The 8 Tallest Abandoned Skyscrapers in the World

The skyscraper has long been the symbol of power and prestige. For generations humans have aspired to reach for the sky, and a city's skyline is a huge source of pride. So what can we make of an abandoned skyscraper?

We can’t help but think of the lost dreams and hopes many of these structures have come to represent. A sad memorial to a dream. Some have been filled with squatters, others glassed over, and with some there remains potential for a rebirth. From Bangkok to Detroit and Beirut to Mexico City, here are the the 8 Tallest Abandoned Skyscrapers in the World.

 

1. The Ryugyong

North Korea, 1,092 feet (333m) and 105 floors.

The Ryugyong. Source: Wikimedia
The Ryugyong. Source: Wikimedia

Would you stay in a North Korean tower “affectionately” called the Hotel of Doom? We wouldn’t, either. That’s 105 floors of pure scary.

What began as a Soviet-subsidized project ended abruptly with the USSR’s collapse in the early 1990s, but that wasn’t necessarily a bad thing.

The 3,000-room tower stood in stark contrast to North Korea’s starving population. Although it has “reopened” in recent years, we’re not sure who’s allowed into the country to stay the night.

Source: Daily Mail

2. Fontainebleau Resort

United States, 735 feet (224m) and 68 floors.

Fontainebleau Las Vegas - Source: Wikimedia
Fontainebleau Las Vegas – Source: Wikimedia

If you construct a giant, high-end resort to Las Vegas, what’s your worst nightmare? How about opening in 2009 during the Great Recession in a city with a 14% unemployment rate?

The building was flagged for multiple structural and engineering issues. Not only was it deemed too unstable to support all 49 stories, but it was expected to collapse completely in the event of a major earthquake.

Now those are high stakes.

Source: Gizmodo

3. Torre David

Venezuela, 623 feet (190m) and 45 floors.

Torre de David - Source:Wikimedia
Torre de David – Source: Wikimedia

Standing at 190 meters tall, the Torre (Tower of) David stands abandoned by those who built it in Caracas, Venezuela.

Once home to anywhere from 3000-5000 squatters, the Tower of David was originally meant to be a symbol of Venezuela’s successes on global trade markets. Instead it was a good idea gone bad, and construction of the building was never completed.

How did a 45-story building become a husk in just four years? The death of the building’s main investor, David Brillembourg, combined with the well-known Venezuelan Banking Crisis of 1994 put this project on indefinite hold.

Source: The Atlantic

4. Sathorn Unique Tower

Thailand, 607 feet (185m) and 49 floors.

Sathorn Unique Tower in Bangkok - Source: Wikimedia
Sathorn Unique Tower in Bangkok – Source: Wikimedia

Skyscrapers rose throughout Bangkok during Thailand’s economic boom in the 1990s, but this one didn’t quite make it.

1997 marked a terrible financial crisis in East Asia, leaving Thailand’s currency in worse shape than the German Mark after World War I. Squatters moved in shortly afterward.

Locals steer clear, calling it the Ghost Tower. How could it be haunted without even being completed? You can read about the urban myths, if you like scary stories.

Source: Metro News

5. Plaza Tower

United States, 531 feet (162m) and 45 floors

Plaza Tower in New Orleans. Source: Wikipedia

The third largest tower in New Orleans and the state of Louisiana, the Plaza Tower has dominated the city skyline since its completion in 1969.

It came to define the cityscape for decades, but went out of service in 2002—just three years before Katrina hit the city.

What brought it down? Environmental problems for the people who used it, with asbestos and toxic mold topping the list.

Even the mightiest tower can be brought down by a small bit of mold.

Source: Nola

6. Book Tower

United States, 476 feet (145m) and 38 floors

Credit: Michelle and Chris Gerard

Book Tower stood as a testament to Detroit’s former glory as the country’s automotive capital since 1926.

However, its age and long list of past owners also make it a symbol of Detroit’s current state. Those 38 floors have remained unused for many years, and is in definite need of a renovation.

It was abandoned in 2009 when AKNO Enterprises fell $87,000 behind on its utility fees. DTE Energy cut off the building’s power, and it has remained uninhabited ever since.

They didn’t call it the “Roaring 20s” for nothing. But check out that copper roof! That might be why Dan Gilbert planned to buy it in 2015.

Source: Historic Detroit

7. Burj el Murr Tower

Lebanon, 459 feet (140m) and 40 floors

Burj el Murr Tower in Beirut
Burj el Murr Tower in Beirut. Source: Beirut Syndrome

It began as a 40-story World Trade Center project in 1974, and went on indefinite hold when the Lebanese Civil War began in the following year.

In fact, snipers came to favor it as a strategic position to control the area, playing a central role in the “Battle of the Hotels,” a sub-conflict of the war.

Source: Open Democracy

8. Torre Insignia

Mexico, 417 feet (127m) and 25 floors.

Torre Nationales de Mexico - Source: Wikimedia
Torre Nationales de Mexico – Source: Wikimedia

Like many others on this list, the Torre Insignia’s construction coincided with an economic uptick. It stood proudly from 1962 until the Mexico City earthquake of 1985.

But there is still hope for the building: American real estate company Cushman and Wakefield bought it in 2008, remodeling it in 2011.

It has withstood five earthquakes in all, and is now considered one of the most quake-proof buildings in the city.

Source: CDMX Travel, Wikipedia

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Andrew Webb

Andrew Webb

Coming from the most un-handy of academic families, Andrew brings his love of history to the world of web writing. Rumours suggest he was born quoting Monty Python in a tweed jacket, but this remains unproven.