12 Engineering Mistakes That Worked Out

Not everything created matches the blueprint. There are times engineers finish a project before realizing there's a big problem with their design.

Problems arise from poor project management and bureaucracy too. Mistakes happen, and plans change. Mistakes can doom a construction project, but not every mistake is a failure.

We'll take a look at a few that turned out all right.

Gisborne Railway

The landscape comes at a premium in New Zealand. It's one of the world's smallest countries, and building large-scale transport isn't easy — especially when the left-hand doesn't know what the right is doing. 

Because of this, the Gisborne Airport has a functional railway line that crosses the main runway, which sounds like a recipe for disaster.

However, despite the two different types of vehicles moving close enough to each other to make you nervous — there has never been an accident. It does help that the airport is a small, regional facility and the only planes that fly from there are small ones, used for private flights or flights to Australia.

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The Walkie Talkie 

There are some incredible and unique buildings in London, England. Architects with outstanding skills are sought out regularly and paid millions to use their talents. One such structure is a building that has been nicknamed The Walkie-Talkie — because of its unique shape.

Sadly, the skyscraper located on 20 Fenchurch Street was voted the worst building in the United Kingdom in 2015. The shape of the building led to some accidents nobody saw coming. 

The glass front reflects the sunlight so intensely that it set a carpet in a neighboring building on fire in 2013. It also melted the roof on a luxury car on the street below it. During the high winds, the curved surface creates a wind tunnel strong enough to knock pedestrians over. 

Despite all of these incidents, the building still stands and is adored by Londoners.

Sydney Opera House

Australia Sydney Opera House isn't just one of Australia's most iconic buildings, but one of the most iconic buildings in the whole world. Most people love the building's design. So, many are surprised to hear that it is a classic example of bad project management. 

In 1959 the foundations were laid, and construction was supposed to be finished in 4 years and cost around $7 million. It took 14 years to build, and by its opening day, it cost over $100 million. 

The issues began when the government ordered the construction work on the outer shells before the architect, Jørn Utzon, had finalized the design, which meant the designer had to supply updated plans to builders while in the middle of the building process. All the chaos led to some mistakes getting made, of course. 

In the mid-1960s, with construction delayed by disagreements and impracticalities, Utzson was frustrated and resigned from the project — and took his original designs with him, which meant other designers had to come in and finish the project without Utzson's blueprint. It's a miracle it ever got finished at all. 

Baku Railway Highway

In Baku, Azerbaijan, there are some interesting choices on railway crossing placement. Trains cross onto busy highways without warning, nearly crashing into the many passing cars. Images of this went viral in 2016, prompting the Baku government to reconsider the design and remove the railroad. 

The area is much safer now, making it hard to believe anyone ever thought that placement was a good idea. 

Railway Market

If you visit Mae Klong in Thailand, you will find one of the largest fresh seafood markets in Thailand, the Mae Klong Railway Market, conducting business along an active railway line — in the same place. Six trains run directly through the street every day. The street vendors have to quickly get out of their way when they approach. 

Luckily, the vendors have it down to a science. They know the times the trains run through, so they get out of the way ahead of time. The train running early or late hasn't proven dangerous so far. But the railway market is known as the most dangerous market in the world. 

The only reason it hasn't been closed down is the sheer stubbornness of the traders. 

The John Hancock 

A famous building in Boston, Massachusetts, has gone by many names over the years. Most people call it the John Hancock Tower. But it's also gone by 200 Clarendon Street, The X Building, and The Hancock. It's also known for its shoddy construction work. 

Built-in the 1970s, the person in charge of securing the windows and window frames on the skyscraper did a poor job. As a result, several window frames have fallen out of the window frames and plummeted to the busy sidewalk below. Thankfully, no one was hurt.

This situation was one of many embarrassments for the architects after they finished the building in 1976. It was supposed to have been completed in 1971, and the five-year delay sent the project $100 million over budget. 

When it did open, it swayed so much in the wind that occupants suffered from motion sickness. Luckily, the issues were resolved. 

 Walt Disney Concert Hall

The Walt Disney Concert Hall, which sits in Downtown Los Angeles, California, is another example of buildings that didn't get completed on time and do not turn out as intended. 

Construction began in 1992, sparked by a $50 million donation from Lillian Disney — the widow of Walt Disney. It didn't welcome its first guests until 2003. By that point, it had cost $274 million. The parking garage cost $100 million on its own.

Nearly every cost provided at the design stage came in below the estimated costs. The project stalled entirely between 1994 and 1996, as they sought additional funding to complete the project. 

When resumed, the expensive, initially planned lavish stone exterior was substituted with stainless steel, which proved problematic. While most of the building's exterior had a matte finish, the Founders Room and Children's Amphitheater were designed with highly polished mirror-like panels. The concave walls reflected and intensified the sun, which heated the nearby sidewalks to 140 degrees Fahrenheit and nearly blinded neighboring residents.

After about a year, they sandblasted the offending panels’ gleaming surface, eliminating the unwanted glare, thus resolving the issue.

Chicago Aon Center

The Aon Center in Chicago, Illinois, once known as the Amoco Building, is 1100 feet tall and the 4th most massive skyscraper in Chicago. In 1973, when the building was constructed, it stood as the 4th tallest in the whole world. 

The buildings' impressive height made it's opening a significant affair in the city, but it almost didn't make it to its opening date due to numerous construction issues. The building was constructed with Carrara Marble, and marble that thin had never gotten used to clad a building before. A 350-pound piece of the marble fell to the ground on Christmas Day in 1973. It crashed through the roof of the Prudential Center.

In 1985, an inspection discovered major cracks and signs of bowing on some of the building's central panels. The building had to be strapped in stainless steel to prevent the marble from falling off. Later, from 1990 to 1992, the building was refaced with Mount Airy white granite at an estimated cost of over $80 million, which was well over half the building’s original price, without adjustment for inflation.

Brooklyn Bridge Park

In 2010, there was a new playground installed at Brooklyn Bridge Park that had some flaws. The design included metal climbing domes that were supposed to be one of the primary forms of entertainment for the children. With its shiny chrome design, it looked futuristic in style. Somehow, the team forgot how hot steel gets when the sun's out.

On the hottest day, the climbing domes would become so hot that the children playing would receive immediate burns.

Following complaints, officials decided to plant trees close to the domes to provide shelter. However, critics said the trees don't completely solve the problem. They quickly installed temporary tents over the metal domes to keep them cool.

But they didn't work. The family of a toddler scorched by playground equipment in Brooklyn Bridge Park won a $17,500 settlement from the city. The tents were already in place at the time of the toddler's accident.

Following the girl's injury, officials closed off access to three steel climbing domes. Four months after children began getting their hands scorched on the brand new Brooklyn Bridge Park Pier 1 playground, park officials finally replaced the three steel climbing domes.

Venice Glass Bridge

Santiago Calatrava designed a glass bridge in 2008 in Venice. However, they didn't prepare it for many people to walk over it. 

After several pedestrians fell and became injured, he got fined $150,000. The designer informed the city that the bridge's glass steps would need replacing once every 20 years. Instead, eight of them required replacing four years after the bridge opened. 

When it rains, the glass makes it impossible for a person to balance while crossing. It is aesthetically appealing from a distance, but you want to think twice before walking across it.

China Train in Apartment Complex

Chongqing, China, has a train line that runs directly through the middle of an apartment building. Not only does the passenger train pass through the 19-story residential building, but it also has a transit stop there.

No one knows whether to call this a triumph or disaster when it comes to design. It's convenient for those living in the apartment building, but the train's constant passing must be causing structural damage. 

The exciting part about it is that the nine-story apartment complex was there before the monorail was. In 2004, the city wanted to expand its railway service. They originally intended to tear the apartments down. 

But, they reconsidered and found another way to do it. Due to the changes, the complex apartments have increased in value due to the novelty and convenience. 

Nail Houses

In China, nail houses are houses marked for construction work. Residents sometimes get offered three or four times what the home is worth for them to get removed, but the nail houses are the ones that still stand when the owners refuse. You'll see them pop up amid a construction project, such as a road.

One notable example is a nail house in Wenling, China, a five-story home left in the middle of a new road. The owner, Luo Baogen, and his wife agreed to accept the "vastly inflated" price of $41,000. Now his place is demolished, but there are many more all over the country.

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