Blowing Up Architecture Fails, Video Game Style

After London’s ill-fated Marble Arch Mound was recreated in a modified version of Duke Nukem, we asked our Instagram followers which other architecture failures they’d like to see get blown up in a video game.

The Marble Arch Mound recreated in Duke Nukem. Image via Dan Douglas/@dandouglas on Twitter

The Marble Arch Mound may already be one of the decade’s most bewildering architectural failures. Originally designed by MVRDV to attract people back to London’s Oxford Street shopping district after lockdown, the artificial hill was scorned for spiraling costs and an unfinished appearance. Mounting criticism caused the attraction to close after a mere six months. MVRDV principal Winy Maas attributed the would-be landmark’s failure to a “loveless execution” of the design, causing a city official managing the project to step down. 

Now, the video game designer Dan Douglas has recreated the ill-fated monument in a modified version of the ‘90s classic shooter Duke Nukem, giving peeved visitors and haters from afar the opportunity to blow it up virtually. The satisfying spectacle got us thinking: what other architecture fails would people like to blow up in a video game? We asked our Instagram followers. Here are the top three choices:

The Vessel at Hudson Yards

Thomas Heatherwick’s flashy stairway to nowhere opened to mixed reviews, with critics deriding its perceived extravagance, lack of accessibility for disabled visitors, and shawarma-like appearance. After three people jumped to their death in less than a year, the structure closed indefinitely. Critics first raised concerns about the monument’s safety when initial visuals were revealed back in 2016. “As one climbs up the Vessel, the railings stay just above waist height all the way up to the structure’s top,” Audrey Wachs wrote in The Architect’s Newspaper, “but when you build high, folks will jump.”


ArcelorMittal Orbit

Great Britain’s largest piece of public art, this Anish Kapoor–designed observation tower was certainly Olympian in ambition. The 376-foot-tall folly commemorates London’s hosting of the 2012 Summer Olympics, but was spurned from the get-go for its unshapely form. Critics quickly derided it as the “Godzilla of public art” and an “enormous wire-mesh fence that got hopelessly snagged round the bell of a giant French horn.” Shortlisted for the Carbuncle Cup, an award for British architecture flops, the monument revived discourse about the declining quality of public art across the country.


8 Spruce

The Western Hemisphere’s tallest residential tower when it opened in 2011, 8 Spruce stretched Frank Gehry’s ambitions to the skies above Manhattan. The 870-foot-tall building ripples with an undulating concrete facade that recalls the Pritzker Prize winner’s Deconstructivist design language, which earned Paul Goldberger’s praise as “one of the most beautiful towers downtown” and “an unquestioned architectural masterpiece” that’s worthy of standing beside the nearby Woolworth Building. Despite this, 8 Spruce struggled with high vacancy rates during the early Covid-19 pandemic, causing its owners to list the building for $850 million in 2021.

All Stories