Unbuilt London: The Best Of The Rest

After looking at the transport schemes, skyscrapers and bridges that were dreamt up by quixotic architects for the London that was never to be, in this final part of the series we’ve collected all the other mad ideas that cropped up during our research. If there’s any others you think we should have included, let us know in the comments.

Crystal Palace

In 2003 the practice Wilkinson Eyre knocked up a plan for a 150m long pod-like structure, to be built on the grounds of the Crystal Palace. In keeping with the site’s heritage, the pod, intended as a sculpture park, would have been built entirely from glass, and access to the interior would have been via the world’s longest travelator. More images of the proposal can be seen here.

A Martian Colony

You can read more about this from our earlier post about it, but essentially the plan was to raze Bankside Power Station and replace it with a prototype inhabitable structure for a colony on Mars.

Thames Lido

In the mid-1990s the architectural firm Lifschutz Davidson drew up plans for a floating Thames lido, moored near Gabriel’s Wharf on the South Bank. The idea was inspired by the Victorian floating pool at Charing Cross. The project never went ahead, but a more ambitious recent scheme on the other side of the Thames, the London River Park, also includes a smaller pool.

Tate Modern

Office for Metropolitan Architecture took a dramatic approach with their entry for the competition to redevelop Bankside Power Station into Tate Modern. Their vision was to strip much of the building’s exterior wall away and leave it exposed to the elements. According to a manifesto that accompanied the proposal: “The building offers space, but it is not suitable for art, it offers shelter, but it leaks and has to be repaired… [it] will be the only museum in the world marooned on a mud bank, twice every 24 hours. It may need drastic strategies of dissociation; a Turneresque blur of brick from which strategies of dissociation will have to rescue / recuperate it.”

Unsurprisingly, the entry wasn’t successful.

Fun Palace

Cedric Price is the architect’s architect, a man who didn’t build much but left a lasting impression. His sole London project was the aviary at London Zoo; however, his most important legacy in the capital was the plan for an ambitious theatrical and cultural space called the Fun Palace. Drawn up in conjunction with Joan Littlewood in 1961, the Fun Palace was designed to be a huge, transformable machine, contained within a steel superstructure but essentially formless inside and ready to be easily re-moulded into whatever use was required of it.

V&A Spiral

This controversial deconstructivist addition to the august Victoria & Albert Museum was approved in 1997, to much public derision. Designed by Studio Daniel Libeskind, the Spiral would have been a dedicated gallery for contemporary design. However, it was cancelled in 2004. A new gallery extension on the same site, by Amanda Levete Architects, was approved last year, while Libeskind’s sole London work remains the London Metropolitan University graduate centre on Holloway Road.

The Londondome

Long before the Millennium Dome was a twinkle in the eye of Peter Mandelson, we nearly had the Londondome: a 23,000 seat multi-use arena in the Royal Docks, to act as an anchor for the area’s wider regeneration. The early 1990s economic downturn killed off the scheme. We covered the Londondome in greater detail in our Recessionist series.

Pickett’s Lock

London’s bid for the 2005 World Athletics Championships centred around the building of a new 43,000-seater stadium at Pickett’s Lock, Edmonton. However, the project was dropped in 2001 due to spiralling costs and the bid later withdrawn. London has since successfully bid to host the 2017 WAC, with the Olympic Stadium as the venue.

Olympic Stadium

Of the many rejected designs for the Olympics, one in particular that catches the eye is Foreign Office Architect’s scheme for the main stadium, which looked a bit like a crouched armadillo amidst the greenery of the Queen Elizabeth Park. It was rejected for being too costly. There’s an interior pic of the stadium here, in which it seems to have grown a somewhat misplaced Cycle Superhighway around the edge of the running track.

Serpentine Pavilion

During its eleven year history, only once has a Serpentine Pavilion not been raised. In 2004 the practice MVRDV came up with a radical concept: they planned to envelop the Serpentine Gallery in a 23m-high mountain, covered with artificial grass, which visitors would be able to climb. Unfortunately, costs and structural impracticalities meant the project was eventually canned.

Architecture Foundation

Rubbishing the oft-made suggestion that modern architects wouldn’t want to live in the wild designs they create, in 2005 the Architecture Foundation selected this angular design by Zaha Hadid for their proposed new office and gallery space on Southwark Street. The project was cancelled in 2008 due to economic concerns, and the Architecture Foundation remains at its original Tooley Street address, although as we’ve seen before, they’ve made an addition to the building.

Wellington Arch

In the 1820s, the waft of anti-French jingoism inspired by the battle of Waterloo prompted a number of monuments in honour of the Wellington. One of the ideas, proposed by John Martin, was for a vast arch over Marylebone Road, with a statue of the Duke at its apex. Such bombast never came to pass, and instead we got the more sedate Wellington Arch at the entrance to Hyde Park.

International Music Hall & Opera House

In the 1930s there was a plan for a major new opera house at Hyde Park Corner. More than that, we can’t tell. If anybody has any further information about it, let us know in the comments.

See all previous entries in Unbuilt London

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