Lost Wonders: The Collapse of the Warsaw Radio Mast, the World’s Tallest Structure
The Warsaw Radio Mast in its standing days (via Wikimedia)
Until the Burj Khalifa skyscraper in Dubai soared to its completed height of 2,722 feet in 2010, the highest structure ever built was actually a radio transmitter in Poland. Alas, the Warsaw Radio Mast is now rusting rubble, the heavenward spire bent down by human error.
The radio mast compared to other tall structures in a promotional brochure (via Wikimedia)
The radio mast near Konstantynów, Poland, was finished with an unrivaled height of 2,120 feet in 1974, and until 1991 it served as a transmitter for Warsaw Radio-Television. Its signal could be picked up across Europe into Africa and even across the Atlantic in North America. Yet already a decade in it was showing structural damage from wind oscillations, and it had a sad setback in aesthetic at least when in 1988 there wasn’t enough paint to cover its monolithic worn steel lattice.
The catastrophe occurred on August 8, 1991, when during maintenance on exchanging guy-wires during some lofty wind, cables started snapping off and the whole thing bent in two and suddenly the tower that once stood so tall was twisted metal in the earth.
Wreckage of the radio mast (via Wikimedia)
While no one was injured, following the disaster two members of its construction company were sent to jail. Plans to rebuild were, understandably, met with local protest for the area’s safety. The velocity with which the debris plummeted has left some of it lodged in the ground, and its companion tower, supporting basement insulator, and the transmitter building are still decaying where they were abandoned over two decades ago. (Here’s an album of photos from 2007 at the site showing much of it intact.) However, it’s still the second-highest structure ever built, even broken down and busted into pieces.
THE REMAINS OF THE WARSAW RADIO MAST, Konstantynów, Poland
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