Both today and in centuries past, it is a reality of building that not every project is destined for success. Financial issues or unrealistic timetables can complicate a building’s construction but, while usually the final result eventually meets the initial expectations, other times the worst-case scenario of a building being abandoned during construction becomes a nightmare come true. Unfortunately, these failed projects have an extensive history. Economic factors are the most common cause of unfinished construction, but buildings have also been stranded in limbo by wars, geopolitical shifts, epidemics of disease and other unpredictable obstacles, leaving partial structures as haunting reminders of what might have been.
Whether partially completed and left as ruins or still under construction decades (or centuries) after initial groundbreaking, unfinished buildings offer an alternative history of our built environment, promising long-delayed gratification or examples of design so ambitious that they prove impossible to realize. Initiated by civilizations across the globe, the following list details just a few examples of history’s most interesting and infamous unfinished construction projects.