Human fallibilities can wreak havoc upon architecture and lead to devastating consequences. The collapse of a 12-story beachfront condominium that occurred in Surfside, Florida is just one recent example. Unfortunately, building disasters occur all too often. Rather than looking for design guidance by studying architectural successes, this course examines its opposite–failures. There is much to learn in studying what can go wrong. This seminar explores case studies of a wide variety of building disasters. Each disaster’s failure is fully examined, including its history; why it failed; the political, cultural, environmental, and technical background conditions that enabled the failure to occur; who, if anyone, was to blame; what affect the failure had upon future building processes; how the failure impacted the building owners, builders, users, and designers; and, perhaps most important, how understanding all of this can lead to becoming a stronger, more competent architect.
Students select a building disaster of their own choosing to research and in the latter half of the seminar make an in-class presentation of their findings.