Seven of the biggest building demolitions from around the world

As Dubai takes down unfinished real estate project The Pearl, The National looks back at other buildings turned to rubble from years gone by

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This week, tremors were felt in Dubai as demolition work began on an unfinished real estate project known as The Pearl.

Contractors using diggers and a wrecking ball have been pulling down half a dozen buildings in the area since November.

The Pearl is located on highly valuable land adjacent to Palm Jumeirah — which has seen a dramatic boom in property prices since the end of the pandemic.

Despite the time, effort and money poured into buildings, sometimes imposing structures become damaged, outlive their original purpose, or just become outdated.

Here, The National has put together a list looking back on a few memorable demolitions from around the world.

Mina Plaza, Abu Dhabi

On November 27, 2020, the abandoned Mina Plaza in Abu Dhabi went out with a bang as demolition teams razed it to the ground to make way for a new development.

The four towers came down in 10 seconds using 6,000kg of explosives and 18,000 individually programmed detonators.

The towers, with a total of 144 floors, were fitted out with controlled explosives that turned them to rubble seconds after detonation.

The end result was a Guinness World Record for the “tallest building demolished using explosives (in a controlled demolition)”, which was 165 metres.

Residents near Port Zayed were able to see the demolition from afar, while the sound of the controlled explosion reverberated throughout the city.

At the time, Abu Dhabi Media Office said the unfinished buildings would make way for a new three million-square-metre, multi-purpose complex that will transform Mina Zayed into a tourism, commercial and residential hub.

Dunes Hotel, Las Vegas, US

On October 27, 1993, fireworks ripped through the night sky above the Dunes Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas, US. Celebratory music echoed throughout the air and several cannon blasts were let off from the English ship HMS Britannia, located at the nearby Treasure Island Casino.

The evening had all the markings of an elaborate opening ceremony, but what followed was just the opposite. More than 200,000 people watched on as controlled explosives were detonated to bring down the 38-year-old building.

It had closed its doors to the public earlier that same year due to a host of financial problems. Today, the Bellagio Hotel and Casino, famed for its dancing water fountains, stands where the Dunes once was.

Cockenzie Power Station, Scotland, UK

In 1967, the Cockenzie Power Station was opened in a small town in East Lothian in Scotland, UK.

Two 149-metre twin chimney stacks were the most recognisable feature of the coal-fired station. During its 45 years of operation, it powered electricity into more than one million homes annually, but local residents were not a fan of the site, claiming it was unsafe due to pollution.

After several protests, the residents finally got their wish and the curtains closed on the power station in 2015.

The demolition was a treat to watch as both chimneys fell sideways, crashing into each other, before falling to the ground.

Genoa Bridge, Italy

One of the most recent controlled demolitions on the list is that of the Morandi bridge in the Italian city of Genoa.

The eerie structure stood as a sobering reminder of a tragedy that took place less than a year before when the bridge collapsed during rainstorms as cars travelled across it. Forty-three people were killed when a 210-metre stretch of the structure fell 45 metres in August 2018. Thousands of people were evacuated from the nearby area ahead of explosions to bring down two large towers consisting of about 4,500 tonnes of concrete and steel in 2019.

The bridge was constructed between 1963 and 1967 along Italy's A10 motorway.

Landmark Tower, Texas, US

Construction on this 30-storey building was completed in 1957. Less than five decades later it became rubble again.

The imposing structure, located in Fort Worth, Texas, was noted as the tallest building in the city until the completion of the Fort Worth Tower in 1974.

It was originally used as the headquarters for a large bank but was later abandoned in 1990 as newer buildings sprouted up around the city.

The Landmark Tower stood vacant for more than 15 years and was badly damaged by a tornado in 2000, which eventually led to the structure being deemed unsafe.

The tower was demolished by controlled explosive implosion on March 18, 2006.

Kingdome, Seattle, US

On March 26, 2000, the Kingdome sports complex in Seattle, US, was demolished to make way for a brand new multi-purpose sports arena.

More than 32km of detonation cord was placed throughout the stadium before the dynamite was sparked. The 22,000-tonne roof, which curved downwards like a mushroom, collapsed into a billowing dust cloud as thousands watched on to see the iconic building in its last moments.

The structure was first completed in 1976 at a cost of $67 million and was home to the Seattle Seahawks football team and baseball's Seattle Mariners.

Grand Prince Hotel Akasaka, Tokyo

The Grand Prince Hotel Akasaka in Tokyo, Japan consisted of 39 floors and stood 141 metres tall. The upscale hotel was noted for its distinctive sawtooth facade of aluminium and glass.

After just 29 years in operation, the hotel closed in 2011 to make way for a mix development community.

It was eventually demolished in 2013. The New York Times said the hotel was a victim of the commercial real estate in Tokyo, “where high property values, changing design standards and other factors have conspired to create a bull market for demolition.”

This demolition project was carried out a little different to the usual way in that it didn’t involve a wrecking ball or explosives. Instead, a crane was used to painstakingly take out all the beams, concrete and panelling from inside.

A version of this story was first published on November 11, 2020

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