Fail! is one of the internet’s most impressive and pervasive memes, often used to highlight a humorous misadventure of some kind. In terms of architecture, unfortunately, an epic fail can easily mean lost lives and human tragedy. Somewhere in-between perfection and disaster, however, small errors in design or calculation can make us smile and prove that even the most meticulous engineers make mistakes. With this in mind, our round-up of epic architectural fails throws a spotlight on the brighter sides of structural quirks and examines the inherent risks of designing buildings for our urban environment.

#1: The historical fail

The oldest example of a verifiable architectural fail is arguably the most famous one: the Leaning Tower of Pisa. When construction on the freestanding bell tower for the city’s cathedral started in 1173, the structural flaws of the underlying ground – softer on one side of the foundation – were only discovered by the time construction had already reached the second level and the tower started to sink. When building finally finished some two-hundred years later (politics!), the tower stood some 180 ft. tall, well, slightly askew, with a “leaning” difference of roughly 12 ft. at a 4° angle.

What to do? According to the proverb, “When life gives you lemons, make lemonade!”, the tower has become the city’s prime tourist attraction.