In addition to Hitler’s insane project to build the ideal city of Germania, the history of architecture documents some other, no less deranged works which fortunately haven’t seen the light of day. The first person to think about building a monumental city as a self-tribute was Alexander the Great from the 3rd century BC. He wanted a city which would rise as high as a mountain. The Industrial Revolution and socialist ideas gave rise to the rethinking of a perfect, utopian city, this time, however, on a more ambitious scale. An unusual example comes from the famous inventor King Camp Gillette, mostly known for his razors. In his 1894 book, “The Human Drift”, he describes the perfect city which he envisioned on the Niagara Falls and which was supposed to have 24000 buildings (25-stories high) for about 60 million residents.
The longing to build one’s way to the sky continued into the 20th and the 21st century by building numerous skyscrapers. The mythical kilometer hasn’t been reached as yet, but the Emirates’ Burj Dubai, with its 818 meters, is well on its way.
The Bionic Tower is lying somewhere in a desk drawer, waiting for a wealthy patron to cover the expense of the project. This vertical city was designed in 2001 by Spanish architects Eloy Celaya, Rosa Cervera, and Javier Pioz. The 1228 meter building which would literally scrape the sky would be placed on an island. Divided into 12 blocks, there would be 300 stories occupied by 100 000 residents. Taking the elevator from the first to the last story would take about 35 minutes. However, until an able Mr. Moneybags comes along willing to have his name written down in the history of architecture, the dream of the world’s tallest building remains but a utopian project.
In order to outshine the glory of glamorous Paris and historical value of eternal Rome, Hitler ordered an absurd project of a new City of the Future called Germania. The ideal city that was supposed to impress the Fuhrer was designed by his trusted architect, Albert Speer. The dimensions of the original scale model of Germania, which was lost during the war, were equally impressive – it was 30 meters long, and for the viewers to be able to enter into the spirit of this important project, very realistic figurines of soldiers marching the oversized avenues were crafted. The scale model of the town included a kind of a replica of the Parisian Arc de Triomphe, which was even 50 times higher than the original! The scale model was so monumental that a man of average height could stand underneath it fully erect. That it really was a ludicrous project, witnesses an alleged statement of Mussolini’s architect given after he studied the scale model, “I am really convinced now that they have all taken leave of their senses!”
Undoubtedly, the title for the most horrendous and the most preposterous urban project in the history goes to Germania, not only because of the dreadful arch, but due to other elements as well. So was the dome of the so-called Great Pavilion, the Nazi headquarters, modeled after the dome of the basilica of St. Peter in Rome, supposed to rise 300 meters in height and was designed to accommodate about 180 000 people. American soldiers who had seen the model after the conquest of Berlin claimed that artificial clouds could even be created, with the help of a special apparatus, in the dome. Were he not prevented in time, Hitler would have realized his absurd idea without a moment of hesitation. Before the construction started, thousands of buildings in Berlin were scheduled for demolition, and about 25 000 prisoners and concentration camp inmates were supposed to work on the sight.
A New Paris
In addition to being the first to start using new materials along with envisioning a new concept of living, the renowned French architect Le Corbusier came to a highly unusual idea in the early 1920s of creating new housing projects within the old core of Paris. He proposed demolition of the majority of buildings by the northern bank of the Seine, where he envisioned the development of a contemporary housing project, the Cité Contemporaine, where he intended to place 3 million residents. His blueprints detail 18 vast 60-story skyscrapers, between which large parks would have been situated. His idea was vehemently rejected not only by the general population but by the profession as well, and Le Corbusier himself had probably never in his life experienced so much criticism.
As is the case with other historical megalomaniacs, Josif Staljin, USSR’s dictator for life, wanted to leave a grandiose developmental project in his wake. A tender was released in 1931 for the construction of a Soviet Palace, an administrative and congress center in Moscow in the place of today’s Christ the Saviour Cathedral. The tender stirred up incredible interest among not only Soviet but world architects as well. Works were sent in by as many as 272 architects, among who were the following: Le Corbusier, Joseph Urban, Walter Gropius, Erich Mendesohn, Armando Brasini… The Russian architect Boris Iofan was the winner, who found inspiration in the Babylon Palace. The building’s Tower was intended to be 400 meters high, and crowned at the top with a monument to Stalin which was supposed to surpass the Statue of Liberty in size. If you can’t imagine its proportions, here’s a bit of help: the radius of one finger cushion was supposed to be approximately 6 meters! Even though the project never saw the light of day, the damage was done by demolishing the 19th century Cathedral. It took as long as a years’ time to clean up the residual scrap material.