New York’s Skyline as It Might Have Been

An exhibit at Queens Museum reveals architectural plans that would have changed the face of our city—if they hadn’t been scrapped.

A bird's eye view of architectural urban planning in Never Built New York

Doesn’t it seem like New York City is always under construction? How many streets do you see closed off by new structures being erected or old ones going down? How many sidewalks are hemmed in by scaffolding for months or years? Our city is a never-ending exhibit of architectonics. A new display at the Queens Museum called “Never Built New York,” however, isn’t so much about what goes up, it’s about the projects that never got off the drawing board.

“Never Built” cocurators Sam Lubell and Greg Goldin combed over 150 years of Gotham architectural history to produce this eye-popping panorama of residential edifices, sports stadiums, and a dome—yes, a dome—that were once, fleetingly, envisioned for our fair boroughs.

never built new york
Midtown might have been encased in a giant dome.

The show pulls together an impressive number of plans, renderings, and models to evoke, as press materials note, “the ghost of a city that could have been—a parallel metropolis where you might land on a floating airport, catch a football game in Manhattan, or live in an apartment building that doubles as the tower of a bridge.” Some of the architectural A-listers behind the blueprints include Frank Lloyd Wright, Sanford White, Louis Kahn, Marcel Breuer, Frank Gehry, Rem Koolhaas, and Zaha Hadid. Many of these documents and artifacts have never been seen by the public and will be displayed together at the museum for the very first time.

Lubell is a contributing editor at The Architect’s Newspaper, and Goldin was the architecture critic at Los Angeles Magazine from 1999 to 2011. Together they wrote Never Built New York, published by Metropolis Books in 2016 and the inspiration for the present exhibition. If you like urban architecture and enjoy poring over blueprints and scale models, this is the show for you.

never built new york
Never-before-seen sketches of urban parkland in “Never Built New York.”

Why You Should Go: It’s an astonishing view of the city that you’ve never seen—because it never was. Let your urban imagination go crazy!

“Never Built New York
Queens Museum
Flushing Meadows Corona Park, Corona
Through February 18, 2018
$8 suggested admission; $4 for seniors; free for ages 18 and under

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