took to MacGyvering basic utilities. You know your city has hit the skids when you're this excited to finally install your own toilet:
Meridith Kohut/NY Times
Of course, without plumbing to which to attach said toilet ...
Instead of being home to fancy executives and shitheel bankers, now over 3,000 people live in what is essentially a real-life version of the slum tower blocks from Dredd. You might even have seen the Tower of David in an episode of the third season of Homeland, but what the show left out was the astounding community that has built up inside. If you picked one of the 28 inhabited floors at random, you might find a bodega or a beauty shop, or even a practicing doctor or dentist.
Meridith Kohut/NY Times
The price you pay for affordable health care.
That the city was so desperate they had to completely abandon such a prominent building -- and that so many citizens were desperate enough to move in -- speaks volumes about the state of the common Venezuelan. On the other hand, the sheer tenacity and organization it must take to live in the Tower of David is heartening in itself. It's appalling and sort of inspiring at the same time.
Although Scotland isn't a sovereign nation per se, it still enjoys a lot of the perks of one: It has its own fancy blue and white flag, a capital city (Edinburgh), and an official national dish concocted of a sheep's stomach stuffed with fried Mars Bars. It's even got its own national monument, cleverly named the National Monument of Scotland.
The Ridiculous Failure:
Back when the foundation was laid in 1822, the monument was meant to honor the Scottish soldiers who died taking turns kicking Napoleon's higher-from-the-ground-than-expected ass. This thing was going to be so badass that they were calling it a "Scottish Valhalla," which sounds like the place Highlanders go when they die. And that description isn't too far off -- the main structure was to be supported by catacombs inhabited by some of history's most important Scottish folk. Work on the monument started in earnest in 1826, but the money soon ran out, and the structure has loomed over the capital city, taunting its residents ever since. If it looks vaguely familiar, that's because the completed monument was supposed to look like this:
Many Americans don't know this, but Scotland is part of the larger nation of Greece.
The Greek Parthenon might look a tad worse for wear, but that's the thing about ruins: Even though they're not much more than a thin husk of their once-majestic selves, they remain standing through the millennia and enable future generations to bask in their fallen glory. Scotland, on the other hand, shed untold amounts of sweat, strained countless workmen's muscles, and quarried ass-tons of stone to build ... a ruin. They built a ruin from scratch. The 2,000-year-old ruin after which it was modeled still looks more complete than the National Monument of Scotland.
Though there have been numerous proposals to renovate this half-assed Scotch Parthenon over the years, each has crumbled before reaching fruition. As time went on, the monument became less a commemoration of fallen heroes and more a representation of everything that's wrong with the country. It earned itself nicknames like "Edinburgh's Disgrace" and "The Pride and Poverty of Scotland," which are admittedly tame compared to what Scotlanders call Mel Gibson for having to endure 20 years' worth of American tourists running around yelling "FREEDOM!" at the top of their lungs.
Poland once had big plans for Krakow, its second-largest city. It was to become a veritable "Polish Manhattan," and acting as the heart of the city would be the Naczelna Organizacja Techniczna building, which would not only delight tourists with its dizzying bevy of consonants, but also act as a gateway to a brand spanking new skyscraper district.
One bright, crisp morning in 1975, construction workers rolled up their polyester bell bottoms, tightened the laces on their platform work boots, and set to pouring the foundations for the early stages of the (some might say overly) ambitious project, with a goal of having it fully completed in 30 years. By 2005, it looked like ... well, it looked like this:
On the plus side, tall buildings don't alter the view much when you can see straight through them.
The Ridiculous Failure:
Work on the first building came to a screeching halt in 1979, to be put on the back burner indefinitely in 1981. But even though it looked like a half-played game of drunken Godzilla Jenga, the appropriately named NOT Tower still held the honor of being the tallest building in Krakow. In fact, it holds that distinction right up to this very day, and it hasn't bulked up one bit in the ensuing years. Its wall- and window-starved appearance eventually gained the gaunt skyscraper a popular nickname: Szkieletor, or in English, Skeletor.
"Hehehahaha, fuck you, Castle Grayskull."
This was the '80s, remember. In addition to the public unrest that resulted in an 18-month bout of martial law, a much more important phenomenon was taking Poland by storm: He-Man and the Masters of the Universe. So while the political and economic shitstorm of the 1980s unfortunately helped halt production on the NOT Tower, that same decade also gave it a bitchin' nickname.
The city eventually figured it may as well make some money off of its most monumental eyesore, so Krakow started selling advertising space on Skeletor:
Ah, Madagascar 2. Quite the underrated gem, that one.
It may have fallen just short of its lofty goal of becoming a Polish Manhattan, but damned if that ain't a dead ringer for Times Square.
Located about 50 miles from the city of Sao Paulo, Santos is famous for its exquisite coffee, introducing the world to legendary ball-kicker Pele, and looking nothing at all like Los Santos in Grand Theft Auto V. Oh, and the city also has some lovely beaches. Unfortunately for your sense of vertigo, they decided to build a city on top of them.
Hey, you wouldn't stand up straight either if you lived in a constant state of spring break.
The Ridiculous Failure:
As you can see, the skyline of Santos looks like it's tragically overdue for a trip to the orthodontist. In total, almost 100 buildings are teetering as a result of a combination of location and engineers who seemingly got their fancy degrees via mail order. Before specific laws were put into place in the late '60s, these buildings were erected on foundations only 15 feet deep, or about one-third of the depth required to prevent them from stammering on and on about how they're sorry, baby, this never happens.
They're all failing their erectness exams, because under those foundations lies a huge amount of unstable soft clay that's even unstabler when you go and throw a shit-ton of buildings on top of it and right next to each other. It's like asking a toddler to spot you at the gym -- while it makes for a few good belly laughs, eventually somebody's going to end up with a powdered sternum.
When buildings do the hokey pokey, running for your life is what it's all about.
Perhaps the most ludicrous part is that people still live in these things, even though they presumably have to Velcro themselves onto the couch every time they want to take a nap. Local experts claim that there's no danger of a Rube Goldbergesque chain reaction that would result in citywide destruction, but it's entirely possible that they just don't want to give Hollywood any ideas about turning the game of dominoes into the next big summer flop-buster.
So far, only one especially skewed building has been corrected ...
... and repairing it cost about half a million in U.S. dollars, which means there are about half a million reasons that no one else has bothered to straighten out the other towers. And speaking of dollars, even enthusiastic assurances that the buildings won't fall haven't stopped their real estate values from plummeting. You can buy one of these fixer-uppers for as little as $30,000, a ridiculous bargain if you're looking to snatch yourself up a vacation home to relive your college spring break memories. After enough beers, it might even look straight again.