Tag Archives: architecture

The collapsing buildings of Alexandria

egyptDestruction in Alexandria, Egypt. Photo: AFP PHOTO/STR

A news story coming out of Alexandria, Egypt caught my attention this morning. Looking into the tragic collapse of an eight-story apartment building, which comes rights on the heels of a devastating train derailment outside of Cairo, it’s apparent that this city’s problem of modern buildings abrubtly crumbling is epidemic.

Alexandria, Egypt’s second largest metropolis, has seen several buildings spontaneously collapse in recent history. 2007 saw the fall of a twelve-story apartment building. The following year, yet another apartment building crumbled. In June 2012, two buildings were reported to have collapsed in the same week. The following month, an eleven-story building fell. A few months later, a three-story building.

The country’s housing minister reports that 14,500 buildings have been built without license in the city. While shoddy construction and lack of building standards isn’t unique to just Alexandria (Egypt’s total number of unlicensed  buildings is reported at 318,000), it’s remarkable to think of multistory residential buildings collapsing unannounced in such densely populated urban space–a seriously scary housing crisis.

The below video exemplifies the problem of the collapsing buildings of Alexandria. “We don’t want compensation,” one of the residents of the city states, “We want stability.”

It’s Kim Jong-il’s birthday.

[Image: From the bizarre Kim Johg-il looking at things collection]

February 16th, 2011 marks the 69th birthday of Kim Jong-il. As leader of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Kim’s birthday is a major national holiday accompanied by mass celebration. That means figure skating, synchronized swimming, and general disregard for the serious social instability  threatening the nation as a result of a food shortage.

Worth mentioning while on the subject of North Korea and its domineering tendencies and infrastructural failures is the Ryugyong Hotel in the capital city Pyongyang.

[Image: The Ryugyong Hotel. Photo by Cavit Erginsoy.]


Set to be the largest hotel in the world, construction began on the Ryugyong in 1987 and ceased five years later due to lack of resources. The building has yet to  be completed. A rusting construction crane sat atop the one-hundred-and-five story structure for several years,  seemingly removed sometime after the project resumed in 2008 under an Egyptian business group largely invested in telecommunications.

A Flikr series showcases some of the new work done to the facade of the building.

[Image: Mirrored glass additions to the Ryugyon Hotel. From Flikr user Kernbeisser]

A covering of mirrored glass adorns the exterior of the Ryugyong. It’s still unclear as to whether or not any construction beyond the cosmetic has been completed in this purportedly irreparable, structurally unsound building.

Well the country of North Korea appears as a blank, gray shape in Google Maps, a satellite view allows an interesting view of this architectural weirdness:

But enough about menacing dictators and massive, decaying hotels–what about the “human jumbotron”?

Undercity: Subterranean, bridge-scaling urban exploration in NYC

I found this short documentary via Good Problem.

Undercity is an exciting glimpse into what is probably the most important part of Steve Duncan’s world–a version of urban exploration that is as much a traveling, tactile history lesson as it is a dangerous and mutated version of  spelunking. One of the many intriguing aspects of the project is its direct response to the lived environment: Rather than arriving in Vietnam to journey throughout it’s vast cave system or venturing to Tanzania to conquer Mt. Kilimanjaro, Duncan explores a territory specifically man-made and readily available–yet, infrequently chartered.

In a sense, Duncan’s explorations take place in areas designed to be accessible. “Manholes” are called just that, as they are made and placed to accommodate the admittance of a person, essentially apertures in the grid of public works. Albeit, Ducan excursions bring him to extremely “off-limits”, restricted territories in the city, constructions which serve as integral forms of infrastructure; illegal to trespass, wholly uninviting and, most importantly, undetected and concealed.

…Nobody really seems to understand why I want to see these amazing structures…It kind of makes me sad that there’s so much suspicion around just appreciating the city.


I wonder what, if anything, the exposure of these expeditions will do to alter the myriad factors involved in urban planning and exploration. A New York Times’ article entitled “The Wilderness Beneath Your Feet”, at one point, questions whether or not Duncan’s travels have turned into a “media event”. In a New York full of post-9-11 fears, I wonder how the Department of Environmental Protection might feel about the research of Steve Duncan; or, better yet, how might the Department of Homeland Security respond to learning of it’s vulnerabilities in the nation’s most populated city?

In the opposite direction, is there a potential for the growth of this specific brand of city engagement? Imagine a new form of recreation, it’s  axis being the study of urban anatomy via tunnels traversed by foot. Checkpoints and hostels existing in the underground, along routes mapped out for their historic significance and architectural qualities.

As a note, I couldn’t mention the underground tunnels of New York without thinking of Dark Days, a documentary worth watching about people that lived underground in abandoned parts of the city’s railway system.

The Collapse of the Minneapolis Metrodome

I originally found this video over at i09 and couldn’t resist sharing it.

Apparently the dome, an “air-supported membrane structure”, has deflated before. According to the official Hubert H. Humphry Metrodome website, the roof is made of 10 acres of teflon-coated fiberglass 1/16″ thick. Alternatively, if you’d like, that is 580,000-pounds of fabric or 800,000 square feet of fabric.

Something around 17 inches of snow sufficed to puncture multiple holes through the canopy, subsequently collapsing the top of the structure,  causing some serious destruction of the stadium and some amazing footage in the process.