Many architects have yearned to leave a lasting mark on New York City. While the lucky few are able to realize their dream, an untold number never get that chance. Some of their plans never saw reality due to red tape or funding issues, while others remained on the drawing board because the city was not ready for their grandiosity. Presented below are 10 ideas for New York City that never left the drawing board.


Highway on Rooftops NYC-Manhattan-Popular Science-1927

In July 1927, Popular Science profiled a proposal for a sixteen mile elevated highway that would span the rooftops of a Manhattan avenue. This futuristic plan came from the mind of John K. Hencken, a New York based engineer, and was allegedly “approved by a number of eminent engineers and city planners.” The plan called for a series of uniform twelve-story buildings extending from the Battery Park to Yonkers.


Secrets of Metropolitan Museum_New York City_Untapped Cities-5

One of our favorite fun facts about the Metropolitan Museum of Art is that it’s still unfinished (and that it grew over time, so you can still see earlier versions inside). Here are tidbits about where to see these incomplete portions today and how they came to be.


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A note from Untapped Cities founder, Michelle Young: 

9/11 happened on the first day of registration my sophomore year in college. I was sleeping and I remember hearing bounding footsteps in the hallway of our thinly-walled dorms at Harvard and someone saying that the World Trade Center had fallen. It seemed like something out of a crazy dream, so I kept on sleeping. I woke up to instant messages (remember those on AOL?) from New York, where I’m from. Friends at Columbia University had seen the whole thing happen from their skyscraper dorms in Morningside Heights. 


Times Square Municipal Art Society CompetitionMosaic of 6 entry boards for the Municipal Art Society competition. (Credits: William F Schacht & Cassandra Mcgowen, Richard Haas & Judith DiMaio, Gilbert Gorski, Frank Lupo & Daniel Rowen, Lee Dunnette, Jaime Gonzales-Goldstein & Martin Maurin, George Ranalli, Paul Bentel & Carol Rusche)

Now through January 2015, the Skyscraper Museum is presenting the exhibit Times Square 1984: The Postmodern Moment. The exhibit takes visitors back to the seedy, crime ridden, nostalgic Times Square of the late 1970s early 1980s. In 1984, the Municipal Art Society and the National Endowment for the Arts organized an alternative “ideas competition” for Times Square with a $10,000 prize, in reaction to a critically panned proposal by Philip Johnson and John Burgee. The request for proposals drew more than five hundred entrants and widespread press attention. The New York Times recently highlighted this new exhibit in a slideshow highlighting 20 of the boards museum director Carol Willis was able to track down.


Hearst Building vintage photo NYC Untapped CitiesVintage photo of the Hearst Building via Hearst Corporation

In 1926, William Randolph Hearst commissioned Joseph Urban, one of the most important theater designers of the time, to create a building to house his magazine empire. The International Magazine Building, which is located at 300 West 57 Street, was built between 1927 and 1928 at a cost of two million dollars. The building was supposed to convey “its cultural importance, expressing the influence of [Hearst’s] magazines ‘on the thought and education for the reading public.”

The building was designed with an auditorium for concerts, lectures, “and other similar educational activities.” Between 1945 and 1947, George B. Post & Sons designed nine additional stories for the building. The plans were filed in 1946 but never realized.  (more…)