Monday memo #10: Construction Fiascos

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Each day The Browser recommends five or six of the best pieces of writing that we can find anywhere online. The more diverse the better. The Monday Memo brings together four pieces of outstanding writing from our collection with a common theme.

This week: Great Construction Fiascos

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Some Monday Motivation, to get you through the week
Stuck In Seattle (
Karen Weise | Bloomberg | 31st March 2015

A facepalm in every paragraph of this sad and highly entertaining account of Seattle's disastrous plan to replace an elevated waterfront highway with a huge traffic tunnel deep underground. The tunnelling machine got stuck after 1,000 feet. The $4bn project is years behind schedule. Taxpayers risk an unholy bill. But big tunnels almost always go badly wrong. There's a literature on the subject. What was Seattle smoking? (3,200 words)
The Caviar Olympics (
Joshua Yaffa | Bloomberg Businessweek | 2nd January 2014

Tales of "ambition, hubris, and greed leading to fabulous extravagance on the shores of the Black Sea", where the Russian government is spending $51bn on the 2014 Winter Olympic Games at Sochi. A single road and rail link has cost more than the entire 2010 Winter Games in Vancouver. "It can be hard to determine at which point inefficient and repeated work becomes outright theft, but there seems to have been plenty of that" (4,800 words)
The Men Behind Germany’s Building Debacles (
Susanne Beyer & Ulrike Knöfel | Spiegel | 14th June 2013

Amazing stuff. Spiegel rounds up the architects responsible for three national fiascos — Stuttgart's train station, Hamburg's concert house, Berlin's airport — and asks them to explain. They blame contractors, clients, national character, changing regulations, and, just a little bit, themselves. "A building project doesn't simply progress from A to Z, with everything going according to plan. Most plans start at the end" (4,000 words)
Obituary: Madeline Gins (
Telegraph | 18th March 2014

Believing that comfort killed people, she "set out to achieve everlasting life through architecture", designing buildings that made people "disoriented, dizzy, and slightly bilious". Some of them even got built — with floors that "undulated like sand dunes"; kitchens "positioned at the bottom of steep slopes"; no doors; windows too high or too low; and everything painted in "dozens of clashing colours" (Metered paywall) (1,013 words)
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With best wishes,

Robert Cottrell, Editor
Duncan Brown, Publisher

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