Every city in the world shares the same basic building blocks -- brick, stone, steel, mortar, and McDonald's restaurants -- but architecture is what sets them apart. When you think "Paris," you don't imagine a city, you imagine the Eiffel Tower.
However, either by chance or by design, some of the most iconic cities on the planet almost looked very, very different, like knockoff made-for-cable versions of themselves.
#7. London Almost Had a Giant Dildo Skyscraper (and No Tower Bridge)
Via Steve Weinik
London is home to some of the world's most famous historical architecture, including the Tower of London, Big Ben, Buckingham Palace, and that movie studio where they shot Batman. To continue that grand tradition, a group of functionally rational adults proposed building a 1,400-foot robot clown dildo called the Green Bird in 1990.
Via Steve Weinik
"It isn't very green yet, because it hasn't been used."
In their defense, this would have become instantly more famous than any of that other bullshit we just mentioned. The 83-story multipurpose building, which we assume would have had a huge fountain at the top, never got the go-ahead for construction, for some reason. What company wouldn't want to house their corporate offices in the tip of that thing?
Meanwhile, London's third most famous landmark, the Tower Bridge ...
... was almost replaced with this contraption:
For the love of God, it's eating the machines!
The goal of the Tower Bridge's design was to allow both road and waterway traffic to pass through, and while the elegant drawbridge it eventually became may seem like the obvious solution, it managed to elude everyone in the United Kingdom for a while. So one idea was the "duplex" bridge pictured above, which would split in two to allow one road to always be open while water traffic passed beneath it (this is ignoring the fact that both roads stretched over the same waterway).
Another was to dig a tunnel beneath the river, which doesn't seem unreasonable until you consider that this was suggested in 1876, back when a bridge tunnel was exactly as possible as lashing your coach to Pegasus and flying across the Thames.
Via Daily Mail
Just think of how many orphan laborers this project would've claimed.
#6. Paris Was Almost a Dystopian Wasteland
Quick: If you had tons of money and an urge to whisk your lover to the most romantic place on Earth, where would you go? Paris, right? Packed with artful cafes and shops along fashionable tree-lined boulevards, the city has provided the backdrop for countless pieces of timeless cinema such as An American in Paris and An American Werewolf in Paris. Well, Le Corbusier, one of the most influential pioneers of modern architecture, took a look at all that celebrated Parisian charm and decided it was total bullshit.
His proposed solution? Smash Paris to the ground like a GWAR video and replace it with 18 identical 60-story skyscrapers that look like candles on Ayn Rand's birthday cake, then crisscross its paved-over corpse with arterial superhighways.
"And while we're at it, let's fill the river with cement."
It was called the Plan Voisin, hatched in the mid-1920s and backed by automobile manufacturer Avions Voisin, which unsurprisingly was a huge supporter of a plan that called for more roads and was named after itself. The entire area between the river Seine and Montmartre would have been knocked down and filled with a bunch of Blade Runner towers for Parisians to jump off of once they'd seen what had been done to their city.
"Did we lose a high-stakes game of Tetris or something?"
Le Corbusier said of his vision of Paris: "When night intervenes, the passage of cars along the autostrada traces luminous tracks that are like the tails of meteors flashing across the summer heavens." OK, he might have been crazy.
#5. New York City Almost Housed Spaceships
Juxtapoz via Sinehead.com
In 1908, American investors approached Spanish architect Antoni Gaudi about building a hotel on the site of the future World Trade Center in New York City. Gaudi accepted, and what he came up with was the 1,181-foot-tall "Hotel Attraction," which looked like the giant starship all of the rich people built to take them off the planet before the asteroid hits.
Juxtapoz via Sinehead.com
Holy crap, that thing really is gaud- ooooooh, we get it now.
This Cake Boss version of the Fortress of Solitude would have been the tallest building in the world at the time, featuring a 375-foot presidential memorial hall and decorations made from authentic New York City garbage.
"Welcome to our totally normal not-cult building. Please enter the weird haircut room on your left."
There were plans to put a room inside the star at the top of the tower called "The Sphere of All Space," large enough to hold 30 people while their sanity was slowly devoured. Most of his notes on the project were later destroyed in the Spanish Civil War (a phrase here meaning "when the gateway in his nightmares opened up to reclaim them"). However, the plans were resubmitted in 2003 as a replacement for the World Trade Center, albeit unsuccessfully.
But that's hardly the only example of weird-ass projects that would have utterly changed the face of the city. More recently, Frank Gehry, designer of the Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao and the Walt Disney Concert Hall in LA, helped us to visualize what would happen if a space colossus took a diamond shit on the East River:
You can almost hear the muffled "blub" sound it makes when it hits the ground.
This was to be the East River Guggenheim, a sprawling art museum, and it had the greenlight for construction from Mayor Rudy Giuliani. However, the World Trade Center attacks on 9/11 and the resulting economic plunge put an end to the project before some Men in Black sequel could build a hackneyed premise around it.
#4. Toronto Was to Be Dominated by a Huge Pyramid
You've seen Toronto lots of times, whether you know it or not -- Toronto has served as a stand-in for Chicago and New York in movies like Good Will Hunting and True Lies, because it has a similar skyline to those bustling metropolises, but it's cheaper to film in Canada and there are fewer assholes. However, when Buckminster Fuller (one of our favorite batshit crazy architects) was approached to provide an urban plan for the rapidly expanding Toronto back in the 1960s, he suggested that they turn the city into a floating G.I. Joe base instead. This was Buckminster Fuller's "Project Toronto."
"Of course, we'll need a large patch of empty land for the UFOs to dock, but you get the idea."
Describing his role in the project as assisting in "the ballistics and navigation of humanity on spaceship Earth" (an explanation that probably should have led to him being excused from the meeting), his proposal centered around a colossal Crystal Pyramid approximately 450 feet tall with a base wide enough to garage a handful of aircraft carriers. This would effectively narrow the list of things to do in Toronto down to a single item: "Stand outside and look at that godawful pyramid because it blots out everything, including the sun."
Meanwhile, three self-contained neighborhoods (complete with shops, schools, and housing for around 6,000 people) would float offshore in Lake Ontario for reasons that can best be described as "nonexistent," although they could be towed elsewhere, just in case the people of a different waterfront city suddenly decided that floating suburbs were a good idea.
Pictured: The last floating suburb. Also known as "sublurblblblbblrblrb."