Alternative New York: The “Never Built” Project Comes to the Big Apple

by ArchDaily
- Jun 29 2017 - 2 min read
Buckminster Fuller Dome, 1961.
Buckminster Fuller Dome, 1961. Image courtesy Metropolis Books.

The “Never Built” world so far includes Never Built Los Angeles, a book and exhibit, and the book Never Built New York. Now, the Queens Museum plans to continue the exploration into the New York that might have been with a Never Built New York exhibition after its Kickstarter campaign raised more than $50,000 ($15,000 more than the goal).

The exhibition, curated by Sam Lubell and Greg Goldin and designed by Christian Wassmann, will explore 200 years of wild schemes and unbuilt projects that had the potential to vastly alter the New York known today.

Frank Gehry, Guggenheim Museum, 2000.
Frank Gehry, Guggenheim Museum, 2000. Courtesy Metropolis Books.

Set to open in September 2017, the crowdsourced exhibit will feature original drawings, renderings, newly built models, and 3D visualizations. Supporters of the Kickstarter campaign will be rewarded with an exhibition print, special access to the exhibit, and even one of the 3D-printed models from the exhibit. Their funds will support the gallery installation, showing rarely seen models, drawings, and sketches—including more than 70 models to be installed on the Museum’s Panorama of the City of New York display.

By seeing the visions of what New York could have looked like, visitors to the exhibit will learn about the backstory of why the city looks the way it does today. Some of the most visionary and innovative concepts for New York also give visitors an insight into the design process of the creative minds that dreamt them up. Many of the unrealized designs highlight the fact that society’s most pressing social issues are entirely tied up in the built environment; some of the craziest schemes were in response to perceived social problems that still ring true today. The Queens Museum hopes that success of the Kickstarter campaign will start a community dialogue about addressing these problems in innovative ways.

From left: Howe and Lescaze MoMA; Rufus Henry Gilbert’s Elevated Railway; SHoP, Flushing Stadium, 2013; and Charles Rollinson Lamb’s Diagonal Plan, 1904. Images courtesy Metropolis Books.

The Kickstarter campaign and the exhibit itself will give supporters and other visitors a chance to inhabit a world that never was—a journey where they’ll find themselves among well-known names but unfamiliar surroundings. Could visitors picture a glass dome covering Manhattan? Buckminster Fuller did, in the interest of creating a perfect climate year-round. What if the Sixth Avenue Elevated Line was instead a pneumatic railway, complete with Gothic arches and Corinthian columns? Ellis Island, too, could have looked much different before it became a national monument. Frank Lloyd Wright envisioned it as an entirely self-contained city of the future with air-conditioned domes and moving sidewalks.

The exhibition will allow visitors to forget, for a time, the reality of what came to be and instead spend an extended daydream with some of the most visionary creative thinkers of the past two centuries.

Article by Megan Fowler. A version of this article appeared on ArchDaily.

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