Have you ever walked through a crowded city street and said to yourself, "Man, I wish I had a big bubble over me right now?" No? Well, Buckminster Fuller did. And he didn't just picture an inverted cereal bowl over any old hellhole of a city either -- he wanted that bad boy over the heart of New York City: Manhattan.
For once, The Simpsons didn't do it first.
Before diving into this Science Fictionville craziness, we have to back up and talk about Fuller himself. This was the guy, after all, who patented and popularized the geodesic dome and also showed the world the first dome that could support its own weight. He was also a futurist who believed it was just a matter of time before coal and oil were out and renewable energy was in. So, if anything else, this was an architectural guru who was pretty ahead of his time.
He had a big thing about domes. Supervilliany was presumably only a city-dome away.
But back to the mile-high, two-mile-wide glass bubble Fuller wanted to jail Manhattan with. According to Big B, not only would the enclosure shield the city from the pollution produced by nearby power plants, it would also be a great reason for banning all cars, buses and engine-driven anythings in the city. Because the last thing New Yorkers needed was to suffer from a massive case of "parked running car in the garage syndrome."
As opposed to "gunshot to the eardrum syndrome" we have now.
Plus, according to Plucky Bucky F., keeping things like "weather" out of Manhattan would save the borough millions of dollars a year. Because all that snow plowing adds up, you know?
Was Never Built Because ...
As much as everyone loved Fuller's moxie, no one really saw the project as doable. At all. For one thing, according to Fuller, 16 large Sikorsky helicopters would have to work nonstop for three months while fitting the glass in to the aluminum frame. The cost? Two-hundred million dollars for the helicopters alone. And that's not even including the labor, materials cost and countless insults thrown by New Yorkers at the prospect of living the rest of their lives in a dystopian nightmare.
Wait, this all sounds very familiar ...
In the end, New York gave a polite "Thanks but no thanks" to Fuller. But that was OK, because he went on to try out his ideas on a much smaller, safer scale later. At Disneyworld.
A horrible dystopian nightmare. And that's just "It's a Small World After All."
If Joseph Stalin knew a thing or two about unbuildable buildings, it's only because he learned from the best: his predecessor Vladimir Lenin. And Lenin took the crazy cake when he hired avant garde architect Vladimir Tatlin to build a monument to Bolshevism in 1920. Because what Tatlin came up with was 50 percent Jetsons, 20 percent unstable Coney Island wooden rollercoaster and 100 percent not-possible.
To begin, the tower was 1,300-feet tall, about 500-feet taller than the tallest building at the time. But tallness wasn't the issue. The issue was that the proposed building was to be a cube, topped by a pyramid, with a cylinder shape leaning over it, surrounded by twisting steel helices and outfitted with a giant projector to project propaganda onto clouds on overcast days. What's the matter? Having a hard time picturing that? Fine:
Oh wait. We forgot to mention something else: Because it sounded pretty much doable at this point, Tatlin also wanted the building to rotate once a year.
Like a revolving restaurant, but with a different humanitarian
disaster scene every time you look up from your baklava.
Was Never Built Because ...
Uh ... where to start? Maybe with the fact that it was the 1920s and people were just barely wrapping their heads around electricity and bared lady knees, much less spinning-geometric art projects dedicated to keeping the masses in check psychologically. Or maybe everything fell apart because this was Soviet Russia and all surplus steel was needed to build high-tech gyms for future boxers. Or, perhaps the tower never got built because Tatlin himself abandoned it in favor of designing workers' clothes and theater sets.
Much like us when we abandon our rotating communistic rock star
dreams and settle for something which pays the bills.
Even though the building never got past the "Wow, you really went there?" stage, his model and designs are actually considered works of art today. Go figure.
For more on insane buildings, check out 5 Amazing Buildings of the Future (And How They'll Kill You) and Should I Build In Dubai? A Checklist for (Crazy) Architects.