Great Buildings Never Built

Tom Wiscombe Design

The unbuilt architecture of renowned architects gives a glimpse into imaginative—yet unrealized—urban additions.

From the aerial perspective of Google Earth, the three-story footprint of the Strata Tower in Abu Dhabi can be seen partially buried in the sand. Intended to be a 21st-century response to Dubai’s world-record-breaking Burj Khalifa, the 525-foot building was abandoned after the collapse of the global economy in 2009. New York architecture firm Asymptote had designed the twisting skyscraper, with pools on the duplex’s terraces, to be as accessible by the cantilevered helipad above as by the road below.

In 1925, Le Corbusier suggested razing Paris and building in its place ranks of monolithic apartment blocks, paving the way for the modern apartment complex that defines urban living now. In 1988, New York’s MoMA held a show of largely unrealized works—by Zaha Hadid, Frank Gehry, Rem Koolhaas—that influenced an architectural culture of radical, attention-grabbing designs soon dubbed starchitecture.

All these were meant to represent, and perhaps to bring about, a new kind of living. Instead they join the pantheon of unbuilt architecture: projects that will never be executed—but still ignite the imagination. Every architect has a few.