Edition: January 1st 2019, Written By: Eda Yozgyur
Incomplete buildings add to the characteristics of cities in which they belong and are ultimately accepted as they are by the inhabitants of their lands. They therefore keep the memory of their locations alive.
Architects' intentions are to see a constructed plan through to the end. Yet some structures, regardless of their architects’ intent, are left unfinished due to a variety of reasons. These stem from a lack of financial means, legal restrictions, disagreements between parties involved, and other unforeseen events. According to architecture historian Neil Levine, whatever be the reason for the halt in construction, buildings can still fulfil an unintended purpose, if they are seen and accepted as a whole in their ambiguous stage. Of the great number of incomplete man-made structures worldwide, five landed here for their unique attributes.
CENTRO FINANCIERO - CARACAS, VENEZUELA
By EneasMx - Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0,
What was expected to be Venezuela’s tallest building, Centro Financiero (also called Tower of David), morphed into the world’s tallest slum. The 45-story tower was originally designed to become Venezuela’s elite bank; however, the unexpected death of its main investor in 1993 – Venezuelan banker David Brillembourg, led to uncertainty regarding the future of the project. Within a year, the Venezuelan economy was shaken by a national financial crisis which forcibly halted construction, leaving the building abandoned since 1994, four years after the project was initiated. Since its noteworthy abandonment, the Tower of David has become a shelter to thousands of homeless people. Still, the concrete shell continues to be remembered as a vertical slum in Caracas.
UNITY TOWER - KROKOW, POLAND
By Wojsław Brożyna - Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0,
First intended to be a symbol and regional office of the Main Technical Organization, Unity Tower stands 102.5 m (336 ft.) tall. The 24-story building, more commonly referred to as Szkieletor (Skeletor) is deemed the tallest building in its city of Krakow. The building construction was greenlit and started in 1975, reaching a permanent halt six years later (1981) due to political and economic turmoil related to the effects of an imposed martial law in Poland that year. The original tower design included a twin tower with which it was supposed to stand high over Krakow, but unlike Unity Tower, construction of its twin was never initiated.
Various investors have showed interest in resuming its construction, but the complex legal status of the project and the land which surrounds it, not to mention extreme demolition and adaption costs, leaves zero incentive for investors to pursue it ultimately.
RYUGYONG HOTEL – PYONGYANG, NORTH KOREA
By Joseph Ferris III, CC BY 2.0,
In Pyongyang, North Korea stands the 105-story building the Guinness World Records dub the tallest unoccupied building in the world. This massive symbol of a failed attempt at constructing Ryugyong Hotel is at lease twice the size of the Great Pyramids, the tallest unoccupied concrete shells in the world, and it has remained somewhat frozen in time since 1992. The scheduled opening of the hotel complex was first made for 1989, and were it not for exhaustive construction problems, the project might’ve reached completion. Over subsequent years, mounting obstacles, including a North Korea economic crisis, could not be overcome to stabilize the continuation of the project, thus the hotel continues to retain its unfinished shell form.
Not even a $400M deal between billion-dollar Egyptian construction company Orascom Group, which added exterior glass panels that modernized the structure, could relieve it of its problems. Today, the future of Ryugyong Hotel still remains dark and uncertain.
SATHORN UNIQUE TOWER – BANGKOK, THAILAND
By neajjean - Entire Gormenghast, CC BY-SA 2.0,
Trespassing around the abandoned Bangkok giant is strictly punishable by law. However, urban explorers will stop at nothing but push the limits to make their way into the 49-story tower, whether by means of bribing security officers or jumping over fences. Had the 1997 Asian financial crisis not dawned upon the region, the tower would now resemble a premium luxury apartment complex roofing the rich elites of Bangkok right in the centre of the city where it overlooks the Chaopraya River. Today, standing in downtown Bangkok and surrounded by many a skyscraper, the Sathorn Unique Tower appears as out of place as something out of a post-apocalyptic setting.
It has stood abandoned since its project was launched in 1990, remaining as a sharp contrast to the busy, vibrant and fast-paced nature of the city.
PLAZA RAKYAT – KUALA LUMPUR, MALAYSIA
The construction of the People’s Plaza was first undertaken in the 1990s, and if all the right chips fell into place, Malaysia would’ve introduced what would become a magnificent skyscraper comprising of a hotel, offices, and a shopping mall. Unfortunately, the Asian financial crisis of 1997 was the unforeseeable factor that condemned the project on its knees, leading to the abandonment of its construction at just base level. Until today, the striking image of “what was” and “what could’ve” still remains on the Malaysian ground in spite of many attempts by the country’s government to revitalize it.