Lonely Planet Writer

How NYC could have looked if some proposals went ahead

From a gigantic airport in Midtown to a totem-style tower in Times Square, a new project imagines what New York could have looked like if some of the city’s most fascinating design proposals had been realised.

Calvin Pollard’s proposed George Washington monument in Union Square. Image by Barratt London

New York is home to some of the most iconic architecture in the world. Structures like the Empire State Building and the Statue of Liberty define the skyline and offer an enduring identity to a metropolis that’s constantly in flux. But have you ever wondered what the city would look like if some of its most daring design proposals had been given the go-ahead?

Residential developer Barratt London have pulled together some images that bring to life four of the most ambitious constructions projects that never saw the light of day. Working with local architects, the team imagined an alternative New York using 3D renderings that were mapped into Google Earth and Street View to make them look as true to life as possible.

Midtown Airport, proposed by property mogul William Zeckendorf. Image by Barratt London

There’s Midtown Manhattan Airport, proposed in 1946 by property and real-estate mogul William Zeckendorf. A mammoth building that would have stretched 144 blocks from 24th to 71st Streets and from Ninth Avenue to the Hudson River, the airport would have cost $3 billion ($39 billion today) if the plans had ever made it off the page.

Thomas J. George’s Grecian-style civic centre on Roosevelt Island. Image by Barratt London

In 1902 there were also plans to construct a neo-classical Grecian-style civic centre complex on Roosevelt Island. The project was proposed by architect Thomas J. George in response to ex-congressman John De Witt Warner’s complaints that the city lacked civic centres. Spread over seven blocks and standing over 600 feet with no buildings around it to obstruct the view, the civic centre could have been one of New York’s most iconic landmarks.

Calvin Pollard’s giant George Washington monument in Union Square. Image by Barratt London

In 1882, architect Calvin Pollard proposed the George Washington Monument in Union Square. Officially approved by the city it was to be a massive 425 feet-high, doubling the height of any other building in the city. The first floor would have contained over 400,000 books within its library and the second floor was to house a statue of George Washington holding the Declaration of Independence. While the monument was eventually rejected due to lack of available funds.

George Ranalli hoped to bring a totem-style theatre centre to Times Square in 1984. Image by Barratt London

During the 1970s and 80s, Times Square was filled with peep shows, strip clubs and porn theatres and riddled with crime. In 1984, in an effort to regenerate the area while preserving its cultural heritage, a design competition was launched by the Municipal Art Society and the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA). Offering a $10,000 prize for the winner, the competition received more than 500 entries, including George Ranalli’s proposition for a totem-style tower that would host theatres on every level.