Say goodbye to these fallen icons.

Before shiny new projects rush to break ground in 2014, let's raise a glass to some of the most iconic buildings we said goodbye to this year.

Many of the contested demolitions in 2013 involved structures that were once considered innovative, but just a few decades later, have been labeled "obsolete." This fact heats up some food for thought: Just how future-proof are the "futuristic" buildings that are being proposed and built now?  

Pan Am Worldport Terminal at New York's JFK International Airport

The Pan Am Worldport opened in 1960, a time when international jet travel was a new luxury. Built by Pan American Airways, the flying saucer building quickly became a symbol of the Jet Age. It has also appeared in several films, including the 1973 James Bond movie Live and Let Die. Delta Airlines took over Worldport in 1991, renaming it to just "Terminal 3." In 2010, Delta announced plans to raze the iconic structure to make way for the expansion of a newer terminal. Despite enthusiastic campaigns to save Worldport, the terminal served its final flight this May and demolition quietly began over the summer.

Vintage postcard of the Pan Am Worldport. (Remember the Pan Am Worldport/Facebook)

A photo of the Worldport demolition from this past November. (Remember the Pan Am Worldport/Facebook)


Chicago's Prentice Women’s Hospital

Designed by architect Bertrand Goldberg, Prentice Women's Hospital and Maternity Center in the downtown Chicago campus of Northwestern University was a brutalist marvel. The eccentric cloverleaf-shaped building opened in 1976 and was vacated in 2011, following the construction of a new hospital. By 2012, Northwestern revealed plans to replace Prentice with a state-of-the-art biomedical research facility. Meanwhile, prominent architects and preservationists campaigned to save the building. Five Prizker-Prize winning architects even wrote to Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, pleading him to spare what they consider “a nurturer of bold and innovative architecture.” Ultimately, the building failed to gain landmark status. Demolition began in October.


Prentice Women's Hospital, as seen in November 2012. (trevor.patt/Flickr)
Demolition of the Prentice Women's Hospital, as seen in November 2013. (chicagogeek/Flickr)

Home to nearly 20 years of graffiti art, New York City's 5Pointz attracts artists and visitors from all over the world. The graffiti mecca also served as a symbol of NYC’s dynamic culture. Owners of the graffiti-covered factory first proposed replacing it with a luxury residential development in 2011. They got final approval for those plans this fall. As 5Pointz organizers scrambled to prevent the building from being torn down, the property owners dealt the final blow: In mid-November, the artworks were washed over in white paint overnight. Demolition seems almost anticlimactic.

Before (Dan Nguyen/Flickr) and After (jeffcarroll/Instagram)

The Department of Energy's K-25 Facility

Built during World War II, K-25 was the primary uranium enrichment facility of the Manhattan Project. In other words, it helped prepare the nuclear bomb that dropped on Hiroshima in 1945. At half-a-mile by 1,000 feet — over 2,000,000 square feet in total — the U-shaped K-25 building in Oak Ridge, Tennessee, was at one time the world's largest building under one roof. After the war, K-25 continued to enrich uranium for the Cold War nuclear arsenal and commercial nuclear power plants. It was shut down in 1964. A demolition process that started five years ago finally ended last week, when the last remaining piece of K-25 was torn down.

The K-25 facility, as seen in 2006. (AP Photo/Department of Energy) 

The Cyclorama Building at Gettysburg

Built in 1962, the Richard Neutra-designed Cyclorama Building was home to Paul Philippoteaux’s massive, 360-degree painting depicting a pivotal moment in the Battle of Gettysburg. The building's conditions have been in decline, however, especially after the cyclorama was restored and moved to a new visitor center in 2008. Preservationists have long fought the National Park Service’s plans to demolish, but the wrecking ball finally rolled in this past March. The current vision is to restore the site to what the original battlefield looked like in 1863, with an apple orchard and replica wooden fences.

Left: exterior view (fauxto_digit/Flickr) Right: interior view (AP) 
Demolition in progress. (lcm1863/Flickr)


Houston's Astrodome, nicknamed the "Eighth Wonder of the World," opened in 1965, becoming the world’s first domed and air-conditioned multi-purpose sports stadium. It hosted mainly baseball and football games, and also special events like the 1992 Republican National Convention and the popular annual Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo. The Astrodome stopped operating in 2008, after the building’s numerous code violations came to light. This past November, voters rejected a $217 million proposal to renovate and convert the structure into a convention center. Harris County, which owns the Astrodome, has yet to hand out a definitive decision on the stadium’s future, but demolition on parts of the building already began in early December.


​Univision Building

Built in 1955, the Univision building in San Antonio, Texas, housed the first ever Spanish-language television station in the United States. After the TV station relocated earlier this year, plans to replace the building with a $55 million, 350-unit housing development kicked into motion. Activists and preservationists fought hard to save the building, which they consider an important symbol of the city’s cultural heritage. But the court refused to hear their case and demolition began in November.

Protesters' sign hangs at demolition site. (screenshot from video)

Glasgow's Red Road Flats

Constructed in the 1960s, Glasgow’s iconic Red Road flats were once the tallest buildings in Europe. The block of around 30-story high rises were initially hailed as a hopeful solution to Glasgow's housing crisis. But since the mid-1970s, Red Road Flats have deteriorated into a hotspot for crime and suicides. In 2005, the Glasgow Housing Association announced plans to demolish one of the buildings, which eventually evolved into a plan for the phased demolition of all eight buildings. The first tower went down last year, and the second tower, Birnie Court, was demolished this past May. The rest will come down by 2017.

Red Road Flats, as seen in 2009. (<p&p>/Flickr)


A video of the most recent Red Road demolition. 

Istanbul's Emek Theater

Istanbul's cultural heritage continues to be at risk, as seen in this year’s struggle to save the city’s historic Emek Theater. The prestigious theater, which opened in 1924, is essentially as old as the Republic of Turkey itself. Until its closure in 2010, Emek had been home to Istanbul’s annual international film festival for 28 years. Despite many public protests, the state-owned building was leased to a private developer, who plans to replace Emek with a shopping center. Demolition began in April, drawing another fervent demonstration where protesters chanted slogans like, “Emek is ours, Istanbul is ours.”

Sinan Yüzaklı/Flickr

Beijing's "Rooftop Villa"

For years, Beijing doctor Zhang Biqing bypassed local planning regulations to build a faux-rock villa atop the 26-story apartment building he lived in. The illegal structure boasts trees, patios, and a karaoke studio, and has long been the subject of complaints from other residents. When the city’s urban planning department finally ordered Zhang to demolish the structure this August, the 6-year-old rooftop villa gained Internet notoriety overnight, sparking outrage over the abuse of privilege by the country's wealthy and powerful. It appears the demolition was finally completed last week, taking much longer than the original deadline of 15 days. 

(Reuters/Jason Lee) 
(Reuters/China Daily)

About the Author

Most Popular

  1. a photo of a woman on a SkyTrain car its way to the airport in Vancouver, British Columbia.

    In the City That Ride-Hailing Forgot, Change Is Coming

    Fears of congestion and a powerful taxi lobby have long kept ride-hailing apps out of this transit-friendly British Columbia city. That’s about to change.  

  2. A photo of a homeless man on the streets of Los Angeles, California

    L.A. Wanted to Use This Building as a Shelter. Now Trump Does Too.

    Los Angeles homeless providers were rebuffed when they asked to use the Hawthorne Federal Building, which the White House is eyeing to relocate Skid Row residents.

  3. Life

    American Migration Patterns Should Terrify the GOP

    Millennial movers have hastened the growth of left-leaning metros in southern red states such as Texas, Arizona, and Georgia. It could be the biggest political story of the 2020s.

  4. Life

    Dublin Is Changing, and Locals Hate It

    The recent loss of popular murals and local pubs is fueling a deeper angst over mass tourism, redevelopment and urban transformation in the Irish capital.

  5. A photo of a police officer in El Paso, Texas.

    What New Research Says About Race and Police Shootings

    Two new studies have revived the long-running debate over how police respond to white criminal suspects versus African Americans.