According to architectural curator Lukas Feireiss, “The future of any building is its ruin.” It doesn’t matter if it's the Colosseum, the amphitheater at Leptis Magna, or Detroit’s Michigan Central Railroad Station, decline and fall is inevitable. In time, all architecture succumbs to the forces of nature; however, some buildings and structures become must-see tourist attractions, while others degenerate and decay, their plundered interiors and boarded up remains nothing but symbols of forgotten prosperity.
Architecture serves a practical, utilitarian purpose, but it can also have a more quixotic aim. There are countless examples of architecture of the imagination, speculative blueprints of upside down apartments, office buildings that split like M.C. Escher zippers in midair, and skyscrapers made of clouds. In other words, architects like to build buildings that don’t exist. Whether budget cuts were to blame, lawsuits, war, public outcry, a lack of materials, or the master builder’s vision was simply too big to realize, here are 10 bizarre building that were never built
10 The Russia Tower
Designed by London based Sir Norman Foster’s firm of architects, the 620 meter Russia Tower was to feature 118 floors, 101 elevators, and have the capacity for 30,000 people. Described as a “dense vertical city,” the tower would have contained offices, a hotel, shopping center, and apartments with private gardens for 25,000 people. The Russia Tower would have been the tallest tower in Europe and the second largest in the world. Work began on the Russia Tower in 2007, but the credit crisis prevented developers from securing the $2 billion needed to complete the structure.
The Russia Tower was scraped in 2009, and according to PropertyWire the 2.4 hectare site will be turned into a car park for 3,000 vehicles.
9 Phare du Monde
Designed by French engineer Eugene Freyssinet, Phare du Monde (“Lighthouse of the World”) was a 701 meter (1,600 ft.) observation tower that was to be built on the outskirts of Paris for the 1937 World Fair. Advertised as the “Pleasure Tower Half Mile High” the spiraling concrete structure was specifically designed for automobiles, ending in a light beacon, restaurant, and parking garage for 500 cars.
The tower takes its name from the 1905 Jules Verne novel, The Lighthouse at the End of the World. The focus on the car in such an innovative building is seen as proof that the automobile had become “the primary force in determining the appearance of the ordinary landscapes of cities.” If it had been built, Phare du Mode would have been the only tower in the world fully accessible to cars
8 The Illinois
In 1956, Frank Lloyd Wright proposed The Illinois (also known as Illinois Sky-City), a mile-high skyscraper designed to be built in the center of Chicago. If it had been constructed, the 528-floor behemoth would have been the tallest building in the world, twice as tall as the Burj Khalifa in downtown Dubai and four times as tall as the Empire State Building, which was the tallest building in the world at the time. The Illinois was designed to have 76 atomic-powered elevators and parking spaces for 15,000 cars and 150 helicopters.
7 The Fourth Grace/The Cloud
British architect Will Alsop is known for his controversial modernists buildings. In 2002, in preparation for its Capital of Culture bid, the city of Liverpool launched a search for an architect and developer to create the “Fourth Grace,” a structure that would join three other landmarks -the Liver building, Cunard, and Port of Liverpool Authority -along the city’s historic waterfront. Alsop submitted the winning design, a 10-story globe that he called The Cloud. However, rising costs, design changes, and planning problems doomed the project. A Guardian columnist called The Cloud a “diamond knuckleduster,” and people in Liverpool didn’t take to it.
6 Nakheel Harbor and Tower
The Nakheel Harbor and Tower project was designed to serve as the unofficial capital of Dubai. At 4,600 ft., the tower would have been the largest structure in the world and the centerpiece of the 270-hectare development. The project would have included 40 other buildings -offices and homes for over 100,000 people -near Ibn Batuta Mall and the Arabian Canal. The Nakheel Harbor and Tower project was supposed to take 10 years to complete and require 30,000 laborers. However, development was put on hold in January 2009 because of the global economic downturn, and 18 months later it was officially cancelled.
5 Tatlin's Tower
Envisioned by Russian architect Vladimir Tatlin in 1919, Tatlin’s Tower was a utopian project intended to stand 400-meters high and serve as the headquarters and monument to the Third Communist International. Designed with industrial materials such as iron, glass, and steel, the Constructivist tower was to be erected in Leningrad (St. Petersburg) after the Bolshevik Revolution of 1917 as a symbol of progress and modernity.
Architecturally surreal, the Tower’s main form was designed as a sort of twin helix. The framework would contain large suspended geometric structures –cube, pyramid, cylinder -that would rotate at different rates of speed, and the entire structure would complete a rotation in the span of one year. Soviet critic Victor Shklovsky called Tatlin’s Tower a “monument made of steel, glass and revolution.”
4 Hotel Attraction
Renowned Spanish architect Antoni Gaudi reinterpreted neoclassical designs with an individualized and distinctive style known as “organic construction.” Part of the Catalan Modernism movement of the late 19th and early 20th centuries, Gaudi was influenced by nature and natural forms and integrated crafts such as ceramics, stained glass, and floral metalwork into his structures. UNESCO declared seven of his works World Heritage Sites, and his unfinished masterpiece, Sagrada Familia, is the most visited building in Spain.
In 1908, American businessmen Edward T. Carlton and William Gibbs McAdoo commissioned Gaudi to design a hotel in Lower Manhattan. Gaudi proposed a 980 to 1,100 ft. structure that contained an exhibition hall, conference rooms, a theater, and five dinning rooms. However, the building never materialized, and few people even knew about the project until 1956, when Gaudi’s sculptor and collaborator, Joan Matamala Flotats, made it public in the report "When the World Called Gaudi."
3 Palace of the Soviets
In 1931, Stalin’s Communist regime held an international architecture competition for the Palace of the Soviets, an administrative center and congress hall that was to be built near the Kremlin. Russian architect Boris Iofan’s won the competition with a design for a neoclassical skyscraper; the structure, which looked like a massive tiered wedding cake, would have been the tallest at the time and crowned with an 80-meter high statue of Lenin.
Construction on the Palace of the Soviet began in 1937, but money ran out and the project was terminated when Hitler launched Operation Barbarossa. After World War II, the site was turned into the world’s largest open-air swimming pool. Today, a full-scale replica of the Tsarist cathedral occupies the site.
2 X-Seed 4000
In 1995, Peter Neville, an architect working for Japan’s Taisei Corporation, dreamed up the X-Seed 4000, a 2.5-mile high steel skyscraper in the shape of Mount Fuji. In fact, the X-Seed 4000 was designed to be slightly taller than Japan’s largest mountain. Neville's futuristic environment could accommodate 500,000 to 1,000,000 inhabitants, who would zip around the 800-floor structure on MagLev trains. According to George Binder, managing director of Buildings & Data, “the X-Seed 4000 was never meant to be built but to demonstrate the Taisei Corporation’s ambition and skill, and earn the firm recognition.” The X-Seed 4000 would have cost over $1 trillion to build.
1 The Volkshalle
Albert Speer was the “first architect” of the Third Reich and Hitler’s Minister of Armaments and War Production. Hitler’s vision of Germany after the “planned” victory of World War II involved the renewal of Berlin. Speer produced many of the plans for this rebuilt city, a project he called “World Capital Germania.”
The "New Berlin" featured monumental avenues, parade-ground squares, and large neoclassical civic buildings. The Volkshalle, or People’s Hall, was the centerpiece of the new capital. Inspired by Emperor Hadrian’s Pantheon in Rome, Speer envisioned the Volkshalle as a colossal dome with an auditorium so large it could hold 180,000 Nazi supporters. According to the BBC, “the dome of St. Peter’s, the world’s biggest church, could have been lowered through the 46-meter diameter oculus of the Volkshalle.”