Buildings are constructed to be used and not to be abandoned; however, not every building is a success story. There are buildings which came into being from a meager start and emerged into grand complexes with the passage of time. Contrarily, some grand projects took years to complete at enormous costs and could never be opened for one reason or another. Natural calamities have often claimed an immense loss of life and property. Man-made weapons have also caused similar losses, particularly during wars. Those who are self-assumed peacekeepers in the world were the foremost to inflict unparalleled loss to human life and property. The existence of historical remains is a natural phenomenon, but the existence of abandoned buildings is not so common. Whereas some causes may be assigned in certain cases, the exact cause remains unknown in many cases of desertion. Superstition has sometimes played a pivotal role in keeping the people at a distance from haunted buildings. The recessive economy has also been a factor in deserting many buildings the world over. Structural design errors have also caused the desertion of many buildings. The demolition of abandoned buildings in order to reconstruct them is a costly affair; sometimes too costly to be enacted resulting in the status quo for decades.
1. Genbaku Dome
Genbaku Dome, better known as Hiroshima Atomic Bomb Dome, was built in 1915 by a Czech architect Jan Letzel. It was originally named the Industrial Promotion Hall. The Dome was green, and the atom bomb was dropped at a height of 580 meters to its southeast at a distance of only 160 meters from it. The first-ever-used atom bomb was dropped on Hiroshima at 8:15 on August 6, 1945 and instantly killed more than 80,000 residents within a 1.5 mile radius. Almost all living beings were killed at the site. While all the buildings in the area were wiped out, this building survived on account of its strong stone construction. In 1996 it was added to the UNESCO Heritage list. After the rebuilding of Hiroshima, the demolition and reconstruction of this building became a controversy as some wanted to demolish it and erase the bad memories while others desired to keep it as such in remembrance of that unforgettable day.
2. Sathorn Unique
Sathorn Unique tower was a residential project in downtown Bangkok. It was initially planned to consist of 659 residential units and 54 commercial units. The project was started in the 1990s when Thailand’s economy was strengthening, but the 1997 Asian Financial Crisis caused an abrupt cessation of investments resulting in the desertion of many nearly completed projects. Sathorn Unique was almost 80 percent complete when it was abandoned. Its wooden flooring was polished, electric wiring and fire systems were in place, a few escalators had been installed, and baths and fixtures were complete. The building now looks like a haunted place, and the building which originally aimed at being a grand residential complex now stands like a ghost tower.
3. Sterick Building, Memphis
Sterick Building is a 29-story commercial complex located in Memphis, Tennessee, U.S. Its name, Sterick, is an abbreviation of the names of the original owners; R.E. Sterling and Wyatt Hedrick. Located at the corner of Maidstone Avenue and North 3rd Street, it was opened in 1930 and was known as The Queen of Memphis. It had its own bank, pharmacy, beauty parlor, and many other facilities including stockbroker’s offices. It had eight elevators to facilitate the movement of more than 2,000 workers and guests within the building. The building started to decline gradually in the 1960s, and was totally vacated by 1980. It had been added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1978.
4. Torre Abraham Lincoln
Torre Abraham Lincoln is a twin tower in Barra, Brazil. The two buildings were supposed to be the first of the planned 76 buildings of Lucio Costa’s master plan which, however, never materialized. The building was intended to provide luxurious living for those who could afford it. Right at its outset, the construction process faced problems due to improper materials. Foreseeing its future, the owners transferred the ownership rights to investors making them liable for payment of the property tax even without living there. Construction stopped in 1972, and since then the 37-floor circular tower remains vacant and abandoned. About 300 protesters squatted the building in 2004, but they were expelled by police.
5. The Cherokee Nuclear Power Plant
The Cherokee Nuclear Power Plant is located 16 kilometers from Gaffney, South Carolina, U.S. The project was started in the early 1970s but was abandoned in the 1980s on account of economic constraints. The initial cost of the project was estimated at $5-6 billion, but the estimated cost was raised to $11 billion in November, 2008. It was to consist of three reactors as per the original plan, but the project was abandoned after the completion of one nuclear reactor which was constructed after spending $653 million, equal to $1.2 billion after considering the inflation as of April 11, 2007. The recessive economy and stringent regulatory requirements for the nuclear plants and reduced electricity usage were the main causes of failure of the project.
6. Hartwood Hospital
Hartwood Hospital is an abandoned building located in the small village of Hartwood in North Lancashire, Scotland. Hartwood Hospital with its twin clock towers is a 19th century psychiatric hospital, and its remains are the prominent feature of the small village having less than 50 houses. The Lancashire Health Board closed this hospital in 1990. The hospital was a self-sustaining facility and had its own nursing college, farms, gardens, stores, staff colony, and graveyard. The nursing college was its last section to be closed when the nursing education services were transferred to Bell’s College in Hamilton.
7. Croix Rouge Railway Station
The expression ‘Croix Rouge’ in French applies to the International Red Cross and Red Crescent movements, but the railway station is not related to these organizations. The name was taken from the intersection called Croix Rouge. The station remained active for 15 years only, and it was closed on September 2, 1939 just after the start of the Second World War for security reasons. The railway station was never reopened. A bus stop located there retained its name until December 31, 2005 when it was renamed as Michel-Debre.
8. Sanatorium Joseph Lemaire
Sanatorium Joseph Lemaire was built in Tombeek, Belgium and was inaugurated in September, 1937. A lack of sanitary conditions was the main cause of tuberculosis, the provision of sanitary conditions through a ‘Sanatorium’ was considered a practical and long-term solution. Primarily the coal miners and urban poor suffered from the pulmonary diseases and were highly susceptible to catching TB infection. The facility was very well lit and ventilated with effective fresh air circulation ensured through its structural design. After the changed regulation for hospitals in Belgium, the sanatorium was closed in 1987, never to be reopened.
9. Kirby Hall, Northamptonshire
Kirby Hall, Northamptonshire was built in 1570 falling in the Elizabethan era; considered the Golden Age in English history. It was a typical country house owned by Sir Christopher Hatton and was located near Gretton, Northamptonshire, England. The house had its gardens with statues and urns. The house exists in a partially ruined state, and its gardens are owned by The Earl of Winchilsea, and the building is managed by English Heritage. Kirby Hall has been used as a filming location and is visited for its gardens.
10. Essex County Jail, New Jersey
Originally known as the Newark Street Jail, the Essex County Jail was built in 1837 in Newark, New Jersey. The jail was a two-story building made of bricks and brown stone. The building was expanded in 1890 increasing the prison cells to 300. It was the only jail and oldest public building of Essex County until 1970 when it was abandoned and replaced by a new jail after its being declared unsafe. Its walls collapsed after a fire incident in 2001. There is a plan for building a Technology Park at the site of the jail using a federal grant.
Buildings are like companions of human beings, and trustworthiness is a prerequisite for the company to be sustained. It is always better not to have any company rather than having bad company. Similarly, it is better to abandon a building which for any reason is no more trustworthy or fit for living. Reconstruction follows destruction, and that, very often, is a much better way.