Champlain Tower South

Champlain Towers South – The Tragedy of the Champlain Towers

The Champlain Towers South was a large Florida condominium that made the news in mid-2021 when part of the structure collapsed. This Miami condo collapse was a major news story when it occurred, and the cause of the Surfside building collapse has been investigated and litigated since then. This article will examine the Champlain Towers South collapse, the building itself, and the causes of the tragedy that occurred. Keep reading to learn more about the Champlain Towers South.



A Look at the Champlain Towers South

ArchitectWilliam M. Friedman (1930 – 2018)
Date Constructed1979 – 1981
Materials UsedConcrete, steel, brick, and glass
Height41 meters (or 136 ft)
LocationSurfside, Miami, Florida, United States

Who Owns the Champlain TowersChamplain Towers South, an apartment building in Surfside, Miami, Florida, USA (2015); Microsoft StreetSide, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Champlain Towers South was a 12-story condo building located in Surfside, a suburb of the larger Miami area. There were several other Champlain Towers buildings to the north and east, but only the southern structure collapsed. The building, which was completed in the 1980s, was not a particularly unique structure in any sense and the only reason it has become notable in recent years is because of the collapse of the structure.

This Miami condo collapse occurred on the 24th of June 2021 in the early hours of the morning. Part of the building gave way and a large portion crumbled with many people inside.

Four people were rescued, but one of them passed away. A further eleven were injured and another thirty-five were rescued from the un-collapsed part of the structure. However, these were the luckier people. Those who were rescued managed to get out of the tragedy relatively unscathed, but 98 people lost their lives that day. The entire structure was then demolished in the wake of the investigations, and those investigations have shown that there were many possible causes of this disaster, but those causes will be discussed in more detail shortly. Let’s first look at the Champlain Towers South building itself.


The History of the Champlain Towers South

The Champlain Towers South building was completed in 1981 and was part of a larger development plan. The Champlain Tower developer was made up of several different architectural and engineering firms. These included William M. Friedman & Associates and Breiterman Jurado & Associates. The structure was not meant to be an architectural marvel of any description and was instead a seaside location for residents.

There was nothing of note that occurred throughout the history of the building until the eventual collapse, and it was instead used for the purposes for which it was built.

It was a residence that included a beachfront view and access to various amenities, such as a gym and a pool. However, the site was eventually subject to recertification for safety purposes, and this required inspection of the building. However, prior to this 2021 recertification need, structural damage had been found by an engineering firm that had been hired in 2018. This firm determined that the concrete below the pool and many of the columns in the parking garage required attention. The recommendation, as one might expect, was to repair the building as soon as possible.

Later, in 2020, another engineering firm discovered that the Champlain Towers South had actually partially sunk into the ground. The sinking was not noted to be particularly worrying, but combined with the prior issues concerning structural issues, this should not have been ignored. It appears to have been ignored. A few months before the collapse, the structure’s condominium association sent all the residents a letter to indicate that the damage had only increased.

It was stated that repairs would likely cost over $10 million, but there was not yet any actual work to repair the structure.

Then it was time for the collapse. On 24 June 2021, part of the building collapsed into the ground. Rescue operations were immediately underway, and this Miami condo collapse made international news as the scramble to save as many people as possible had begun. The structure was demolished a few days after the collapse. Investigations have been underway ever since.


The Architecture of the Champlain Towers South

The Champlain Towers South building was not an interesting architectural site in any sense. It made use of a more Modernist style that included Mediterranean elements. However, it was constructed in a rather basic condominium style with a rectangular design and a simple façade. The walls were white, and the balconies provided a view of the ocean.

There were a few fairly standard decorative elements throughout the design of the structure, such as columns and arches, and as some of those columns received structural damage, they may have been part of the cause of the Surfside building collapse.

Other elements included the red-tiled roof that was built at a slight slope. The man in charge of the design was William M. Friedman and he was not particularly well-known as an architect. He had a practice, but after he passed away in 2018, the practice shut its doors. He was responsible for the design of all three of the buildings that formed part of the complex. He also designed another condominium building but is otherwise a relatively unknown figure.

Cause of Surfside Building CollapseA view of the partially collapsed Champlain Towers South condo building, with rescue workers visible on the ground (2021); Miami-Dade Fire Rescue Department, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons


The Cause of the Surfside Building Collapse

The Champlain Towers South collapsed on 24 June 2021, and as soon as the building had crumbled, investigations began into what could have caused the tragedy. Some of the major factors that have been listed as possible causes include:

  • Concrete structural degradation. Over the course of time, everything eventually corrodes away. The concrete support structures appear to have been subject to long-term neglect and, as such, repairs were needed. This was known as early as 2018, but there had not yet been any real repairs made by the time the building collapsed.
  • The sinking of the building. It was determined in a 2020 report that the Champlain Towers South was sinking into the ground. This was not seen as a particular problem at the time, but in the wider context of the building’s collapse, it may have been more serious than it had been reported.
  • Construction-based corruption. There is the possibility that corruption led to the use of substandard construction materials to reduce the costs of the building, and as there were reports from various residents that the building had been cheaply designed, this may have been a contributing factor.
  • Insufficient use of reinforcement steel. The Champlain Towers South building appeared to have an insufficient amount of steel throughout its construction, and this would have affected the stability of the structure. It appears that the amount of reinforcement was less than what is generally considered to be standard in contemporary structures.

Champlain Tower DeveloperRubble of the partially collapsed Champlain Towers South building and rescue workers from the Miami-Dade Fire Rescue Department preparing to enter the rubble with a rescue dog (2021); Miami-Dade Fire Rescue Department, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

These are some of the possible elements that could have led to the Miami condo collapse. However, investigations are still underway at the time of writing, and so there may be additional information made available to the public in the future. For now, though, this is all that we really know. These factors are all generally long-term factors, and one of these elements may have triggered the others.

This means that it is likely that all of these causes occurred simultaneously to lead to the collapse of the building.


The Aftermath of the Champlain Towers South’s Collapse

As soon as the collapse occurred, the Champlain Towers South was subject to an intensive search and rescue operation. The search lasted 29 days before it was ultimately ended. The rescuers managed to pull a number of people out of the wreckage, but 98 people lost their lives in the disaster.

Additionally, investigations immediately started and looked into what had caused the collapse and whether anyone needed to face prosecution because of it.

However, as those who own the Champlain Towers South include everyone who lived there, they are likely not to blame. Instead, the condominium association, architects, contractors, and everyone else involved in the construction and maintenance may be liable. Regardless of who is ultimately determined to be to blame, if anyone, the Champlain Towers South still collapsed and many people lost their lives in the devastating disaster.

Miami Condo CollapseFirefighters from the Miami-Dade Fire Rescue Department searching through the rubble of the partially collapsed Champlain Towers South building for survivors (2021); Miami-Dade Fire Rescue Department.The original uploader was TheEpicGhosty at English Wikipedia., Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

The exact causes are not yet known in definitive terms, but further investigations will hopefully lead to some answers in this department. However, it does go to show that regular upkeep and maintenance, while often costly, are immensely important with regard to the structures that we live inside.


We have come to the end of our look at the Champlain Towers South collapse. We have examined the mostly un-notable history of the structure prior to the disaster, some of the possible causes of it, and what has occurred as a result. Perhaps more information will be made clear in the coming years, but that is yet to be seen.




Frequently Asked Questions


What Was the Champlain Towers South?

The Champlain Towers South was a beachfront condominium located in Surfside, which is a suburb of Miami. The building itself was not particularly notable in any architectural sense, and it only attained fame because of a tragedy. The structure collapsed in mid-2021 and led to the deaths of nearly a hundred people. The cause of the Surfside building collapse is still being investigated at the time of writing.


What Was the Architectural Style of Champlain Towers South?

The Champlain Towers South was a relatively simple design that made use of a Modernist general aesthetic with a few Mediterranean elements, such as a red-tiled roof. The design, as a whole, was fairly standard for condominium design, and there were a few additional elements, such as columns and arches. The Champlain Towers South is not known for its architecture though and is rather known for the tragedy that occurred there.


Who Owns the Champlain Towers South?

There are many owners of the Champlain Towers South. Individual condos within the structure were owned by various individuals, and this led to the building being a common-interest community. This meant that the common areas were jointly owned by all owners of the various condos within the larger structure. Upkeep fees fell on all the owners, and were collected by the building’s condominium association rather than the Champlain Tower developers.


Why Is the Champlain Towers South Famous?

The Champlain Towers South was never famous for any reason relating to the building itself. Instead, the structure became famous overnight when part of the structure collapsed on the 24th of June 2021. The structure has also since been demolished, and so this will likely remain the only thing for which the building is known.


Who Designed the Champlain Towers South?

The Champlain Towers South was designed by William M. Friedman. This Floridian architect was not a particularly known figure and was instead responsible for a few condominium structures in the city, including the full Champlain Towers complex. His architectural practice was closed after he passed away in 2018.


Cite this Article

Justin, van Huyssteen, “Champlain Towers South – The Tragedy of the Champlain Towers.” artfilemagazine – Your Online Art Source. August 18, 2023. URL:

van Huyssteen, J. (2023, 18 August). Champlain Towers South – The Tragedy of the Champlain Towers. artfilemagazine – Your Online Art Source.

van Huyssteen, Justin. “Champlain Towers South – The Tragedy of the Champlain Towers.” artfilemagazine – Your Online Art Source, August 18, 2023.

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