Architects are some of the world’s best thinkers. Without new ideas, society cannot progress and evolve. They’re there to push the boundaries and test new concepts—which sometimes work.
But often, the architects' projects are cut off by monetary constraints, or by governments and planning committees who aren’t quite as progressive as they are. That means that an awful lot of innovative ideas for buildings, towns and cities fall by the wayside, left in drawers as paper plans and polystyrene models. Here are five amazing projects that were never built—examples of what could have been, rather than what was.
In the 1960s and '70s, Britain was buoyed by the Pilkington company's newfound ability to produce large plate glass. The company formed a new group, called the Glass Age Development Committee, to promote the use of glass as a building material. One of the committee's prized plans was Motopia, a car-based city designed by Geoffrey Alan Jellicoe. The cars, and all the roads, were to be placed on top of large glass buildings, leaving the ground for relaxation, greenery, and pedestrianized parkland. It would've been a stark contrast to today, where roads rule the ground. But ultimately, it was never built, and sketches are all that remain.
2. LAX’s giant dome
LAX already has unique architecture; its Theme Building looks like a giant spaceship rising up into the sky. But architects Pereira & Luckman’s original 1952 plans for the airport were even more outlandish. They wanted to encase the airport under a giant glass dome, with palm trees reaching up to the roof of the circular central hub building, from which the terminals would branch off.
3. Hotel Atraccion, New York
Edward Carlton, a hotelier, was a fan of Antoni Gaudi’s unique architectural designs. So in 1908, when Carlton wanted to build a new hotel for the superrich in Lower Manhattan, he travelled over to Spain to meet the architect and artist to commission him to design the building. The Hotel Atraccion would have been more than 1000 feet high and towered over New York, had Gaudi not abandoned the project a year later.
4. The Manhattan Dome
Even today, the allure of living under a protective bubble is strong—and it certainly was in 1960, when Buckminster Fuller and Shoji Sadao suggested encasing Manhattan in a 3.3km-wide dome made of shatterproof, one-way glass. Today the idea seems way too outlandish to be considered, but back in the 1960s promise and potential were freer.
5. The Green Bird, London
The people of London narrowly escaped a blush-worthy error in judgment when the Green Bird tower was trashed in 1990. Architects Future Systems suggested building an 83-floor tower 1450 feet high in Battersea, London that would curve over the city. The only problem was, well…it had an unfortunate shape that would never have escaped endless ridicule.