There™s a romance to things that are incomplete and unfinished. Maybe the different possibilities allow our imaginations to paint something grander than it ever really could have been. Maybe it™s just the nostalgia us humans seem to have for lost projects and unrealised dreams. Whatever the reason, it™s hard to deny that such failures are endlessly fascinating. Here are 10 unfinished structures from around the world that will likely never be completed.
Bangkok Elevated Road and Train System (BERTS)
When somewhere has a name like œThailand™s Stonehenge”, it™s hard not to feel your anticipation rising. What sort of mystical place could possibly justify such a beautiful name?
Sadly for fans of the Druidic and the New Age, the name given to the remnants of Bangkok™s Elevated Road and Train System (BERTS) is heavily ironic. Originally started in 1990 as a way of connecting the airport to the city, it was abandoned in 1998 with only the concrete pillars already built. Sticking out of bushes and scrubland beside roads, the pillars so resemble standing stones that some wag decided to rename them after Stonehenge.
Like many projects in the region, BERTS was ended by the Asian financial crisis of 1997. As the economy went into freefall, the government was forced to abandoned all hope of ever completing it. It was reported in 2013 that sections of the unfinished structure would be demolished to make way for a new railway on the same route.
Torre de la Escollera
As Venezuela has its Torre de David, so neighbouring Colombia had its Torre de la Escollera. Built in the magical colonial port city of Cartagena, the tower would have risen above every other building in Colombia, topping out at an impressive 58 floors. It was daringly slender, a design choice that may have contributed to its early demise. Two years into construction, a tropical storm struck the city. The winds twisted the unfinished structure so badly that there was little option left but to abandon the partially-built residential tower.
The Torre de la Escollera wound up standing empty for the best part of a year before Cartagena™s authorities finally tore it down. All that remains now are photos of this peculiar time; the skeletal tower itself wrapped in blue plastic sheeting, like some strange ghost floating forlornly on Cartagena™s horizon.
Cape to Cairo Railway
(Image: via Wikipedia)
Had it been completed, the Cape to Cairo Railway would be a journey to match the Trans-Siberian. Stretching over 4,000 miles from the very north of Africa right the way through to the continent™s southern tip, it would have passed through desert, through swampland, over canyons and across mountains on a journey unparalleled in world history.
(Image: Edward Linley Sambourne; The Rhodes Colossus caricature)
Dreamed up by Cecil Rhodes in the 19th century as a means of connecting Cairo to the British held southern states of Africa, the railway was never to be finished, perhaps for the simple reason that it was a bad idea to begin with. Competition from sea freight and the imperial ambitions of other colonial powers delayed the project. There were also practicalities in terms of the harsh and varied African geography, not to mention the economic woes of the Great Depression.
The final nail in the Cape to Cairo’s coffin came with the decolonisation of Africa post World War Two. Yet, the railway wasn™t a total failure. About two thirds (the north and south sections) were built, and much is still in operation today.
(Image: Matthew Lister Ttamhew)
Woodchester Mansion is like a prop from Jonathan Creek, a ready illusion seemingly designed to confuse all who investigate its secrets. From the front, it appears to be an ordinary English mansion from the 19th century. But inside, things get seriously strange. There are no insides. When Woodchester was abandoned in 1873, only the outside had been completed. The unfinished structure is now a bizarre, empty shell.
This gives the Woodchester Mansion an eerie feeling rarely found in such buildings. Walking inside is an experience both surreal and fascinating. The reasons for its lack of completion are vague and manifold. The owner, William Leigh, died; his family ran out of money; or maybe his architect moved to Algeria. Whatever the true reason for its lack of completion, the unfinished mansion stands today as a stranger place than even a ruin would have been.
Centro Financiero Confinanzas
Forget the fancy name. The Centro Financiero Confinanzas in Caracas, Venezuela, is better known by its nickname: the Tower of David (Torre de David). A derelict, unfinished skyscraper stretching 45 floors into the Andean sky, it was begun in 1990 but abandoned in 1994, when a banking crisis hit the Venezuelan economy. Intended to be a hotel, it soon unfinished structure something much more dystopian. A city-within-a-city, overwhelmed by squatters.
At its height at the turn of the decade, the Centro Financiero Confinanzas was filled with some 5,000 homeless citizens of Caracas, living in the unfinished rooms that spiked up into the sky. Since the Tower lacked glass, this must™ve been a faintly-terrifying prospect, especially on blustery days when storms rolled in off the mountains. Although the government evicted the squatters in summer 2014, the unfinished building itself has been left to stand, a skeleton grinning over the city™s skyline.
Villa Trissino (Meledo di Sarego)
(Image: Hans A. Rosbach)
It™s rare for an unfinished structure to net itself a UNESCO World Heritage designation. But most unfinished buildings weren™t designed by Andrea Palladio. An architect who worked within the Republic of Venice, Palladio was the guy who brought Ancient Roman design principles to bear on the architectural style that came to be named after him: Palladian. His influence cannot be underestimated.
As a result, even his unfinished buildings have been preserved for future generations, such as the Villa Trissino at Meledo di Sarego. Cracked and peeling away beneath the blazing Italian sun, its walls the same colour as the dry grass around it, the unfinished villa still cuts an impressive sight, all these years later. Left to go to ruin in the 16th century, it is today an important monument to one man™s genius, and the impact that genius had on our world.
Temple of Olympian Zeus, Athens
(Image: Valentin Fiumefreddo)
We™re cheating a little with this one. The Temple of Olympian Zeus was indeed completed at one stage; what we see today are merely ruins left by the passing centuries. However, it wasn™t completed on schedule or even shortly afterwards. The temple was left as an unfinished ruin for nearly 650 years, a gap of time equal to that separating you from the Crusades, the Black Death, and Geoffrey Chaucer.
The temple had been started in the strange period when ancient Athens experimented with being a dictatorship. When democracy was restored, people evidently regarded the Temple of Olympian Zeus the same way we today regard the building projects of North Korea or Communist Romania. It wasn™t until Emperor Hadrian came along in the 2nd century that it was finally finished. But less than a century after its completion, it was destroyed.
National Monument of Scotland
If you climb Calton Hill in central Edinburgh, an odd sight will greet you at the summit. Alongside the many grand monuments put up in the 19th century sits a ruin seemingly out of ancient Greece. Stone pillars rise up into the drizzly Scottish air, forming three quarters of a wall. But this isn™t some Hellenistic refugee. It™s the National Monument of Scotland, and it has stood unfinished since 1829.
The unfinished structure was originally intended to honour Scots who died during the Napoleonic Wars. Unfortunately, construction began without enough funds in place for completion, and the project was terminated three years after it began. This caused uproar in the 19th century, with claims that Scotland was dishonouring its dead. But today, the National Monument of Scotland’s unfinished state only adds to the atmosphere of Calton Hill.
Lyveden New Bield
If Woodchester Mansion does its best to hide its unfinished state, Lyveden New Bield has no such hang ups. An unfinished summer house in Northamptonshire, it was started at the very dawn of the 17th century as a place Sir Thomas Tresham could escape to from his larger manor. Sadly, history would stand in the way of it ever being completed, as the Catholic Tresham family got swept up in the religious turmoil consuming Britain in the aftermath of Elizabeth I™s death.
The year after the house was started, Sir Thomas died, and control of the project was handed to his son. Unfortunately, his son managed to get entangled in a little something known as the Gunpowder Plot, a state of affairs that resulted in his swift execution. With the family in ruins, the unfinished structure was also left to fall into disrepair. Eventually acquired by the National Trust, Lyveden New Bield stands as an empty monument to those turbulent times in British history.
Foreshore Freeway Bridge
(Image: Paul Mannix)
In the middle of Cape Town is a bridge that goes nowhere. Jutting out from a stretch of freeway, it curves around to the left, before abruptly ending in a sudden drop onto the concrete below. Thanks to the road markings painted right up to the very end, it looks less like an incomplete bridge, and more like one that has had its second half snatched away. It is the Foreshore Freeway Bridge, and it™s Cape Town™s weirdest tourist attraction.
The bridge was originally started back in the early 1970s, at a time when South Africa was still living under Apartheid. Although the unfinished structure was meant to symbolise the future of transport in the country, it wound up grinding to an abrupt halt when the money ran out (although urban legend says it was actually due to an engineering miscalculation which would have resulted in the bridge™s two ends failing to meet up). Fast forward to today, and it™s a minor icon of Cape Town.
A number of ideas have been put forward over the years for the unfinished overpass’s reuse, including planting trees on it and transforming it into a linear urban park – rather like the Seoul Skygarden which opened recently.
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