6 Insane Early Drafts of Iconic Buildings
Everything mankind has ever built started out as a rough draft at one point. But you assume that the general idea was always there; you can easily imagine that an early version of the Golden Gate Bridge was going to be blue instead of red, but you assume that it always looked roughly like the Golden Gate Bridge and not some crazy bunch of bullshit.
You'd be wrong.
Epcot Center Was Supposed to Be an Entire City (With Skyscraper)
Known within the park as "Spaceship Earth," the EPCOT Center at Disney World is one of the most recognizable structures in the world, mainly because it looks like a huge golf ball:
A golf ball slowly gaining limbs and sentience.
But it was originally supposed to be something far more ambitious -- a massive self-contained city with a towering skyscraper in the center:
All they need is to implant life crystals into people and it would be Logan's Run.
It's hard to believe, but EPCOT was originally designed as a city. A city that you and the children of the world would never have to leave.
In the late 1950s, Walt Disney wanted to make a city in Orlando for employees at his new and up-and-coming Disney World theme park. It would be called EPCOT: Experimental Prototype of the City Of Tomorrow.
"Frowns count as illegal dissent."
He came up with a circular model with a theme park in the middle, apartments forming a wall of buildings surrounding the park, smaller family houses just outside the apartments and disturbing "research laboratories" dotting the outside of the circle.
"What do we research on? Don't worry about that. Just BRING US YOUR CHILDREN."
In 1966, Disney expanded on the EPCOT idea to propose linking the park, apartments, houses and laboratories with a system of monorails, with smaller people movers linking the homes outside the fortress, er, city. And right in the middle would be the centerpiece giant skyscraper.
But before Walt Disney could implement his design and have things possibly go all Westworld, he died. The company was stuck with the land and plans, and decided that running an entire city would not bring in much of a profit. They cut pretty much all of the design and redeveloped it into a new amusement park in the late 1970s. While the Epcot Center we know today is nothing like the original, many of the ideas would later be put into place in a new, toned-down Disney city, Celebration, Florida.
"We only have three Disney-related shootings a year!"
Related: An Architecture Student Once Stopped a New York City Skyscraper from Collapsing during a Hurricane
Mount Rushmore Didn't Stop With the Heads
When you think of Mount Rushmore, you have visions of the stone faces of George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Theodore Roosevelt and Abraham Lincoln staring back at you, representing the founding principles and general awesometude of the nation. You tend not to think, "I wonder what the bottom parts of their bodies are doing." But the original draft would have answered that question:
"This is the most uncomfortable elevator ride ever."
After originally proposing that the carving be made on the Needles, a formation of thin, brittle rock in South Dakota, common sense prevailed and Mount Rushmore was chosen. After that snafu, sculptor and white supremacist Gutzon Borglum pretty much had the design idea down pat. Except he conceived a much grander image: His approved plan in 1927 had not just the presidents' heads, but their bodies down to the waist, standing tall over the surrounding countryside.
"We estimate that nine men will die to build each button."
In addition, Borglum thought that since it was a giant mountainside and all, he could totally add a huge relief of the Louisiana Purchase and write out both the Constitution AND the Declaration of Independence. Congress was so pleased by the design that they drew up a bill in 1937 to add woman's suffrage leader Susan B. Anthony to the mountain. That's when Borglum began to have a few problems.
AS IF A WOMAN COULD EVER SYMBOLIZE AMERICA. Oh.
Early in construction, it was decided that writing out the Constitution and Declaration of Independence would be a bit much, so all work already carved (The numbers "1776") was blasted away. With funding drying up and his health starting to fail, Borglum scaled back to only carving the faces, although Washington's cuff and preliminary body work was already done.
In 1939, Congress withdrew the part about adding Anthony and, with WWII coming up fast, the whole thing was turning into a rush job. After Borglum died and his son Lincoln inherited the project, the job was rushed even further before finally being "finished" in 1941 (they moved so fast they forgot to add President Lincoln's ear).
Either that, or Roosevelt ripped it off with his teeth.
The Golden Gate Bridge Was a Gray Erector Set
The Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco might literally be the only bridge in the world that you can immediately picture in your mind the moment we mention it. That's what a distinctive design and bright red paint job can do for you:
Slightly less chance of being hit by an errant fighter jet.
So it's probably a good thing they didn't go with the original design, which envisioned it more like a lopsided bridge model a kid had tried to assemble without instructions:
"I was going to build a suspension bridge but then I thought, 'Fuck it. Rocket ship.'"
Prior to its construction in 1937, the only way to get across San Francisco Bay was a 20-minute ferry ride. Still, it wasn't until 1916 that the idea of a bridge really gained any traction when the San Francisco city engineer challenged someone to come up with a bridge design that would cost less than the $100 million (in 1916 dollars) estimated to make such a bridge. Only one man could, claiming his design would cost just $17 million. That man was Joseph Strauss.
"You really save a lot of money when you substitute steel with used chewing gum."
Although experts said a bridge couldn't be built because of high winds, heavy fog and the 335-foot depth of the water (not to mention that the bridge needed to be a mile long), Strauss came up with an idea anyway. The problem was Strauss had only designed things like draw bridges and a couple of cantlever bridges before getting on board the Golden Gate project, and nothing nearly as long. After he bragged about his idea to connect the Bering Strait between Alaska and Russia with an intercontinental railroad, officials grew a wee bit nervous. City officials grew even more wary of him when it came time to submit his first design and he showed them this:
"Don't thank me, thank decades of alcohol abuse."
They hated the design, as a) it probably wasn't going to do well against earthquakes, which were known to happen there from time to time, and b) it just plain looked ugly to them. It looked like something you'd make with an old Erector set.
Pfft, hahaha. Mysto.
While Strauss persisted with his suspension monstrosity, planners got Leon Moisseif, who designed the Manhattan Bridge in New York, to plan a suspension bridge, which he did, and which they immediately loved. Plans were changed further when the public rejected the color choices of gray and silver in exchange for the then-radical color choice of orangey-red.
Charmed would never have been quite the same.
Strauss did indeed get the bridge done in four years, and he made sure he got full credit by either firing co-architects and planners or just completely downplaying their roles in turning his original outrageous design into a San Francisco icon.
The Space Needle Was a Towering Balloon
It's the only building in Seattle you've probably heard of, other than their sports stadiums. The Jetsons-esque Space Needle is world-famous, and has been rising tall in the city ever since it opened for the Seattle World's Fair in 1962:
Food tastes better when you're nauseous.
As distinctive as the current structure is, the original plans looked like they'd been designed at a Salvador Dali/Dr. Seuss convention:
"I'm not saying this out of spite, but fuck you totally, Frank Lloyd Wright."
Beginning in the late 1950s, a stream of architects submitted their designs, some weirder than others (the one on the left up there was architect Edward Carlson's design, which would have cable cars go swirling up to a giant balloon base). When the city thought that would be too complicated, they then said OK to a revolving restaurant/planetarium idea (on the left):
"As long as we can impale a downed UFO on it to warn our enemies, it's all gravy."
After seriously considering the balloon shape again, it was decided having a compromise shape would be best, and that they should nix the idea for cable cars to travel up to it in on account of that idea being expensive, insane and probably physically impossible. They went with the idea of mixing the narrow stem support of the balloon idea with the saucer-shaped top submitted by a somewhat more conventional architect, John Graham. It was chosen, just after the foundation was poured, as the final design:
The Space Needle, if it hadn't been for a competing architect trying to get a compromise idea, could have nearly become the giant balloon looming like the eye of Sauron over Seattle.
The Lincoln Tunnel Was Going to Be a Massive Bridge
Even if you can't picture the tunnel that connects New York and New Jersey (the Lincoln Tunnel), you can pretty much guess what it looks like. It's a tunnel:
Never enter a shelter with less than three exits. That's the Cracked way.
What it is not is a gigantic bridge, which is what it was originally going to be:
Instead of the Lincoln Tunnel, we would have had the Shithouse Crazy Bridge.
Before the tunnel was built in the 1930s, it was indeed initially planned as a bridge. A few decades earlier, bridge maker Gustav Lindenthal got permission from the city of New York to connect midtown Manhattan and New Jersey via a giant ass bridge with 12 rail lines, 24 lanes for car traffic and two pedestrian sidewalks.
That's one car a lane, if we know the 1930s.
Even more amazing would be the bridge's towers. Rising to over 825 feet, they would have become the largest structures in the world, with the towers being taller than the Woolworth Building, then the reigning world champion.
When architects feel emasculated, they just punch people in the dick until the feeling goes away.
Lindenthal actually started on the bridge, working on one of the towers in New Jersey in 1895. However, several recessions and WWI interrupted the project. That's when the Holland Tunnel came on line just south in lower Manhattan in 1927. The government, which was funding the bridge, saw the tunnel as a cheaper and less insane option, and pulled the plug.
Meanwhile, architect Ole Singstad hastily rewrote the bridge into a new tunnel. There are a few remnants of the megabridge left that were never removed, a testament to aborted projects everywhere.
And failed erections.
The New World Trade Center Building Could Have Been Utter Insanity
The Freedom Tower, the replacement for the World Trade Center twin towers, is coming along nicely. It's in the middle of construction, but in a year or so will look like this:
Bald eagles will just be smacking into that thing everyday out of patriotic glare-blindness.
However, quite a few unique alternate designs were submitted, and if they'd been chosen, they would have basically turned Manhattan into a live-action acid trip:
We want freedom! The freedom to trip out and be sick into a bush!
When a competition arose to find a new building for the New York World Trade Center complex in the mid-2000s, architects from around the world collectively submitted over 5,200 entries like the one above (and it's actually one of the least insane candidates).
For instance, William Pederson of Kohn Pederson Fox Associates put in a proposal for a huge building that would have a giant bridge running 300 feet over midtown Manhattan that would connect it right to the Statue of Liberty ferry terminal. And when we say "over" midtown Manhattan, we mean it would literally be placed on top of several existing skyscrapers:
"It's about connection. Like, so much connection. We could totally just connect with Ireland. Or whatever."
Another candidate was designed by Peter Eisenman, who submitted a project that would pretty much turn the New York skyline into a series of giant pound signs. Amazingly, this design was favored early on until relatives of 9/11 victims spoke out against this architectural experiment, although it still became a finalist and was nearly chosen.
Other finalists: A floating umlaut and a hashtag connected to a Kanye West tweet.
The Wolf Prix firm of Vienna, Austria, probably takes the insanity prize with a design that included three buildings that would support a giant hourglass-shaped building in the middle. The judges liked this idea, but found the design to be a little off when they learned that nothing like this had ever been attempted before.
The funnel serves as a giant meth distillery.
It was finally decided that the winner was David Childs' far less radical design. Although not lacking in symbolism or architectural testing (having a height of 1,776 feet and a glass facade), it was far more traditional than a design that would have looked more at home in Whoville.
It's always Christmas in Freedomland, because that's what capitalism is all about.
For more origin stories, check out 7 Shockingly Dark Origins of Lovable Children's Characters and 5 Insane Early Drafts of Famous Movie Characters.
And stop by LinkSTORM to see Brockway's mysterious and deadly beginnings.
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