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What Happens to the Abandoned and Unfinished Buildings?

Have you ever come across a towering structure, seemingly abandoned and unfinished? From gothic cathedrals abandoned in the grip of ancient plagues to ultra-modern skyscrapers perilously overrun with squatters, mankind's skylines are dotted with bizarre unfinished structures. But why is that? And are we likely to see even more unfinished buildings in the future? Join me as we delve into the fascinating world of unfinished buildings and uncover the mysteries they hold!


Table of Contents

  • Introduction: Unfinished Buildings and Their Puzzling Existence
  • The Hotel of Doom: Rug Yong in Pyongyang
  • Centro Financiero Confidanzas: The Tower of David in Venezuela
  • Unfinished Structures: Victims of Changing Tides
  • Architectural Tragedies: Unfinished Buildings Left in Disarray
  • Works in Progress: The Sagrada Familia and Beyond
  • The Future of Unfinished Buildings: A New Approach
  • Conclusion
  • FAQs


1. Introduction: Unfinished Buildings and Their Puzzling Existence

From grand visions to economic turmoil, unfinished buildings stand as silent witnesses to the ebb and flow of human endeavors. These structures, frozen in time, offer a glimpse into the dreams that never fully materialized. They leave us pondering the "what ifs" and the stories behind their incomplete facades. Whether it's a historical cathedral or a modern high-rise, unfinished buildings have become enigmatic landmarks in our cities.


2. The Hotel of Doom: Rug Yong in Pyongyang

One of the most notorious unfinished buildings in the world is the Rug Yong, located in downtown Pyongyang. Standing at a staggering 105 stories tall and over a thousand feet high, this gigantic pyramid-shaped hotel was originally intended to host five revolving restaurants and accommodate 7,655 guest rooms. However, its construction was marred by poor quality, leading to crooked elevator shafts and structural issues.

The Rug Yong's eerie appearance earned it the unflattering nickname "Hotel of Doom" on TripAdvisor. Despite attempts to improve its facade, including glazing the concrete frame and installing LED displays for propaganda, the hotel remains inaccessible to visitors. It stands as a haunting reminder of an ambitious project derailed by economic and political turmoil.


3. Centro Financiero Confidanzas: The Tower of David in Venezuela

In Venezuela, another unfinished building captures the imagination with its unconventional story. Known as Centro Financiero Confidanzas or the Tower of David, this 45-story skyscraper was left two-thirds complete following a banking crisis in 1994. However, it gained unexpected inhabitants during a housing crisis in the mid-noughties.

Approximately 200 homeless Venezuelan families occupied the tower, despite its lack of basic amenities such as electricity, elevators, and running water. Resourceful as they were, the occupants managed to install their own utilities, setting up businesses and creating a community within the unfinished structure. After seven years, the government intervened, relocating the squatters to new housing.

Today, the Tower of David stands empty, bearing witness to the struggles of a nation grappling with housing shortages and economic turmoil.


4. Unfinished Structures: Victims of Changing Tides

Unfinished buildings can be a result of sudden changes in local government or shifts in priorities. The city of Cincinnati, for example, once had ambitious plans for an entire subway system. Construction of the subway was almost completed in the 1920s until a decision was made to invest in roads instead. Today, the abandoned subway tunnels attract urban explorers curious about the city's forgotten past. 

In Nazi Germany, the Deutsche's Stadion, designed by Albert Speer, was intended to seat a staggering 405,000 spectators. However, Hitler's removal from power in 1945 halted the construction, and the stadium became an overgrown landfill with a poisoned lake.

Unfinished buildings also bear witness to the impact of pandemics. Sienna Cathedral in Italy remains incomplete due to the devastation caused by the bubonic plague in 1348. Similarly, entire cities like Luwan in eastern China are left half-built, a testament to an overheated housing market and over-optimistic growth forecasts.


5. Architectural Tragedies: Unfinished Buildings Left in Disarray

Not all unfinished buildings hold a tale of resilience or historical significance. Some are costly and embarrassing failures. Take, for instance, the abandoned nuclear power plant at Marble Hill in Indiana. With billions of dollars invested, construction was canceled in 1984 due to fierce local opposition and the aftermath of the Three Mile Island partial meltdown.

Another example is Unity Tower, affectionately known as "Skeletor" by locals in Krakow. It loomed over the city for over 30 years before finally being completed in 2018. These structures serve as reminders of the challenges faced during the construction process and the unpredictable nature of architectural endeavors.


6. Works in Progress: The Sagrada Familia and Beyond

In contrast to the tales of abandonment, some unfinished buildings are embraced as perpetual works in progress. One such example is the Sagrada Familia in Barcelona. Under construction for an astonishing 139 years, this awe-inspiring cathedral continues to evolve, blending architectural styles and capturing the imagination of millions of visitors.

Similarly, the Cologne Cathedral in Germany took a staggering 632 years to complete, showcasing the enduring dedication of generations of builders and craftsmen.


7. The Future of Unfinished Buildings: A New Approach

As we ponder the future of unfinished buildings, young architect Liang Wu presents a bold solution to the urban affordable housing crisis. Wu proposes a concept called "Beyond the Shell," where builders sell apartments that are intentionally left unfinished. Buyers would acquire a basic dwelling in a newly constructed block, allowing them to customize and complete the project themselves. This approach harnesses resident labor to reduce construction costs and ultimately make housing more affordable.

Could unfinished buildings be a solution hiding in plain sight? The idea sparks both excitement and debate, offering a fresh perspective on how we approach housing and construction in the future.


8. Conclusion

Unfinished buildings hold a captivating allure, inviting us to imagine the stories behind their incomplete state. From grand visions halted by economic turmoil to architectural wonders perpetually evolving, these structures evoke a sense of mystery and wonder. They remind us that even in the face of challenges, the human spirit perseveres, leaving behind tangible marks on our skylines.

As we move forward, perhaps we should embrace the unfinished as a testament to human ambition, resilience, and the potential for new possibilities.



1. Are unfinished buildings safe to explore?

While some unfinished buildings may be accessible to visitors, it's essential to prioritize safety. Many of these structures are in a state of disrepair and may pose risks such as unstable structures or hazardous materials. It's best to respect any restrictions or warnings in place and prioritize personal safety.


2. What happens to unfinished buildings over time?

Unfinished buildings, without human occupants, are more susceptible to decay. The absence of regular maintenance, such as repairing leaks or regulating temperature, accelerates the deterioration process. Over time, nature reclaims these structures, and they become relics of the past.


3. Why do governments abandon construction projects?

Governments may abandon construction projects due to shifting priorities, changes in leadership, lack of funding, or unforeseen circumstances. Economic challenges, political instability, or public opposition can also contribute to the decision to halt or abandon construction projects.


4. How long does it take to build a typical skyscraper?

The time required to build a skyscraper can vary significantly depending on factors such as size, complexity, available resources, and construction methods. On average, it can take several years, ranging from three to six years or more, to complete a typical skyscraper.

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