New book explores the world of unbuilt architecture

In the world of architecture, there are many plans that never actually get built. A new book, “Atlas of Never Built Architecture,” by Greg Goldin and Sam Lubell, is a compendium of buildings, city plans and other structures that were designed, but never actually got off the ground.

The World

Thinking big has brought humanity ambitious, monumental feats of architecture — from the elegance of the Taj Mahal in India to the Burj Khalifa in Dubai, the world’s tallest building. But many others never made it out of the blueprint phase.

The new book, “Atlas of Never Built Architecture,” by Greg Goldin and Sam Lubell is a compendium of buildings, city plans, and other structures that were designed, but never actually got off the ground.

“Atlas of Never Built Architecture,” by Sam Lubell and Greg Goldin.Courtesy of Phaidon Press

“You’re learning about talents that got lost by the wayside,” Lubell said of the minds behind the projects left unbuilt. “Maybe if a big project had happened, they would have been household names.”  

During the research process for the book, Lubell said one city, in particular, stood out for ambitious and unique architectural plans.

Leapfrog City, John Johansen, New York, New York, United States, 1968. Picture credit: Avery Architectural & Fine Arts Library, Columbia University / Reproduced with permission of Christen Johansen (page 66, top). Courtesy of Phaidon Press

“Paris is a place that a lot of people think is sort of frozen in amber and a historical city, but it’s really not,” he explained. “And the ideas there have always really been incredibly forward-thinking, going back to the 16th century, really.”

Telefónica Tower, Alberto Campo Baeza, Madrid, Spain, 2000.Estudio de Arquitectura Campo Baeza (page 167, bottom). Courtesy of Phaidon Press

For example, Lubell and Goldin found plans for cities constructed under the Seine, the river cutting through the center of Paris. Another proposed building was a signal tower, which would have indicated weather, time, and news. “Sort of like a modern-day iPhone, but it’s the size of a skyscraper,” added Lubell.

Siloo O, NL Architects, Amsterdam, Netherlands, 2011. NL Architects (page 136, bottom). Courtesy of Phaidon Press.

One of the most unique proposals he came across was an egg-shaped building design proposed for the Centre Pompidou in Paris. Envisioned by architect André Bruyère, “L’Oeuf” featured a globular, yolk-like foyer.

Stone Towers, Zaha Hadid, Cairo, Egypt, 2009.Courtesy of Zaha Hadid Architects (page 270, bottom). Courtesy of Phaidon Press

Other designs include Baghdad’s city plan re-envisioning and a soaring hotel perched on a peak overlooking Machu Picchu in Peru.

Skylight Sport Centre, Josep Miàs, Port d’Envalira, Andorra, 2015.Courtesy of MIAS Architects (page 165, top). Courtesy of Phaidon Press

While Lubell said the research process for the book was a lot of fun — likening it to a treasure hunt — he said he hopes it offers future architects, city planners, and others inspiration for newer projects.

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