Lonely Planet Writer

Discover the alternative architecture of some of the world's most famous landmarks

Some landmarks are so ingrained in the public imagination, it’s almost impossible to imagine them as something different. For many though, they were just one several designs in play before the successful one was chosen. Now this Alternate Architecture project has illustrated five landmarks as they could have been.

Arc de Triomphe, Paris

Actual architect: Jean-François Chalgrin Alternate architect: Charles Ribart

Completed in 1836, the neo-classical arch seems a suitably serious tribute to fallen French soldiers but it may never have been if this 1758 design had been built at the site as originally planned.

Three storeys were designed inside the monument, accessible by a spiral staircase hidden inside the elephant’s underbelly. Although the initial design was rejected, Napoleon did go on to build the Elephant of the Bastille in plaster in 1813 but after plans to cast the statue in bronze failed to go ahead, it was demolished after it fell into ruin.

Tower Bridge, London

Actual architect: Sir Horace Jones Alternate architect: F. J. Palmer

This landmark is so inextricably linked with the city that it’s often mistaken for London Bridge but it was just one of 50 potential designs for a new connection needed in the 1880s to connect a growing East London.

This alternative design from F. J. Palmer looks impressively modern but perhaps lacks the photogenic charm of the existing Gothic-style bridge towers.

Sydney Opera House

Actual architect: Jørn Utzon Alternate architect: Eugene Goossens

The alternative design of the landmark opera house was actually submitted by Eugene Goossens, who was the conductor of the Sydney Symphony Orchestra at the time the design competition was being held.

As well as being one of the most recognisable buildings in Australia, the opera house that we know and love helped win architect Jørn Utzon the prestigious Pritzker Architecture Prize when it was recognised as his masterpiece.

Lincoln Memorial, Washington D.C.

Actual architect: Henry Bacon Alternate architect: John Russell Pope

When it finally came time for a large public monument to Lincoln, it’s no surprise the competing designs take influence from temples from both Greek and Mesopotamian civilisations.

While the winning design was not without controversy – many argued a simpler monument would have better suited the humble politician – it’s become such a famous site it’s been on the back of the five-dollar bill for nearly 90 years.

Tribune Tower, Chicago

Actual architect: John Mead Howells & Raymond Hood Alternate architect: Bruno Taut

Bruno Taut’s alternative entry to a design competition to build “the most beautiful and distinctive office building in the world” looks like it would be more at home in modern day Dubai than 1920s Chicago.

Many of the unsuccessful entries from the competition went on to heavily influence US architecture in the 20th century.