Friday, May 6, 2011

The WSJ: "The Greatest Buildings Never Built"

Rem Koolhaas: Torre Bicentenario, Mexico City.  
Consumed by controversy and misunderstanding, the Torre Bicentenario was suppose to mark the 200th anniversary of Mexico's War of Independence.  When announced in 2007 of its plan, huge protests by locals for illegal use of land and a campaign to save a building stopped the project.  Can you see the shapes of two inverted pyramids?  They are connected together with what the designer calls "the sky lobby."

"Architectural history is told by the victors, city skylines their monuments, even when absent, unbuilt projects can exert a curiously powerful hold on the cultural imagination..." The WSJ, "The Greatest Buildings Never Built" By Tom Vanderbilt

Jean Nouvel: Green Blade, Los Angeles
The Green Blade could have been dubbed one of the world's thinnest buildings.  In 2008, Novel and his firm proposed this 45 story, 50 feet deep tower that would be wrapped in hanging hydroponic gardens in Santa Monica; the estimated cost was approximately $400 million.  Why didn't it break ground? The project was funded by Lehman Brothers.  With the financial collapse, the money that would have been used to fund Green Blade went to Alvarez and Marsal, the law firm representing Lehman.

Frank Gehry: Museum of Tolerance, Jerusalem.
Planned in a famously divided city, the Museum of Tolerance was announced in 2004.  Why is the building of tolerance became such a divided debate? The proposed site is set over a Muslim burial ground (of course, this accusation too is in dispute).  Other critics site the project as "an unnecessary and irreversible eyesore." With these roadblocks, Gehry and his firm left this project for other pursuits.

Norman Foster: Russia Tower, Moscow.
The Russia Tower was on its way to be Europe's tallest tower and the world's tallest naturally ventilated tower when it ran into a little small problem: It's financier (Russian billionaire, Shalva Chigrinsky) had to flee Russian under accusation of tax evasion and then he headed straight into the credit crunch debacle.

Daniel Libeskind: Extension for the Victoria and Albert Museum, London.
This extension was suppose to give the Victoria & Albert Museum the touch of over-the-top'ness and Bilboa'esque modernity to an "flagging institution."  But after 15 years after since its announced extension, the idea is just an idea.  Why? As critic Jonathan Glancey said, "a victim of cultural politics and general faffing about."
Zaha Hadid: Performing Arts Center, Dubai
In 2009, Sama Dubai (the developer) announced, "due to economic conditions the opera house is pending."  To an architect, when they hear "pending" it is like hearing "terminal".  Hadid's design has everything that is Dubai, at least the Dubai prior to the 50% drop in property value.  From a monorail, to its very own island.  It also housed a six-star hotel in a design that represents the rolling sandy dunes of Dubai.  Perhaps this won't be "pending" for very long.

From lack of financing to public scrutiny, these monumental victims created by some of the world's most celebrated architects never left the sketches from which it came.  Sadly, these stunning buildings can only be seen on paper as it sits and wait to break ground.  

Source: The WSJ Magazine, May 2011.  "The Greatest Buildings Never Built"."  Tom Vanderbilt.

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