Never Built New York: Projects From Gaudí, Gehry and Wright that Didn’t Make it in Manhattan

Ever since its unprecedented skyward growth in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, Manhattan has been an icon of construction all over the world, with recent estimates concluding that the island contains some 47,000 buildings. However, as with all construction, completed projects are just the tip of the architectural iceberg; Manhattan is also the home of many thousands of unloved, incomplete, and downright impossible proposals that never made it big in the Big Apple.

Of course, the challenges of New York are indiscriminate, and even world-renowned architects often have difficulties building in the city. After the break, we take a look at just three of these proposals, by Antoni Gaudí, Frank Lloyd Wright and Frank Gehry, courtesy of 6sqft.

Antoni Gaudí’s Skyscraper Família

Designed by Gaudí in 1908 and only uncovered by a 1956 report by Gaudí’s collaborator Joan Matamala, the details of the colossal “Hotel Attraction” project are largely mysterious, with the client and exact site for the project remaining unknown. What is known though is that the project was intended for Southern Manhattan and planned to be 360 meters tall, which had it been constructed would have secured the Hotel Attraction the title of world’s tallest right up until the completion in 1931 of the Empire State Building (although this may be purely academic, considering that the only project by Gaudí of comparable size is still under construction 133 years later).

Of Gaudí’s original drawings, only some basic sketches and interior drawings remain, but the design has been given new life repeatedly over the years: first by Matamala’s drawing (top image, right) which he produced for his report; then again by a group of Spanish architects who submitted the design for the rebuilding of the World Trade Center site; finally the design received an outing in the 2010 television series Fringe, where it poignantly forms a major part of the New York skyline in an alternate reality similar to, but ultimately different from our own.

Frank Lloyd Wright’s Usonian Skyscrapers

Through proposals such as Broadacre City Frank Lloyd Wright made it clear that he was no advocate of urban density, however this didn’t prevent him from courting a piece of Manhattan’s construction action. Decades before he completed his seminal Guggenheim building, Wright proposed a trio of towers to surround St. Mark’s Church-in-the-Bowery. He attempted to leave space between the new buildings to provide park space, and to preserve the church on the site.

The design is also the first appearance of Wright’s innovative “taproot” structural system for tall buildings in which the floors are cantilevered off of the central core instead of being supported by columns, freeing up the building’s facade. At the time, this system was striking enough that the press lauded it as “New York’s first all-glass building.” The design feature would also make it into both of Wright’s completed highrise buildings: the Research Tower for Johnson Wax and the Price Building in Bartlesville, Oklahoma.

Frank Gehry’s East River Extravaganza

Riding high on the spectacular success of the Guggenheim Bilbao, in the early 2000s both Frank Gehry and the Guggenheim Foundation were looking to capitalize on what appeared to be a winning formula. The result was this plan for a new Guggenheim Museum on the East River, a 40-story tall sprawling titanium behemoth with 200,000 square feet of exhibition space which would dwarf not only the original museum by Wright but also its new Spanish cousin.

Eventually though, the ambitious proposal became the victim of both financial troubles at the Guggenheim and of the changed political and cultural climate after the September 11th attacks. Instead, the site is now the subject of a plan by SHoP Architects, who have proposed a tower which sits less conspicuously among the Manhattan skyline.

Learn more about these three unbuilt projects at 6sqft here, here and here respectively.

Never Built New York: Projects From Gaudí, Gehry and Wright that Didn't Make it in Manhattan originally appeared on ArchDaily, the most visited architecture website on 25 Mar 2015.

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