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Elle Decor Italia

New York Reimagined, all the projects that never saw the light

“Never Built New York”, an exhibition at the Queen’s Museum exploring how New York would look like now

Courtesy the Queens Museum. Photo by Hai Zhang

“Never Built New York” is an exhibition at the Queen’s Museum (open until the 18th of February) displaying all the projects that could have changed the Big Apple. Curated by Sam Lubell and Greg Goldin, and staged by Studio Christian Wassmann, the exhibition drew on 40 archives (both public and private) looking for projects that were never implemented. A cemetery of lost ideas, a representation of how New York would have looked like if these projects went forward and of how different its skyline would be right now. It is the testimony of changing needs, of the technical and practical issues that architecture has to face.

The exhibition comprises many famous names and visionary projects, which were either too advanced or too bizarre to see the light. Frank Lloyd Wright, Robert Moses, Diller Scofidio + Renfro, Frank Gehry, and Zaha Hadid are some of the masters that were denied going forward with their projects. Sometimes, as architects know, projects are emended more than abandoned. For example, this is the case of Howe and Lescaze’s Modern Art Museum, designed in 1930 and used as an inspiration for the Philadelphia’s PSFS in 1932, considered America’s first skyscraper. 

Photo: Courtesy The Museum of Modern Art, New York

In the exhibition, you will see the scale models of some of these skyscrapers, placed where they were meant to be, to show you how different New York would look nowadays. For instance, you can see the Harlem Skyrise Project by R. Buckminster Fuller & Shoji Sadao and June Jordan (in the cover). 

Photo: Courtesy Columbia University GSAPP

Photo: Courtesy The Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation Archives

A gem that deserves to be mentioned is Frank Lloyd Wright’s project for Ellis Island, who designed a truly futuristic city on the island. The architect, however, demanded full control over the project and this resulted in it failing, giving up space for the grim Immigration Museum. 

Photo: Courtesy Columbia University GSAPP

Among the failed icons, there’s I.M. Pei’s tower. With its hyperbolic shape, it resembles Eastern modern buildings and in 1956 it was already meant to be higher that the Empire State Building. 

Photo: Courtesy Library of Congress

Even Central Park could look completely different. The fear that city’s ‘green lung’ was not going to measure up to others such as Les Jardins de Tuilleries in Paris brought to life great ideas. For example, in 1863 Richard Morris Hunt wanted to carefully organise its territory and add waterfalls to it. 

Photo: Courtesy The Estate of R. Buckminster Fuller

From a more dystopic point of view, the winner would be the Dome over Manhattan by Buckminster Fuller (1960). A glass and aluminium dome that was meant to protect Manhattan from the cold winds and allow the growth of a tropical garden. 

Photo: Courtesy Columbia University GSAPP


by Stefano Annovazzi Lodi / 8 November 2017


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