Nothing screams the hubris of urban life like a giant building. And while for some cities a skyscraper is just another building, plenty peg their self-worth on mammoth projects, designed to serve as iconic credentials of progress. However of those planned, only a handful ever result in a shovel in the ground — and even then their completion remains uncertain, held hostage by economic and technical realities. Chicago and Dubai, while already boasting some of the world’s tallest buildings, suffer such disappointment on a regular basis. In the grim midst of the Great Recession, not even the best laid plans of city or architect are safe. After the jump, check out some prime examples of the Tower of Babel’s modern heirs.
Frank Lloyd Wright designed a mile-high building in 1956. Slated to stem Chicago’s urban sprawl, everyone, including Wright, knew that the tower would never and could never be built. Nevertheless, the design did inspire the Burj Khalifa in Dubai, the tallest real life skyscraper in the world today.
Planned in 1988, at 125 stories the Miglin-Beitler Skyneedle would’ve been the biggest building in Chicago, and the world as well. Today, the plot for the super tall structure is home to a parking garage.
World War II permanently derailed plans for the Palace of the Soviets, a behemoth for the coordination of the Bolsheviks’ sprawling, people-centric bureaucracy. It would’ve been the biggest structure on Earth, but the Soviet army stripped the structure’s skeleton for fortification materials when Hitler invaded Russia. The hole dug out for this permanently put-off palace became the largest open-air swimming pool in the world.
The Ryugyong Hotel in Pyongyang, North Korea, reached its 105 floor goal in 1992, but construction stopped when the Soviet Union fell and funding dried up. Currently, the farcical, pharonic megaproject is getting a facelift (i.e. windows), but will likely never open for any kind of business. According to an inspection by international experts, its elevator shafts are hopelessly crooked.
The 36-floor U2 Tower in Dublin was to reach around 130 meters (about 426 feet), making it the tallest building in Ireland. Bono and bandmates put their names behind the project, because their very own studio would be in the egg-shaped “pod” at the top, along with apartments below that go for a million euros. The project sounded like a good idea at the time (2007), but two years later Ireland’s subprime mortgage crisis and other dolorous fiscal ordeals undid the Tower. Ireland remains skyscraper-free today.
Norman Foster’s 125-floor Russia Tower in Moscow could have been Europe’s tallest building, but got the axe in 2009. Just like the Skyneedle in Chicago, the land allotted for the structure now houses a parking lot.
In the early ’90s the French architect Jean Nouvel designed the “Tower Without End” for the skyscraper district at the western edge of Paris, but the 100-story cylinder was never built because of a housing slump.
The Nakheel Tower in Dubai would have been a kilometer in height (almost a mile), but the Gulf city-state’s debt woes scrapped the endeavor in 2009.
The 2,000-foot-tall Chicago Spire was nixed in 2008. Today, a legal battle and a bank-owned hole in the ground are all that remain.
Eugene Tsui’s Ultima Tower asks the question Frank Lloyd Wright never did: “Why not build something 2 miles high?” Though no city has ever waited with bated breath for its groundbreaking, an Ultima-tower-boosting website talks a good game, claiming that the Ultima would “prevent the uncontrolled blight of the natural landscape by rapacious developers and industry.” That said, the astronomical numbers associated with the mighty Ultima doom it to languish on the drawing board forever. Its 5 million square feet of space would cost more than 150 billion dollars to build.