The architectural writer Alexandra Lange reviews Never Built New York in The New Yorker: Her piece is called “The New York that Could Have Been,” a title that suggests she yearns for it. The book, written and compiled by Greg Goldin and Sam Lubell, illustrates profusely just how many bullets the city has dodged over the years. There are a number of examples from a century ago, such as the Egyptian pile proposed to replace that era’s City Hall in 1893 by Scottish architect George Ashdown Audsley, that might have been admirable additions to the Big Apple, but the book is chock-a-block with the sort of crash-and-burn modernist egotecture that Manhattan has wisely avoided countless times over the years, but, I’m afraid, not quite enough.
Lange points out that New York is filled with many architects’ worst work, but adds that “it’s difficult to feel real regret that many of these plans never came to be.” As the design of One World Trade Center shows, some relatively modest designs have replaced more ridiculous designs (often described as more ambitious), for which the city may count its blessings.
But The New Yorker does Goldin and Lubell proud with its slide show of images from the book. Click on the link above, because the illustrations are a wonder to behold. Lange describes many of them as if she wishes they’d been built. Most New Yorkers (and visitors to the city) will beg to disagree. The reasons they were not built are often painfully obvious – which, because so much that is regrettable was built, doubles our relief that so much was not.