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From the Gherkin to Krakow’s Skeletor: famous skyscrapers that flopped | Art and design | The Guardian

From the Gherkin to Krakow’s Skeletor: famous skyscrapers that flopped | Art and design | The Guardian.

Norman Foster's 30 St Mary Axe – AKA the Gherkin.

Skyscrapers are usually considered signs of success, steel-framed declarations of triumph. But they’re equally associated with corporate hubris, architectural ego and recession – the latter tallied via the Skyscraper Index, which plots the striking correlation between the completion of a new “world’s tallest building” and the arrival of a global economic downturn.

The failure of Norman Foster‘s Gherkin is just the latest example. Made unprofitable by changes in currency exchange rates, it was recently put into receivership and is now up for sale at an estimated price of £640m. It may yet recover, of course, but for now it joins the already long list of skyscraping architecture’s most conspicuous flops.

The Empire State Building
The architects of the longest-serving “world’s tallest” – which reigned from the early 30s until the mid-70s – were given a staggeringly idiotic brief. In a possibly apocryphal story, the boss of General Motors picked up a pencil, balanced it on the desk and asked, “How tall can you make it without it falling over?” One hundred and three storeys was the answer, but it became the first of the recession-predicting skyscrapers on the Index, known as the “Empty State Building” through the Great Depression, and presaging other Index members such as the World Trade Centre (mid-70s recession), the Petronas Towers (the Asian financial crash) and the Burj Khalifa (the current recession).

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Skeletor
There are several skyscrapers that faced sudden obsolescence when their countries’ respective economies collapsed, leaving them perpetually unfinished – such as “Skeletor”, the tallest building in Krakow, an office block begun in 1975 and abandoned in 1981 as an empty steel frame. Designed for the Polish Federation of Engineering Associations, it is now used as a giant frame for billboards.

The Ryugyong Hotel
The tallest building in Pyongyang, begun in 1987, is the most notorious example of this genre. Now an insanely overambitious remnant from when North Korea was as rich as South Korea, it was left unfinished as the Soviet collapse plunged the country into famine. It is now finally being completed, 27 years on.

Torre David
This unfinished, partly mirror-glass-clad Caracas office block has been a cause celebre for those few architects more interested in social than architectural change: years after being abandoned, it was squatted by a tightly organised group of citizens, creating a “vertical slum”. After years with the tacit support of the Chávez and Maduro governments, it is now being sold to Chinese developers and its inhabitants rehoused elsewhere. It remains an exceptional example of a skyscraper being claimed by the masses, rather than by big business.

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Homeland: inside the real Tower of David in Venezuela

Centro Financiero Confinanzas also known as Torre de David (the Tower of David), is an unfinished skyscraper in Caracas, the capital of Venezuela. It is the third highest skyscraper in the country after the twin towers of Parque Central Complex. The construction of the tower began in 1990 but was halted in 1994 due to the Venezuelan banking crisis. As of 2014, the building remains incomplete and is occupied by squatters.

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This tower in downtown Caracas is nicknamed “Torre de David” after David Brillembourg, the tower’s main investor who died in 1993. During the banking crisis of 1994, the government took control of the building and it has not been worked on since. The building lacks elevators, installed electricity, running water, balcony railing, windows and even walls in many places.[1]

Venezuela’s massive housing shortage led to occupation of the building by squatters in October 2007. Residents have improvised basic utility services, with water reaching all the way up to the 22nd floor. They can use motorcycles to travel up and down the first 10 floors, but must use the stairs for the remaining levels.[2] The residents live up to the 28th floor, with many bodegas[1] and even an unlicensed dentist[1] also operating in the building. Some residents even have cars, parked inside of the building’s parking garage. Seven hundred families comprising over 2,500 residents live in the tower today.[1][3][4][5]

The complex has six buildings: El Atrio (Lobby and conference room), Torre A that is 190m tall and stands at 45-stories still includes a heliportTorre BEdificio KEdificio Z, and 12 stories of parking.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Centro_Financiero_Confinanzas