Why Are High & Mighty Buildings Of The Past Lying Vacant?

Why Are High & Mighty Buildings Of The Past Lying Vacant?

Why Are High & Mighty Buildings Of The Past Lying Vacant?
Interiors of Michigan Central Station. (Wikimedia)

Several examples in the modern times would tell you that the expression too big to fail has lost its meaning. For example, when the global financial crisis unfolded in 2008, the too-big-to-fail banks became the first casualty. The world of architecture is certainly no different. Across the world, the number of abandoned grand structures that were once the talk of the town has been on the rise. Several “lying vacant” buildings in the US, for instance, have not been able to find takers despite the nostalgia they might trigger in spectators. The Superman Building in Rhode Island, the Longaberger Building in Ohio, the Martin Tower in Pennsylvania, the Michigan Central Station of Detroit, Michigan and the Miami Marine Stadium of Florida are some such examples. In fact, according to a Business Insider report, these buildings are cited as "five of the coolest vacant buildings in America".

This makes one think, what could have led to the decrepitude of what was once glory immortalised though bricks and sand?

For some, it is just the matter of timing. An idea that was revolutionary in the past has turned worthless at present. The Michigan Central Station in Detroit which opened in 1914, for instance, was built on an innovative idea that suited the demands of that time. "The station's builders designed it to be accessed via streetcar, so it was sited well outside downtown Detroit, which proved to be inconvenient when the streetcars disappeared," the report says. So, the station hosted its last train passengers in 1988, and might soon find itself to be turned into a casino or convention centre. A noble idea stands wasted because time had a role to play. Time did the same with two other buildings but one cannot miss the corporate link with it and the famous “rise and fall” sequence.

Michigan Central StationMichigan Central Station of Detroit, Michigan (Flickr/Ray Dumas)

The Martin Tower in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, and the Longaberger Building in Newark Ohio were built by corporate giants with an aim to awe the onlookers that signified not only the architectural grandeur but also the corporate as significant.

MartinTowerMartin Tower in Pennsylvania (Wikimedia)

"The Longaberger Company, makers of direct-marketed baskets and kitchen kitsch, was flying so high in the mid-1990s that they constructed a colossal basket-shaped building to serve as their corporate office" but that is not why the building is finding it hard to find occupants. The distance of 40 miles outside of the nearest city, Columbus, is doing the building the present harm. Distance, it seems, is another crucial player. 

(Wikimedia)Longaberger Building in Ohio (Wikimedia)

On the other hand, steel giant Bethlehem Steel started constructing in 1969 a 21-storey headquarters to dominate the skyline of their hometown, and they did so. The building is still the tallest one standing at the Lehigh Valle. However, little did the makers know that a bankruptcy was going to befall on the company in 2001 that would force them to vacate the tower in 2003.

Superman Building (Flickr/Will Hart)Superman Building in Rhode Island (Flickr/Will Hart)

What else apart from time, place and distance? The specific purpose that a building serves could also be a killer, literally.

Explaining why the Miami Marine Stadium of Florida, which was built in 1963 to host powerboat racing, has met its current fate, the report says,  "Sports venues — big, purpose-built structures that do only one thing well — are among the greatest challenges in adaptive reuse, which is why most are promptly imploded after the team gets that new stadium." 

Miami Marine Stadium Miami Marine Stadium of Florida (Flickr/Ines Hegedus-Garcia)

Last Updated: Thu Nov 24 2016

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