Our tube map shows some of the many schemes for London that were never built — from a giant pyramid on Primrose Hill, to a rooftop airport above King's Cross, to the bizarre skyscrapers that might have redefined the capital's skyline. Details of each 'station' are given below.
This is a companion piece to our tube map of lost London, which shows the buildings of the capital that have been demolished.
Bennie Airway (Queensway)
Today, any monorail plan is immediately greeted with a mocking rendition of that song off of The Simpsons. Back in the day, elevated rail schemes were all the rage. This speculative image shows a propeller-driven system called a railplane running along Bayswater Road and on to Heathrow, to the designs of George Bennie. Some versions would have been capable of 200 mph, if we're to believe the designers.
Bermondsey Garden City (Bermondsey)
"We'll pull down three-quarters of Bermondsey and build a garden city in its place." So declared the great Alfred Salter after his wife Ada got on to Bermondsey council in 1910. The Salters were successful in prompting the Wilson Grove estate of cottage-style dwellings. It remains a small anomaly in an area that would be characterised by the large housing blocks the Salters despised — the proposed garden city was more of a garden hamlet.
Chancery Deep (Chancery Lane)
Several deep-level shelters were built beneath London during the second world war, including Belsize Park, Camden, Goodge Street, Stockwell and three in Clapham. The plan was to eventually link them up and form a high-speed version of the Northern line. Chancery Lane shelter would have been a spur. The tunnels are still down there, but it never was converted into a station.
Charing Cross Heliport (Embankment)
This 1950s scheme for a heliport above Charing Cross station came at a time when everyone thought the helicopter would become a near-universal mode of transport. It didn't, although the plans are strangely prescient of the interior of a CD player.
Chelsea Barracks (Sloane Square)
The masterplan for this site in Chelsea has been through the wars — appropriate for a former barracks. The huge, housing-led scheme was drawn up by Lord Rogers, but later withdrawn after a controversial intervention from Prince Charles. A revised scheme is now going ahead with the creation of 448 new homes. You can't afford it.
Long in the doldrums, the historic Whiteleys department store (now shopping centre) is set for redevelopment into (what else?) luxury apartments. It's not the first such scheme for the site. We can't find much information about this model from the 1980s — all we know is that it would have involved a complete rebuild, and it reminds us of a set of gears or cogs.
Concrete Garden (Covent Garden)
This image, produced by English Heritage, gives some indication of what might have been for Covent Garden. When the fruit and veg market moved out to Nine Elms, various schemes were considered for the vacated real estate. This concrete hell was one such scheme, proposed in 1968.
Crick (Warren Street)
The Francis Crick Institute will open soon on the land behind the British Library — a world-class medical research centre in the heart of London. The original plans might have seen it (or something similar) incorporated into buildings a half mile to the west, over the crossroads from Warren Street. The scheme would have made use of the abandoned National Temperance Hospital, a forgotten Victorian landmark that still remains unoccupied. The site was ultimately deemed too small, and the hulking new-build beside St Pancras was chosen instead.
Crystal Curve (Waterloo)
The Festival of Britain in 1951 was symbolised by the temporary Skylon tower, the Dome of Discovery, and the more lasting Southbank Centre. The area might instead have looked like this — a proposal from designer Misha Black in 1946.
Crystal Way (Oxford Circus)
The railway mania of the mid-19th century saw all kinds of bizarre schemes put before Parliament. One of the most intriguing came in 1855 from architect William Moseley. He envisioned a subterranean railway from St Paul's to Oxford Circus, half a century before the Central line achieved the same, though powered by pneumatic pressure rather than electricity. Better yet, he wanted to cover the line with a glass-canopied walkway (see also Great Victorian Way). This 'Crystal Way' would have been lined with cafes and shops — a prototype of the shopping mall.
Darth Vader's Helmet (Mansion House)
For the past couple of years, the top end of Queen Victoria Street has been dominated by a huge building site, the new headquarters for Bloomberg. The architecture is relatively sober compared with what might have been. The original plans, by Norman Foster's practice, featured tottering walls and a bulbous protuberance, which has been likened to Darth Vader's helmet.
Diana Memorial Bridge (St Paul's)
20 years before the Garden Bridge, we almost got the Diana Memorial Bridge. The turfed span would have crossed the Thames where the much less mawkish Millennium Bridge now stands. Its sides would have carried the lyrics to Goodbye England's Rose, for goodness sake.
Dinner Jacket (Victoria)
The Victoria area is undergoing a radical transformation right now, with new office towers springing up everywhere. The previous wave, in the 1990s, almost included this distinctive tower from Michael Hopkins Architects, which we're dubbing the Dinner Jacket. The never-built tower might have been served by the never-built Air-Rail — a high-speed monorail between Victoria and Heathrow.
The rise of the motor car after the second world war coupled with plenty of berubbled land prompted plans to build large roads through central London. Most readers will be familiar with the Westway flyover, which cuts through north Paddington and Ladbroke Grove. Less well known (because it was never built) is the Eastway, which would have besmirched Victoria Park and followed (or replaced) the Regent's Canal to Angel.
Endless City (Old Street)
This remarkable building was proposed in 2014 by SURE Architecture. The so-called Endless City does appear to have an end, but not before reaching a similar height to the Shard. The tower is intended more as a conversation starter about the future of cities than a serious proposal, but we'd love to see something like this built in the right place. The architects never disclosed the preferred location, though mockup images suggest either Fenchurch Street or Shoreditch.
Flyover (Marble Arch)
Every few years, someone raises the prospect of pedestrianising Oxford Street. One solution, from the early 1980s, was to put the traffic up on a flyover that would run the length of the street. Pedestrians could then mill about below without fear of traffic. Ian Visits has the full story.
Fungus (Tottenham Court Road)
The Olympic year of 2012 was a golden time of strange ideas, as everyone and his/her CAD package dreamed up radical plans for a more liveable London. This scheme for a subterranean fungus farm in a disused Mail Rail tunnel beneath Oxford Street attracted quite a bit of interest. Cue endless jokes about there not being mushroom down there.
Grand Piazza (Moorgate)
Numerous plans were drawn up to rebuild the City following the Great Fire of 1666. Richard Newcourt wins the prize for most wretched, with this utilitarian grid system. The grand piazza in the middle would have opened up just south of Moorgate.
Great Victorian Way (Euston Square)
Go read the section above on the Crystal Way. Now imagine a much more ambitious version roughly following the Circle line. This would have been the Great Victorian Way, as proposed by Great Victorian Joseph Paxton of Crystal Palace fame. He got permission through an Act of Parliament, but the funds were never really there.
Green Bird (Vauxhall)
For some reason, the Vauxhall and Nine Elms area has attracted more madcap building proposals than most parts of town, from the Crystal Span bridge to the Dream City theme park. Champion of them all has to be the 442 metre Green Bird skyscraper, a 1990 proposal that is neither green, nor bird-shaped. Anyone with any worldly experience can see what it does, in fact, resemble.
Heatherwick Tower (Notting Hill Gate)
Designer of the Olympic Cauldron and New Routemaster Thomas Heatherwick also had a go at a new tower for Notting Hill. The building would have featured overlapping stone, like a wicker basket, but was withdrawn from planning for economic reasons.
Helter Skelter (Liverpool Street)
Of all the visions in this roundup, the Pinnacle — nicknamed the Helter Skelter — came closest to reality. The first seven floors of core made it above ground level before the project ran out of steam. What would have been the tallest, and most eye-catching building in the City was cancelled. The core has now been demolished and a less showy tower of similar height will rise in its place.
Holy Trinity (Holborn)
Holy Trinity church was built on Kingsway in the first decade of the 20th century. It was never completed. In an alternative universe, those exiting Holborn station would look across the road and see this towering spire. Alternatively, this station could serve as the western terminus of a subterranean cycle track — see Underline below.
Imperial Institute (South Kensington)
Imperial College stands on the site of the former Imperial Institute (later the Commonwealth Institute). The complex boasted three impressive campaniles (one of which still stands). However, this rival and unbuilt scheme by Thomas Graham Jackson would have seen a monumental tower rise above South Kensington.
Imperial Monument (Westminster)
Westminster and Whitehall are strewn with the vexed anteghosts of unrealised buildings, but none are more impressive than the Imperial Monument Halls and Towers. The 1904 plans by Seddon and Lamb would have seen a 167 metre gothic tower out-thrusting the Abbey and Houses of Parliament. The vast structure would have served as a monument to the British Empire, and an irresistible target for the Luftwaffe 40 years later.
Imperial Pyramid (Lancaster Gate)
Another scheme to celebrate the British Empire came from a David Walsh in 1903. His plan would have seen a towering pyramid on a classical base, a structure designed to last thousands of years. Ian Visits goes into more detail, suggesting that Hyde Park might have been chosen as the site.
Jellicoe Town (Piccadilly Circus)
That's our name for this post-war proposal to turn Soho into one giant megahunk of glass and concrete (£), put forward by Geoffrey Jellicoe (the image above is a modern interpretation by English Heritage). It was only intended as a conceptual design, but will still send shudders down any right-thinking person's spine.
Kearney's Dipper (Edgware Road)
How do you fancy commuting on an underground roller coaster with wheels like an in-line skate? It could have happened a century ago, when Elfric Kearney proposed a gravity-assisted transport system from Brondesbury to Herne Hill, passing through Edgware Road. Ian Visits has more on this original idea.
King's Cross Aerodrome (King's Cross St Pancras)
City planners of the early 20th century correctly assumed that air traffic was going to get more affordable and therefore more popular. Numerous schemes were put forward to build landing strips on top of the buildings of central London, particularly close to existing train stations. This 1931 plan shows a four-runway aerodrome behind King's Cross station. It could never have worked with modern jumbo jets, but might have been feasible for light aircraft. More here.
Klingon Embassy (Knightsbridge)
This sketch of an embassy building was drawn up by Joseph & F Milton Cashmore & Partners in 1960. It would have stood in Lowndes Square, close to Knightsbridge station. More than that, we don't know. Its imposing structure would have earned it the nickname 'the Klingon Embassy', if we'd had anything to do with it.
Lido Line (Marylebone)
The Regent's Canal is just a short walk north of Marylebone station. In an alternative universe, commuters now pile off the train, don their swimming costumes and front-crawl their way east to Camden and King's Cross. The so-called Lido Line was a half-serious proposal from YN Studio in 2012.
London River Park (Cannon Street)
The north bank of the Thames is nowhere near as much fun as its southern counterpart. Nowhere near. All this could have changed in 2011, when plans to build a kilometre of decking between Millennium Bridge and the Tower were, ahem, floated. The scheme quietly disappeared a year later — sunk by funding issues and objections from vested interests. Come to think of it, it doesn't look all that much fun anyway.
Loop Line (Kensington High Street)
The Central line was almost built as a loop, hooking round from Shepherd's Bush and returning to central London via Kensington and Charing Cross. Bank station would have been even more confusing than it already is.
Mars Colony (Southwark)
Before it was transformed into Tate Modern, the old Bankside Power Station almost got knocked down to make way for London's very own space centre. Founder of the Open University Michael Young wanted to set up an educational centre to enthuse the public about space. The centre would have included a sealed off simulation of a Martian colony. Read the full story here. The area seems to have some kind of cosmic pull. Plans for a 'Gagarin Tower' shaped like a space rocket were recently rejected.
Mile High Ecotower (Bank)
Proposed in 2008, we dubbed this one London's most ridiculous tower. The vast edifice could house 100,000 people in a structure that would be the world's tallest building. The proposal was barely serious, and filled with more holes than a Swiss cheese.
This impossibly slender skyscraper, known as St Botolph's or the Minerva Building, had planning permission to rise well above 200m near Aldgate. Plans fizzled out in 2006, and instead we got a squat, blue thing.
Nelson's Globe (Charing Cross)
The famous column might instead have been a globe. A rival scheme of 1841 by John Goldicutt placed the national hero on top of the world, as though he'd conquered the North Pole or something. Note also the oversized representation of Great Britain.
New Euston (Euston)
Had the second world war not intervened, Euston Station might have been built to match nearby Senate House. This American-inspired design of 1938 is by Percy Thomas, and has something of the Great West Road about it.
Newton (Leicester Square)
Given Isaac Newton's many links to London, it's surprising how poorly commemorated he is in the capital. A badly weathered bust of the great scientist was removed from Leicester Square a few years ago, but the area might have been home to a much more impressive memorial. In 1825, Thomas Steele, a pioneer of the diving bell, proposed a national monument, located on the site of Newton's house just south of the square. Actually, it would have been around Newton's home, encasing that house in a giant stepped pyramid. The whole would be surmounted by a sphere, resembling Newton's apple. It would serve as an HQ for the Royal Society, which Newton helped to found. Sadly, the plans sparked little interest. Newton's home was demolished and the Westminster Arts Library now stands on the site.
New Vatican (St James's Park)
Did you know that the Pope once toyed with the idea of moving the Vatican to London? Seriously. Well, those were the press rumours in 1861, when Pius IX decided he didn't like the idea of a united Italy. As far as we know, no architectural plans were ever drawn up for a London version of the Vatican, but we like to think of it occupying the site of the Catholic Westminster Cathedral, near St James's tube.
NoHo Square (Goodge Street)
Looking from above like an android's womb, the Candy Brothers' NoHo Square development was all set to replace Middlesex Hospital on Goodge Street. The scheme was lambasted by just about everyone for its vacuous name, then fell through during the 2007 financial crisis. Instead, we got the largely unmemorable Fitzroy Place development.
Opera (Hyde Park Corner)
Hyde Park Corner has attracted numerous proposals over the decades. Imagine this giant opera house squatting next to Buckingham Palace. The design is from 1928 by verbose American firm Corbett Harrison MacMurray Hood Fouilhoux & Crane.
Paddington Tower (Paddington)
Dubbed the Paddington Pole, this 72 storey behemoth was eventually withdrawn from the planning process, following vehement opposition. The tower, designed by Shard architect Renzo Piano, would have been by far the largest building in this part of London.
Penta (Gloucester Road)
Ever seen photos of the massive pyramidal hotel in North Korea? London almost had its own version in the shape of the Penta Hotel on Cromwell Road. The 1968 scheme was drawn up by Richard Seifert, who gave our city such beauties as Centre Point and Tower 42, among much else. Its bulk and height were unpalatable to planning authorities and it never escaped the drawing board.
The Monument to the Great Fire is today topped by a gold flaming urn, whose interior we've had the vertiginous pleasure of inspecting first hand. Hooke and Wren, who designed the Monument, originally had other ideas. The column was to have been topped by either a statue of Charles II, a sword-wielding lady, or else a golden phoenix representing rebirth and renewal. We can't help thinking this latter option would have give the Monument a more memorable appeal but, alas, the money wasn't there.
Pod House (Borough)
We hope this scheme remains unbuilt, for it would replace the Gladstone — one of the finest pubs in Borough. Plans call for a 10-storey tower "constructed using off-site manufactured living pods which will be connected to a primary reinforced concrete core structure". It looks as magical as it sounds.
Selfridges Tower (Bond Street)
The landmark department store on Oxford Street almost became even more of a landmark with this 1918 design for a malproportioned tower, similar in height to Centre Point. The ludicrous edifice was never built, except in biscuit form for a 2013 window display.
Sepulchre View (Great Portland Street)
19th century London had a big problem disposing of its dead. One solution was to build a huge mausoleum on top of Primrose Hill. Thomas Wilson's 1829 scheme would have seen a vast pyramid, some 90 storeys high, looming over north London, and loaded with five million bodies. While Chalk Farm station would be closer, we reckon the views from the south-east corner of Regent's Park — near Great Portland Street tube — would be most impressive.
Shackles (Tower Hill)
Tower Bridge is, perhaps, the ultimate icon of London. So it's hard to imagine the city if those in charge had picked one of the many alternative designs for the span. Here's one. Its resemblance to a pair of handcuffs or shackles would have resonated with that most famous of prisons, the Tower of London, which sits alongside.
Skyport One (Lambeth North)
Like a cross between The Jetsons and a flugelhorn, this towering structure would have served London's anticipated need for helicopter landing space. Dubbed Skyport One, the 1957 proposal would have towered over the Waterloo area. Quite why the pads had to be raised so high is not clear. This was one of numerous impressive schemes from the Glass Age Development Committee, who dreamed up many lofty ways to use glass architecturally at a time when that still seemed novel.
Temple to Atheism (Barbican)
In 2012, Alain de Botton suggested building a lofty monument to atheism at some undisclosed point within the Square Mile (we've plumped for Barbican). The 46 metre black monolith would have been hollow and open to the elements, a place for people to stand, ponder and gain perspective.
Farringdon holds a special place in the history of London transport. This was the original terminus for the first London Underground line, opened in 1863. A couple of decades before, the area might have been utterly given over to the railways, with this proposal for a mainline station that would have eaten up everything between Fetter Lane and Old Bailey. We're calling it Terminus, mostly because we're massive fans of The Walking Dead.
Thames Airport (Pimlico)
Postcards of Big Ben would have never been the same had this elevated landing strip gone ahead. Proposed in the 1930s, the aerial platform would have dominated the Thames between Westminster and Vauxhall bridges. (OK, Pimlico tube is a bit of a trek from here, but we had to feature this one, and Westminster tube was already taken.)
Thames Lido (Temple)
You can't swim in the central London Thames without gaining hard-won permission. Studio Octopi want to change all that by installing a floating lido, with filtered water, on the north bank of the Thames. (It's not unprecedented — the Victorians had something similar.) Despite a strong Kickstarter following, the scheme remains unrealised at the time of writing, putting it in a similar 'unbuilt-for-now' category to the nearby Garden Bridge plans.
Thames Railway (Blackfriars)
At least two surface railways have been proposed that would have followed the route of the Thames. In the 1840s, before the Victoria Embankment was built, Edward Trench MP suggested a raised railway between Westminster and the City. The plans were bettered a decade later, with the concept of a viaduct railway down the middle of the Thames. Imagine the views out the window.
Tram Circus (Elephant and Castle)
All roads across the Thames lead to the Elephant, so it's no surprise that plenty of tram schemes (both historic and proposed) terminate or pass through the area. The Ken Livingstone-backed cross-river tram would have done so, ditto the Southwark Supertram. The best unrealised plan of all is this tram circus design from 1929.
Twin Spans (London Bridge)
Hardly looks like London, does it? This was George Dance's 1800 plan to rebuild London Bridge as two London Bridges — neatly adding redundancy in case the famous nursery rhyme about the bridge should ever come true. To get your bearings, we're looking east, with the Tower of London just about visible on the left bank, at the end of the white terrace. The Monument to the Great Fire is the column to the left, while a counterpart would have been built at the other end of the bridges.
Underline West (Green Park)
How would you fancy riding a bicycle through disused underground tunnels? That's the proposal, dubbed London Underline, by design firm Gensler. The plans would make use of the old, abandoned (except for film crews) Jubilee line tunnel from Green Park to Charing Cross. From here, bikes would continue along a half-dug route under Strand, which would be extended to reach Aldwych. The cyclists could then turn north along the disused Piccadilly tunnel to Holborn. It would be the ultimate segregated cycle lane.
UoL (Russell Square)
University of London's (UoL's) headquarters at Senate House were to have been much more ambitious. Charles Holden's original scheme — stymied by the second world war — would have seen the art deco campus extend more than twice as far to the northwest, onto land now occupied by SOAS and Birkbeck.
Vortex (Aldgate East)
If you're of the school of thought that London's current skyscrapers are all a bit too novel, then look away now. MAKE architects, helmed by the Gherkin's Ken Shuttleworth, came up with this design back in 2004. The Vortex would have risen to Shard-like heights somewhere on the fringes of the City (we're plumping for Aldgate). The shape is logical as well as eye-catching — typically, the lower- and upper-most floors of a building command the most value, so this would have maximised floorspace in all the right places. Obviously, it never got built.
Waterloo (Regent's Park)
Had John Martin got his way, Waterloo might now be on Marylebone Road rather than south of the river; not as a train station, but as a triumphal arch. With its dome-like span and parkland location, the National Waterloo Monument looks like the kind of structure the Teletubbies might have have erected had they ever returned from victory on the continent. It was one of several proposals from the 1820s that never came to fruition. (In case you're wondering, yes, it is that John Martin.)
Watkin's Gateway (Baker Street)
Everyone, by now, has surely heard the tale of Sir Edward Watkin's rival to the Eiffel Tower, partly built where Wembley stadium now stands. Watkin's Folly, as we know it, only reached about 50 metres before being demolished. Our tube map (and the image above by Mike Paterson) imagines that the tower had been completed. Baker Street might have served as the central London gateway to the attraction, a swift ride along the Metropolitan line.
See also our tube map of lost London, which shows the buildings of the capital that have been demolished.