10 Abandoned Skyscrapers & Vast Empty Towers of the World

torre-abraham-lincoln-Barra-da-Tijuca-Brazil-2 (Image: via Google Street View)

Scattered across the globe are a multitude of abandoned skyscrapers and towers crumbling away after decades of neglect. Empty for various reasons, some have simply lost their appeal in an-ever changing world, while others have fallen victim to economic and political unrest. Many have become so neglected that the cost of renovating them, and the will to do so, is prohibitive.

After years of decay, the future of many abandoned high-rises looks bleak, as the sheer scale of such renovation projects often discourages potential investors. This article documents 10 eerily empty towers which loom menacingly over their respective city skylines, all facing an uncertain future.

NOT Tower, Poland

not-tower-Szkieletor-abandoned-krakow-poland (Image: Macieias)

Unofficially known as the Szkieletor, the NOT Tower was designed as a regional headquarters for the Polish Federation of Engineering Associations (Naczelna Organizacja Techniczna, or NOT). Never completed, the gaunt structure earned its nickname from Skeletor, arch-villain in the 1980s cartoon ‘He-Man and the Masters of the Universe’ (which had a large following in Poland at the time). Construction started in 1975 but economic and political turbulence brought the project to a grinding halt in 1981. Since then Kraków city’s tallest building has remained an empty reminder of a golden dawn promised by the nation’s leaders. Though ownership has changed on several occasions and discussions held regarding the abandoned skyscraper’s future and possible redevelopment, a legal battle over land ownership has stymied any practical solutions. So for the time being, Szkieletor is used as an advertising wall for giant billboards.

Yekaterinburg TV Tower, Russia

Yekaterinburg-TV-Tower-abandoned-Russia (Image: Nucl0id)

Understood to be the tallest abandoned structure in the world, the Yekaterinburg TV Tower was built in 1983 and left unfinished when work stopped in 1991. It was meant to reach a towering height of 400 metres but stands at only 220 metres today. The titanic structure was intended to be an exhibition of communist achievements in the USSR. But the fall of the Soviet Union brought the tower’s construction to a halt, and an engineering error meant that it leaned slightly to one side.

Nowadays, the 26-storey Tower of Yekaterinburg, which has no elevator, is sometimes referred to as the ‘fun tower’ or even the ‘suicide tower’ on account of its popularity with base jumpers, builderers and, more tragically, those looking to take their own lives. Its entrance was sealed off as a result, and plans to renovate the abandoned skyscraper as an entertainment and cultural centre were derailed by the financial crisis of 2008.

The Baker Hotel, Texas

baker-hotel-abandoned-mineral-wells-texas (Image: Ken Slade)

During the early 20th century, the citizens of Mineral Wells, Texas, took it upon themselves to prevent outsiders from profiting from the region’s mineral waters. Their solution? A luxurious resort hotel offering all the services that money could buy. Construction of the Baker Hotel began in 1926. Standing 14 storeys high, with over 400 guest rooms and two ball rooms, the landmark building took three years to complete.

During the 1930s this top-tier spa destination was a must-visit attraction for wealthy, health-conscious folk from across America, and by the 1940s the hotel had been fully air conditioned.

baker-hotel-abandoned-mineral-wells-texas-2 (Image: Ken Slade)

From musicians to future presidents, actors to outlaws (Bonnie and Clyde were rumoured to have spent a night or two), the Baker Hotel hosted them all. It also profited during World War Two when an influx of military personnel saw business boom in Mineral Wells. But as interest in spa-treatment declined as modern medicine advanced, the Baker Hotel fell into a period of decline. Reopened briefly in 1965 following a spell of abandonment, the hopes of its new investors were nevertheless dashed when the hotel closed again – this time for good – in 1972.

Once regarded as the first high-rise built outside a major city, the Baker Hotel is said to be one of the most haunted places in America. The building was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1982 and discussions regarding it restoration are ongoing.

Pécs Magashaz, Hungary

abandoned-Magashaz-of-Pecs-hungary-2 (Image: Nico78)

Better known as the ‘High-rise of Pécs’ this empty residential tower in Hungary is Central Europe’s tallest abandoned building boasting 25 floors and a height of 84 meters. Developed by Baranya County State Construction Industry Company in 1976, Magashaz was once occupied by 800 residents who, having lived there for over a decade, discovered that the structure was disintegrating from within. The fault is understood to have originated from the methods by which such buildings were constructed in the early 1970s. This major engineering flaw had caused the Magashaz Pecs’ beams to deteriorate over time. Finally evacuated in 1989, several plans to restore the abandoned tower have failed to come to fruition. The structure, which has weathered significantly due to decades of neglect, was scheduled to be demolished in 2014, but as yet remains standing.

Sathorn Unique, Thailand

Sathorn-Unique-abandoned-Thailand (Image: Just One Way Ticket)

Back in the mid ‘90s when Thailand’s economy was experiencing a boom, the country’s architectural visionaries dreamed of building lofty skyscrapers dominating city skylines. But when the Asian financial crisis hit in 1997, that dream was shattered and the construction of several high-rises ground to a halt. The 49-storey Sathorn Unique is one of those unfortunate abandoned skyscrapers that lie silent and lifeless today, a gaunt ghost tower in the heart of Bangkok.

Today, people are prohibited from entering Sathorn Unique, which was intended to feature 659 residential apartments and 54 retail units. Nonetheless, enthusiastic urban explorers have visited the site, documented its vast, empty shell and warned of its fragile condition, as holes in the floor make it a potentially crumbling death trap. The abandoned tower does have one fulfil one final role, though – as a massive blank canvas from which to hang advertising billboards.

Torre Abraham Lincoln, Brazil

torre-abraham-lincoln-Barra-da-Tijuca-Brazil (Image: via Google Street View)

In the 1960s, when Brazil was experiencing rapid growth, an ambitious plan was put forward by Lucio Costa and Oscar Niemeyer to build 76 modern high-rises offering luxurious residential spaces in the affluent Barra da Tijuca of Rio de Janeiro. The structure known as Torre H (‘Torre’ literally means tower) was the first in the series. Since construction of the 37-storey, circular tower began in 1969, a host of problems such as the use of sub-standard materials threatened to derail the project. This developer’s nightmare soon became a reality when construction was brought to a halt in 1972 due to concerns over its structural integrity.

torre-abraham-lincoln-Barra-da-Tijuca-Brazil-3 (Image: via Google Street View)

Finding it impossible to resume construction, the developer is understood to have transferred ownership rights to individual investors, making them liable for payment of property tax even though living in the building was absolutely impossible. For the last four decades this sleeping giant has remained empty.

Two attempts have been made to highlight Torre H’s plight. On one occasion, 300 people occupied the tower for a month until police were called in to remove them. Meanwhile, in 2010, Dutch artists Wouter Osterholt and Elke Uitentuis initiated a project called ‘Paraíso Ocupado’ (Paradise Occupied), creating a mini replica of the abandoned skyscraper to draw attention to segregation and social injustice in the city. It’s hoped that the forthcoming 2016 Olympics may have a positive impact on Torre Abraham Lincoln, and help bring this dormant structure back to life.

Piraeus Tower, Greece

Piraeus-Tower-abandoned-Greece (Image: HWKN via inhabitat)

Designed by Ioannis Vikelas, the Piraeus Tower is the only skyscraper in the port city of Piraeus. Also called Piraeus Trade Center, this gigantic empty shell is a 22-storey, 84m-tall structure that has haunted the port city’s skylines for decades.  Construction began in 1972 but was never completed, an ill-fated yet iconic landmark built primarily as a symbolic gesture to mark Piraeus’ status as a flourishing trade and commercial centre. Back in 2010 a competition was held to digitally alter the face of the building.

Piraeus-Tower-abandoned-Greece-2 (Image: via inhabitat; abandoned Piraeus Tower)

Above, the abandoned skyscraper as it actually looks, minus the impressive digital overhaul showcased on inhabitat.

Plaza Tower, United States

plaza-tower-abandoned-new-orleans (Image: Alexander Rabb)

This 45-storey structure with its ‘mushroom top’ helped usher in an era of modern high-rises in New Orleans. Now empty since 2002, this 45-story abandoned skyscraper holds a prominent place on the city’s skyline. Even during the building booms of the 1960s and ‘70s, few towers matched its novel design and modern feel. It was briefly known as the Crescent City Towers during the first decade of the 21st century, when ideas for its redevelopment as a residential building were on the table. Needless to say, those plans never saw the light of day.

plaza-tower-abandoned-new-orleans-2 (Image: dumbfun)

Ever since its construction began in 1964, the Plaza Tower had was haunted by several debacles. First off, two years into its construction, building was halted and it wasn’t until 1968 that the place once again echoed with the sounds of machinery. Upon completion the Plaza housed both residential and office space until 1984, when all apartments (mainly occupying the top floors) were converted for commercial use.

Despite its landmark status, internally the building has suffered from decades of poor maintenance and problems caused by asbestos, water damage and toxic mold. Fed up, tenants filed several lawsuits in 2001 against the Plaza Tower’s owners and those responsible of the now-abandoned skyscraper’s maintenance. The following year around 700 office workers were relocated and the deserted tower was sealed off completely. Its future remains unclear.

Sterick Building, United States

sterick-building-abandoned-memphis (Image: Nick J)

Once hailed as the ‘Queen of Memphis’, the Sterick Building was completed in 1930 and named after its owners R.E. Sterling and Wyatt Hedrick. Not only did Sterick remain Memphis’ tallest building for 27 years, it was also once reputed to be the tallest building in the Southern United States.

Added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1978, this 29-storey skyscraper stands 365-feet-tall and is said to be one of the most complex structures ever built in the city. The first three floors of this Gothic-style high-rise were crafted from limestone & granite, and the lobby’s beauty was compared with that of a Moorish castle. During its heyday the Sterick Building would teem with over 2,000 workers being shuttled around in its eight high-speed elevators.

sterick-building-abandoned-memphis-3 (Image: Chris Wieland)

The building’s decline, like much of downtown Memphis, began in the 1960’s. The gleaming jewel and its white stone spire topped with a green tile roof was slowly abandoned and left to rot in darkness. An attempt was later made to repaint the decaying building but it only served to make the place look worse than before. After decades of dereliction locals lobbied for the abandoned skyscraper to be redeveloped in a bid to facilitate business opportunities. But so far nothing has come out of it.

Abandoned Book Tower, Detroit, United States

abandoned-book-tower-detroit (Image: JasonParis)

It all started when wealthy Detroiter James Burgess Book Jr. decided to overhaul the rundown Washington Boulevard Historic District in the early 20th century. Designer Louis Kamper was brought in and began constructing a relatively ordinary 13-storey Italian Renaissance-styled office building called the ‘Book Building’. Later Book Jr. and his brothers Herbert and Frank, having seen the numerous high-rises under construction all over Detroit, decided to build something more majestic.

So in 1926, adjacent to the Book Building, the beautiful 38-storey Book Tower opened its doors to visitors and became the tallest building in the city. Crowned by a green copper roof, the building boasted 12 nude caryatids that were once dubbed the wives of the 12 Apostles.

abandoned-book-tower-detroit-2 (Image: Albert Duce)

But the Book Brothers’ celebration was short-lived. In 1928 construction of the 47-storey Penobscot Building was completed. Wanting to take back the city’s tallest-building title the brothers decided to construct an even taller 81-storey building immediately opposite the original Book Tower. But that dream was thwarted when the Great Depression took hold in 1929. Over the years the majestic property has changed many hands. As recently as 2013, interest has been shown in the Book Tower’s renovation, but details currently remain unclear.

Related – Explore 5 Incredible Pillars of the Abandoned World


About the author: Sufia Banu




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