This is part of our weekly series, Lost Masterpieces, about the greatest buildings and works of art that were destroyed or never completed.
By the side of a highway on the outskirts of Rome, a mountain of white steel pops out of the landscape. Curved and climbing to a peak like a rigid circus tent, its gridded, geodesic framing appears from a distance to be some sort of humpback dinosaur's skeleton.
And it is a skeleton, in a way.
This white steel structure is the half-built shell of one building of the Città dello Sport, or Sports City, a complex of sporting facilities for the University of Rome Tor Vergata, master-planned in 2005 by the Spanish architect Santiago Calatrava.
Originally intended to include two matching mountain-like stadium pavilions, a handful of outdoor recreational facilities and a long park connecting the complex to university administration buildings, this shell, a swimming stadium, was the only project to materialize in any significant way.
The raw concrete of the stadium seating and the pools below sit open to the elements, unfinished and slowly deteriorating inside the giant white cage, the bones of a building that died before it could live.
Like a number of other recent Calatrava projects, the Sports City complex proved to be much more expensive to build than initial estimates.
The architect, who has garnered acclaim for his sculptural bridges and civic structures, has weathered criticism for charging high fees and having some of his projects suffer durability issues after completion.
A complex of cultural buildings that opened in 2005 in his hometown of Valencia ended up seeing its scope expand and costing four times as much as originally planned. Parts of an opera house roof there began to fall off just a few years after it was built.
The recently opened World Trade Center Transportation Hub in Lower Manhattan, another Calatrava design, saw its costs nearly double to almost $4 billion.
But unlike those projects, which opened despite their soaring costs, the Sports City complex ground to a halt as its pricetag ballooned.
Construction on the project began in 2007, and the scope was soon altered to include more seating and have the stadium facilities complete in time to host the 2009 World Swimming Championships. But shortly after construction began, the cost estimates were revised to roughly €300 million, more than double the initial cost.
With the global recession hitting Italy hard, it became clear that not enough money could be made available to finish the project by the 2009 swimming event. And then the costs kept rising. And then the project stalled completely.
In 2010, after it had sat for more than a year, the project got a second chance. Rome's bid for the 2020 Olympics included a plan to raise the money to finish the project by 2013. But the city eventually pulled out of the bidding process. Since then, the half-built stadium has sat lifeless and empty.
The white elephant phenomenon is not particularly new when it comes to sports facilities.
The 2004 Athens Olympics, for example, left behind dozens of facilities with limited potential for reuse after the games, and which are now sitting mostly abandoned.
A stadium built in Brasilia, Brazil, for the 2014 World Cup, has struggled to fund outside after the event, aside from hosting a few weddings and birthday parties. The costs of maintaining these facilities can run into the millions per month.
A March 2015 article from Corriere Della Sera estimated that more than €200 million in public money had been spent to build most of the swimming stadium and the foundation of the matching multi-sport stadium that would be next door.
It was thought that another €426 million would be needed to complete the project—bringing the total cost to roughly six times the original budget.
Though the project appears dead, there's at least one sign of life. Sport City has once again been included in an Olympic bid, for the 2024 Games. The winning bid will be announced in September 2017, 10 years after construction first started. Rome is one of four cities in the running for hosting duties.
It's clearly not a sure bet that the bid goes through and the money presents itself to revive the half-built skeleton of a stadium at Sport City. But it may be the only chance the project has to come back to life.