Archive for January 6th, 2022

Service of Isn’t it Obvious? Architecture & Design Mistakes that Trip Up

Thursday, January 6th, 2022


Image by joffi from Pixabay

How do experts–some renowned–make terrible choices that novices probably wouldn’t?

Take the instance Emma Bubola described in her New York Times article, “Venice Gets a Grip on a Star Architect’s Slippery Bridge–The city will replace the glass on Santiago Calatrava’s footbridge across the Grand Canal with stone after too many pedestrians fell.” Bubola reported: “‘That is not a bridge,’ said Angelo Xalle, 71, a retired port worker, who recalled helping people with broken chins or foreheads get up from its sleek floor. ‘It’s a trap.'”

The first version of the Rialto Bridge, Venice’s oldest, was designed by Nicolò Barattieri. The wooden pontoon bridge, called Ponte della Moneta, was built in 1178.


Rialto Bridge, Venice. Image by Ruth Archer from Pixabay 

Calatrava’s inappropriate flooring choice for one of the some 400 foot bridges in the City of Bridges, by someone who might have covered the subject in the first semester of architecture school, reminded me of other design and architecture blips that surprised.

  • Significant cracks appeared in the cement floor only months after the Frank Gehry-designed Fisher Center at Bard College opened.
  • All over Manhattan architects chose sidewalk materials for their color but forgot that some become skating rinks when water hits them in winter. One memorably death-defying walkway was in front of a building at 57th and Lexington Avenue. I need to check if they changed it.
  • Manhattan is an island so as I’ve asked countless times, why does the FDR Drive continue to flood during heavy rain? The Drive is not far from the East River and an engineer should be able to create an effective drainage system.
  • Have you walked down the stairs in a grand hotel with a patterned rug that didn’t have a plain border to indicate the edge of each tread? Without the visual warning to help mitigate trips, management is asking for many a lawsuit.
  • I once worked on the 34th floor of a newly built Manhattan skyscraper and wondered how well the rest of it was made because within months the tiles in the ladies room were popping out.

Is form follows function out of style? Are the mistakes so obvious that nobody questions them or are subordinates too afraid to speak up? Have you noticed comparable errors in design and architecture where you live?

Manhattan Sidewalks
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