Through history, many architects’ renderings of the things they’d like to build have been outlandish, and many more never came to fruition. But there are a few so outrageous and unlikely that they stick out, even from the pile of tree-studded mile high towers and buildings shaped like animals or wicker baskets.
So, to make you feel better about that new block of flats proposed on your road, here are some of the worst.
London’s pyramid of death, designed 1829
In the mid-imperialist flush of the 1800s, a Londoner named Thomas Wilson decided it was about time the city had its very own Egyptian-style pyramid mausoleum, perched atop Primrose Hill (the highest point in the city). It was to be “sufficiently capacious to receive 5,000,000 of the dead”.
Everyone else thought this was a terrible idea, and they built a normal cemetery in Kensal Rise instead.
Phare du Monde (“Lighthouse of the World”), 1937
This was due to be an observation tower at Paris’s 1937 World Fair (tagline: “Pleasure Tower Half Mile High”). It would have been (you guessed it) half a mile high, with a restaurant, sun lounge and beacon at the top, and a bizarre spiral road channelling cars up to a parking garage at the top of the tower.
Image: Newspaper advertisement, 1937.
Eugene Freysinnet, the tower’s designer, estimated that the tower would cost $2.5m to build (still only $42m when you adjust for inflation). The city, meanwhile, calculated that $25m (that’s $420m in today’s money) was probably a more accurate estimate, and showed him the door.
Alain de Botton’s atheist temple, 2012
OK, so this one could still technically be built – but de Botton has gone very quiet on the idea since he first proposed in 2012 that a skyscraper-esque temples to atheism should be built in London, with more to follow worldwide. The mock-up looks a bit like something out of a Batman film:
Image: Photograph: Thomas Greenall & Jordan Hodgson.
Its 46 metre height would represent the age of the earth (4.5bn years), with a single band of gold around the bottom representing how long mankind’s been around. It isn’t clear what the building would actually be used for; we’re guessing just lots of sitting around, not thinking about god. Which is exactly what we should be doing with the few remaining metres of space in London, of course. Nobody needs houses. There are already loads of houses.
Hitler’s town hall, 1939
This giant dome, the “Volkshalle” was dreamt up by Hitler to act as the centerpiece of Germania, the utopia he was planning to build. It was such a terrible plan that even the guy who designed it admitted the noise inside, bounced around by that dome, would probably deafen people. He also predicted that the dome would collect precipitation, causing it to occationally rain indoors.
Image: German Federal Archives.
When they built a test block of concrete to see if Berlin’s soil could support it, it sunk, but the ever-optimistic Herr Hitler decreed that the plans would go ahead anyway. Luckily, the war happened, so the noisy, rainy, sinking dome was never built.
The palace of the Soviets, 1931
In 1931, the Soviet government held a competition to design a giant palace dedicated to itself. The only criteria? It had to be visible anywhere in Moscow. The final design, topped by a 100m statue of Lenin, basically looks like the giant wedding cake of a man who is marrying himself:
The cathedral on the proposed site was demolished, and construction began, only to be halted when the steel from the foundations was ripped out for use in the war effort. Eventually, the plans were abandoned, and in 1958, the site was turned into the world’s largest open-air swimming pool.
The euthanasia rollercoaster, 2010
Image: Julijonas Urbonas.
OK, this one was more of an art project than an actual planned structure. But it’s so horrible we couldn’t bear to exclude it. From the website of the designer, Julijonas Urbonas:
Riding the coaster’s track, the rider is subjected to a series of intensive motion elements that induce various unique experiences: from euphoria to thrill, and from tunnel vision to loss of consciousness, and, eventually, death.
Read that again:
Oh, and if you’re lucky enough to somehow survive the coaster’s corkscrew bends:
You would soon recover from G-LOC (g-force induced loss of consciousness), remaining unconscious, and your body would flail around in a chaotic fit that is called “funky chicken” in aeromedical slang, as the neurons in the brain – replenished with extra oxygenated blood pumped harder from the heart – begin firing once again. This causes arms and legs to twitch uncontrollably.
Anyway, next time you think about writing a furious letter to the planning department, relax. At least it’s not a pyramid full of dead people, or a car park in the clouds.
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