Six icons of architecture. Six incredible concepts that will never get built.
1. Frank Gehry
“When I originally designed the Walt Disney Concert Hall, I envisioned it as a pair of buildings. Across the street would be the Evil Concert Hall, the mirror image of the Good Concert Hall, with a reversed floor plan. Whereas the good building is silvery and bright, the evil building would have a shadowy, black surface. Instead of holding music, the evil hall would just house endless screaming and clanking chains, establishing an intriguing duality that exists not just in the Disney universe but throughout the entirety of the cosmos. The Disney family only approved the good building.”
2. Zaha Hadid
“My sketchbooks are filled with designs for a barbershop, a beautiful barbershop formed by curves of alabaster stone. It would resemble an albino slug that’s eating a pile of white towels. Instead of sitting on swivel chairs during your haircut, you’d rest on a big egg that rises out of an indoor reflecting pool. And there would be no hair dryers at all, just a giant 100-foot mirror on the roof that blasts concentrated beams of sunlight through a glass roof onto your head.
“The main obstacle to building it is financing, since the construction cost would be $400 million, and I haven’t found a barber willing to fund it. Every day, I open the phone book and call a handful of random barbershops to see if anyone is interested, but I have yet to find a barber with the vision and bravery required.”
3. Daniel Libeskind
“On the whole, I’m very proud of the Freedom Tower, but if I had final say on the design, it would have had Godzilla’s head on top. A lot of people thought it would be inappropriate because Godzilla destroys cities, but to me, Godzilla is actually a heroic defender of cities. Alongside allies like Rodan and Mothra, Godzilla has saved the earth on numerous occasions. It would be an inspiring symbol to have Godzilla’s face staring out defiantly over the New York Harbor. Eventually, I convinced the planning committee that Godzilla is a good guy, but the movie studio wouldn’t give us the rights to use the friendly lizard’s image.”
4. Santiago Calatrava
“My best design ever was actually the Taj Mahal, but I found out that it had already been made. It was extremely humiliating, because I learned that while pitching it for a museum in Barcelona. When I unveiled the model, the clients said, ‘This is the Taj Mahal. India has one,’ and I told them I was pretty sure they didn’t, because I had just invented it. We looked up the Taj Mahal, and sure enough, it was the same building!”
5. Renzo Piano
“I had an idea for a jagged glass-and-steel volcano that shoots out lava. Unfortunately, the engineers told me that there’s no way to hook up a building to the earth’s core and pump up magma, and that only real volcanoes can do that. Instead, I ended up building The Shard in London, which is pointy like a volcano, except not as good, because it’s filled with people and not molten rock. All of my buildings are failures in that regard.”
6. I.M. Pei
“A monolithic skyscraper a hundred stories high with an observation deck on the roof. There would be a little spot on the edge with no railing and yellow text on the ground saying ‘Suicide Leap.’ People could jump off there, but they wouldn’t die, because just a few feet down would be a balcony leading to a nice restaurant. It would really freak out other people on the observation deck, though. I actually have built this skyscraper several times before in cities around the world, but I always want to build it again.”