Architectural design frequently straddles a fine line between dignified inspiration and asshole lunacy. What's surprising is how close examples of that second type regularly come to being built, regardless of how obviously insane and/or impossible they are. Like ...
#6. Freedom Ship: The Giant Floating City
The Freedom Ship -- taller than New York's Flatiron Building (the building used as The Daily Bugle in the Spider-Man movies), wider than two football fields, and almost a mile in length -- was designed as a floating city to take 100,000 residents, crew, and visitors on an everlasting voyage around the world. Luckily, no part of that sentence sounds completely insane, so you can head on over to the Freedom Ship's official website right now and make an official investment.
However, if you want to buy a residential unit on this floating commercial park, you can expect to pay anything from $150,000 to $10 million for the privilege (we assume the $150,000 homes are windowless utility closets next to the engines). Freedom Ship would have a multimillion-dollar hospital, a complete K-12 school system, a freaking subway system, landscaped parks, and an indoor rain forest, because we apparently learned nothing from the harsh lessons of the Rainforest Cafe. The designers insist that their brainchild is "not a cruise ship, but a fascinating and unique place to live, work, retire, vacation, or visit."
"And also, a cruise ship."
To keep its inhabitants safe from pirates, Freedom Ship would house a 2,000-strong security force armed with "state-of-the-art defensive weapons" to enforce the law of whichever nation the ship ultimately decided to sail under -- possibly a European country, but they were apparently leaning toward Panama, because Panama would basically allow them to do whatever the hell they pleased. Each deck of the ship would hold democratic elections for representatives, but final ultimate rule would be placed in the hands of the captain, because there has been absolutely no historical precedent of a system like that going horribly wrong.
"And that's how the 'Naked Fridays (except for fatties) Amendment' was passed."
So it's essentially the Axiom, that big spaceship from WALL-E, only lurching through the ocean like a dead whale instead of floating at the edge of some distant galaxy. It received generally positive worldwide press coverage, and the Discovery Channel even devoted an entire program to it in 2002 (this was back before Discovery Channel devoted entire programs to ghosts and motorcycles, so that distinction actually meant something). Thousands of residential units had been sold by the time the Freedom Ship got the go-ahead to begin construction in 2001, but ballooning costs (from a naive $6 billion in 1999 to a much more soberingly realistic $11 billion in 2002) effectively stalled the project. Despite insisting that the Freedom Ship is still very much in development, the designers have yet to hammer a single rivet in over 10 years.
#5. The Elephant of Revolutionary Oblivion
At the peak of his power, Napoleon decided to build an enduring symbol to commemorate all of his successes in France and abroad. For some reason, he commissioned a giant bronze elephant instead.
Because nothing says "success" like a herculean elephant.
The heroically named Elephant of Revolutionary Oblivion was to be built on the site of the Bastille, where the French Revolution more or less officially began. Visitors could access it from an internal stairway and enjoy a panoramic view of France's capital city from a tower on the elephant's back. The whole thing would be set in the middle of a giant fountain, with water flowing up and out from the elephant's trunk, because apparently that was the greatest symbol of national pride that Napoleon could be bothered to come up with.
Augustus Charles Pugin
"Then he kept asking us to make the trunk 'thicker' and 'longer'; it was kind of creeping us out."
Now, as any blue-collar construction foreman worth his salt can tell you, an eight-story elephant would require a whole lot of bronze, but not to worry -- Napoleon had that shit figured out. The Elephant of Revolutionary Oblivion would be constructed entirely of metal wrought from hundreds of melted-down cannons captured from the enemies of France. That's like Jean-Claude Van Damme making a giant photomosaic of an elephant out of pictures of all the faces he's kicked.
Unfortunately, that turned out to be the problem. You see, France was still at war, and Spain didn't seem like it was going to give up anytime soon. Being the legendary military strategist that he was, Napoleon ultimately decided that all those cannons would be better served lobbing death balls at the enemies of France rather than being made into a giant elephant. So a plaster version of the Elephant of Revolutionary Oblivion was built instead, which quickly began to decay and become infested with rats and weeds, because that's what happens to giant glorified pinatas when you leave them unattended in the middle of a densely populated city with a notoriously poor sewage system.
It was eventually torn down in the mid-19th century, but not before Victor Hugo immortalized it as a home for disenfranchised street urchins in Les Miserables.
In a world where Russell Crowe is allowed to sing, this suddenly isn't as colossal of a failure.
#4. A Man-Made Mountain
Dutch journalist Thijs Zonneveld wrote a light-hearted article on creating a man-made mountain for his home country and was surprised to find himself being taken seriously by like-minded engineering groups, architects, and sporting associations who all felt that the Netherlands' lack of mountains was unacceptable. So they did what any group of eccentric rich people sharing a single impossible idea would do and decided to try to build one, despite the fact that the Alps (which are real, actual mountains) are only a few hundred miles away.
Their proposed amusement-park-style acropolis would stand 6,560 feet high (the equivalent of four Sears Towers standing on each other's shoulders like the Little Rascals trying to get into an R-rated movie), loaded with swimming pools, movie theaters, sporting facilities, and its own water supply, all resting atop a hollow base 6 miles wide. So it seems Zonneveld and his friends were less concerned about the Netherlands' lack of natural rock formations and more concerned with its lack of enormous, mountain-shaped shopping malls.
Hoffers and Kruger
"I'm telling you, we need a Victoria's Secret ... for science."
The estimated cost of the project is somewhere in the neighborhood of $410 billion (that's "billion," with a "B"), but we assume they can recoup a good amount of that cost by renting out large sections of the mountain to Dutch supervillains. That is, if they can convince enough people to make the initial investment -- "The Mountain Comes" (its official name) wouldn't be completed until around 2043, and that's if they broke ground on construction tomorrow. That's like asking someone to dump a fortune into a new Disneyland and then telling them they won't be able to ride Big Thunder Mountain for three more decades.