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Pyramids, Monorails and Giant Elevated Airports – London As It Could Have Been

(Source: forbes.com)

Unquestionably one of the world’s great cities, the British capital pulls in more than 20 million tourists a year keen to explore its architecture and landmarks, museums, parks and public spaces. And although many of the modern additions to London’s skyline, from the Shard to the Walkie Talkie buildings, have ruffled feathers, they pale against some of the architectural proposals that have been made over the years.

Trawling back through some of the most… interesting, developer Barratt Homes has collaborated with rendering studio CG Orange to create a series of extraordinary images that show how London could have looked. From a pyramid in Trafalgar Square to a giant, spider-like airport raised over the River Thames, take a trip through a London you won’t recognise.

The Central London Monorail

Among the most famous sights on London’s congested streets are the iconic red buses ferrying people back and forth. But if plans in the late 1960s to replace them with a Central London Monorail had made it off the drawing board, they may have been consigned to history.

Proposed by a Conservative transport policy study group when bus use was declining and private car use skyrocketing, the overhead monorail network would take the shape of four kidney-shaped loops serving the city centre. Despite getting some early political support, the project sadly never got off the ground.

Trafalgar Square Pyramid

Now dominated by the statue of Admiral Lord Nelson, Trafalgar Square could have looked very different if the ideas of MP and soldier Sir Frederick William Trench had come to fruition. Around 200 years ago, he suggested building a 300-foot pyramid (or ziggurat) to commemorate the British victories at the Battle of Trafalgar and Battle of the Nile.

Blueprints show it would have towered above St Paul’s Cathedral and featured 22 steps to signify the number of years these two Anglo-French wars lasted. Although no exact location was specified, the most suitable location was deemed to be the top of Whitehall. The land was cleared but instead of a pyramid, the towering but far less imposing Nelson’s Column was erected in its place.

Westminster City Airport

Perhaps the most ambitious and unlikely plan London has seen was this 1934 proposal for an airport to be built over the Thames, right outside the Houses of Parliament. Set between Lambeth and Westminster bridges, the spider-like construction would have been tall enough to allow the ‘tallest masts of ships’ to pass underneath with a runway long enough to land single-propeller airplanes.

In the initial plans, the support columns would have housed elevators to ferry passengers between ground and terminals. In this new rendering, there are a few modern upgrades including a new ramped runway to help with take off and a riverside check-in lounge for a more luxurious check-in experience.

The Victorian Skyscraper

In 1851 London hosted the Great Exhibition in Hyde Park, where a vast temporary glass and iron structure nicknamed the Crystal Palace was built to showcase more than 100,000 new English creations to trading partners around the world. Once finished, there were many plans presented for what to do with the building before it was relocated to Sydenham in south west London in what’s now called Crystal Palace Park.

The most grandiose of these plans came from one Charles Burton, who cooked up the idea for a 1,000-foot-high skyscraper. With its elevated setting, had it been built it would today be slightly taller than the Shard, London’s tallest building. Burton proposed ‘vertical railways’ to ferry visitors up and down, or what we’d call elevators nowadays. The plans never made it to fruition though, which is perhaps a good thing as modern architects believe it would have likely collapsed under its own weight.

The Carlton Hotel

Although still rich with beautiful old buildings, London’s architectural heritage suffered terribly during the bombing campaigns of the second world war. Among those damaged beyond repair was the luxury Carlton Hotel designed by the architect CJ Phipps.

Open from 1899 to 1940 and originally run by famed hotelier César Ritz, alongside the Savoy it was among London’s most prestigious hotel. Eventually demolished in 1957, the site is now occupied by the New Zealand High Commission in a, shall we say, less aesthetically pleasing building…

More Info: forbes.com

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