The 5 Craziest Buildings Ever Proposed With a Straight Face
Sometimes, the line between a brilliant idea and a psychotically suicidal one is so fine that it practically doesn't exist. Other times, the line is so wide it would take a transcontinental railroad and an entire week to cross it.
Had they actually been built, these buildings could have probably gone either way.
The Palace of the Soviets
Picture the Empire State Building. Now, imagine someone glued the Statue of Liberty to the top. You've now imagined a much less crazy version of the Palace of the Soviets.
Joseph Stalin, during his "crazy stage" (1870-1953), had a big problem. After Vladimir Lenin's death, the peasantry went cuckoo for monuments to their fallen leader, and it was up to Joe to deliver. If displaying Lenin's corpse in a glass case wasn't good enough for these people, a cheesy statue in a park probably wouldn't be enough, either. The Soviets demanded something FABULOUS.
And something to keep King Kong away, too, we suspect.
So Stalin came up with a plan. First, he blew up the beautiful 70-year-old church that was clearly in prime monument real estate:
Second, he held a contest allowing the best architects in the world to compete for the winning monument design. And if "the world's greatest memorial to hubris" was what Stalin wanted, the winning entry delivered in spades. What he chose was a 100-floor, 1,392-foot building towering over Moscow, which would have been a full 100 feet taller than the Empire State Building. Then, on top of that, was to be a 260-foot-tall statue of Lenin. So actually we understated it before -- it'd be like the Statue of Liberty on top of the Empire State Building, THEN ANOTHER SLIGHTLY SMALLER STATUE OF LIBERTY ON TOP OF THAT ONE. That's how tall the statue would have been.
If there's anything the Statue of Liberty has taught us, it's always to be in the best position to set fire to a communist's crotch.
After receiving widespread praise from architects worldwide, the Soviets started construction on their Lenin monster house in 1937, spending two years on the foundation alone.
Three people died by just constructing this plaster model.
Was Never Built Because ...
The Nazis. It's always the Nazis. Since the war was coming closer to Moscow, materials were needed and the steel was ripped up and used for railroads or military fortifications or commemorative WWII gravy boats or something. By 1945, the site for the Glorious Hall of the Soviets was nothing but a huge pile of rubble and concrete. Even after the war was over, the Cold War put strains on the same resources and the project never gained momentum again. Especially after Nikita Khruschev turned the site into the world's bitchinest and biggest outdoor pool.
Have fun playing Marco Polo in the carcass of a failed dream, comrades!
Finally, once communism collapsed for good, the pool was replaced with a -- you guessed it -- replica of the church that was there in the first place.
Is it just us, or could this church really use a giant statue of Vladimir Lenin on top of it?
Nazi Audacity -- Volkshalle and the German Stadium
Say whatever you want about Adolf Hitler, but you can't say he wasn't ambitious. All efforts at wiping out an entire race of people aside, this was a man who really believed he could conquer a continent while trying to pull off the stupidest mustache this side of John Waters. Which is why it should surprise nobody that he also believed he could pretty much tear down Berlin and start her over with a brand new town. A new town called Germania.
What? Was Hitlerville already taken?
And at the heart of Hitlertopia would be a domed monument called Volkshalle. This building was going to be so big that it should have been called Hulk's Halle. At 950-feet tall, with a diameter of 820-feet, you could have actually fit St. Peter's Basilica inside the thing.
Looks a bit too fancy for the Hulk.
It was so big, in fact, that the architect, Albert Speer, speculated that the acoustics would be literally deafening and that moisture collected by the people breathing inside could actually make artificial rain indoors. Yes, the building would be capable of literally spitting on everyone inside. Can your buildings do that, America?
Equally audacious was Hitler's plans for a super-stadium for all his Nazi rallying needs. The German Stadium in Nuremberg, coincidentally designed by the same guy who came up with Germania, would have been huuuuuge. Like, 400,000 seats huge. For context, that's eight Yankee Stadiums. For even more context, that's the city of Cleveland. For the most context of all, consider this: The largest stadium in the world today is in North Korea, and it only seats about 150,000. Hitler wanted to almost triple that, and do it using 1930s technology. Like we said, you can't say he wasn't ambitious.
Nazis: not big on procrastination.
And one more thing -- this particular stadium wasn't just going to be used for goose-stepping parties. It was also going to host the Olympics! All the Olympics. Hitler figured if he was going through the trouble of building the world's biggest stadium, it was only fair that the world use it for every single Olympic Games ever after. And that they change the name of the Olympics to the Aryan Games.
Was Never Built Because ...
Ambitious, yes. Possessing of engineering know-how and good old-fashioned common sense, no. Neither project got past the testing stage, primarily because they were so childishly conceived they were impossible to execute.
Just like Hitler.
For one thing, Berlin's soil was famously marshy, so building the Volkshalle required a test building to make sure the ground could support so much weight. Speer commissioned a 12,000-ton chunk of concrete to be built to test the soil and if the structure sunk less than 2.5 inches, the Volkshalle would be deemed safe to build. It sank 7 inches, but Hitler simply said, "Eh, build it anyway."
Fortunately for the people who would have inevitably been crushed to death by its saliva-covered dome, the war effort required the materials needed to start the Volkshalle, and the building never get off the ground. The sinking test failure is still there, though:
The war effort killed Hitler's gargantustadium as well. But not before Hitler and his numbnut cronies got some test seats up and running. Those are still there today, if you're interested in swinging by and imagining what might have been:
If you listen carefully, you can hear crowds cheering on foraging squirrels
Mile High Illinois
Quick! Name your favorite architect! Or any architect!
Chances are only one name sprang to mind: Frank Lloyd Wright. And the reason you thought of him was not because you're in mega love with his work, but because for a good part of the 20th century, Wright was the only architect to capture our collective imagination.
One of the reasons we remember him was that he wasn't afraid to go against the grain. While other architects were building Victorian gingerbread houses, Wright was building clean-lined, plainly-styled buildings that set the tone for 95 percent of the houses built in the 20th century.
Which is kind of ironic, because suburban sprawl was the exact problem that prompted Frank to design one of his last big buildings -- the Mile High Illinois. Also called Illinois-Sky City as well as Holy Shitsnacks This Building is a Mile Off the Ground (Illinois). The idea was to create a place where people could live and work without driving 20 miles out of town twice a day.
Commuting is still a bitch if the elevators break down though.
Unlike some of the other buildings on this list, Frank's towering insane-o actually had a lot of expertise behind it. He knew, for example, that a building so tall would have swaying issues, especially in a town nicknamed "The Windy City," so he designed it like a tripod, sturdier at the bottom and tapering at the top.
Also he predicted the now-common use of flying saucer taxis.
According to Wright, the unique shape combined with a tensioned steel frame would counteract the best wind Chicago had to offer. He also knew that a building a mile tall wouldn't be the easiest to get out of, fire-wise, so he designed elevators that would function during a fire, somehow. We'd call shenanigans, but what do we know? He's Frank Lloyd Wright.
Was Never Built Because ...
Besides the fact that he wanted to construct a building that would have been four times taller than the Empire State Building? Yeah, that was pretty much the only one.
That and the fact that Frank died three years after he drew up the design. But as a testament to how good he was and how well he knew his stuff, Mile High Illinois was the inspiration for the world's tallest building to date, Burj Khalifa. See if you can spot the similarities:
Though the Burj only ended up half the height of Wright's dreamscaper, it used the same reinforced concrete Frank proposed for his building, as well as a central core that stabilizes the building from the bottom to the top.
Plus there's that whole issue of it looking exactly like the Mile High.
The Dome Over Manhattan
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.