queens museums presents ‘never built NYC’, an immersive exhibit visualizing the ‘metropolis that could have been’. curated by sam lubell and greg golden, and designed by studio christian wassmann with support from gensler, the exhibit features 150 years of the boldest, most far-reaching urban designs that never made it past the drawing board. designboom attended an exclusive press preview, where we were guided through the galleries by the curators and designer.

never built new york
installation view of the rubin gallery
image by hai zhang, courtesy of the queens museum

 

 

drawings were pulled from over 40 archives and collections including treasured works by frank lloyd wright, steven holl, and daniel libeskind. large-scale architectural models were also acquired through generous support from architecture firms including a 13-foot-tall model of steven holl’s parallax towers proposal from 1990.

never built new york
model of daniel libeskind’s new york tower at one madison avenue (2007)
image © designboom

 

 

the show is designed as a dense urban dreamscape, revealing in all directions pure urban inventions that would have changed the city beyond recognition–both for better and for worse,’ says co-curator sam lubell.visitors get a sense of how ephemeral built visions (and realities) can be, and are transported from the minute they enter the galleries.’

never built new york
sam lubell leads tour through rubin gallery, highlighting frank lloyd wright’s drawing for ellis island (1959)
image © designboom

 

 

the exhibition is divided into three different spaces, each creating a very distinct environment. in the rubin gallery, whose long tapering shape resembles manhattan, original materials are organized geographically, mimicking the height and depth of manhattan. ‘the space is similar to midtown, where you have stimulation on all levels’, notes exhibition designer christian wassmann. ‘we picked the salon-style of hanging, where things are all mixed and matched in groups’.

never built new york
model of diller scofidio +renfro’s eyebeam museum of art and technology (2001)
image © designboom

 

 

the second phase of the exhibit takes place in the ‘panorama of the city of new york’, the world’s largest architectural scale model, which spreads out across an entire room. more than 70 ‘never built’ projects have been installed in their originally intended locations across the city, appearing as transparent ghosts illuminated over the city. these 3D-printed and plexiglas models were designed and produced by students at columbia university’s graduate school of architecture (GSAPP).

new built new york
southwest view of the panorama of the city of new york
image by hai zhang, courtesy of the queens museum

 

 

when you come to the panorama room, you have a bird’s eye perspective which can make you look at things from a new perspective’, says wassman.my hope is that one or two kids come out of this exhibition and become architects or community organizers. they become aware that they can actually participate in shaping their cities’. an additional feature of the panorama room is an immersive virtual reality (VR) feature. ‘never built’ partnered with visual vocal, specialists in VR visualizations, who worked with shimahara illustration to create a world of augmented reality. using VR goggles, visitors are transported to the sites of these grand proposals. 

 

video courtesy of ‘visual vocal’

 

 

the third phase, unfolding in the skylight gallery, allows visitors to experience unbuilt projects that were intended specifically for flushing meadows, corona park. an inflatable, and usable ‘bouncy castle’ version of eliot noyes’ unbuilt ‘westinghouse pavilion’ for the 1964 world’s fair acts as the main attraction within the large space. other ambitious proposals include several stadiums, and an unbuilt version of the queens museum itself.

new built new york
william zeckendorf’s plan for the west side airport (1946)
image by hai zhang, courtesy of the queens museum

 

 

through their selection of projects, the curators hope to spark dialogue about the design challenges faced by architects in a bustling metropolis. while the projects look to the past, the curators also hope that the visualization of alternate realities can inspire the city’s future.

new built new york
VR rendering of west side airport proposal (1946)
image by shimahara illustration

new built new york
r. buckminster fuller & shoji sadao with june jordan, harlem skyrise project (1960)
image by hai zhang, courtesy of the queens museum

new built new york
view of panorama model
image by hai zhang, courtesy of the queens museum

new built new york
pei cobb freed, hyperboloid (1954-1956)
image by shimahara illustration

new built new york
installation view of skyscraper bridges (1925)
image by hai zhang, courtesy of the queens museum

new built new york
VR rendering of raymond hood’s skyscraper bridges (1925)
image by shimahara illustration

new built new york
skylight gallery featuring never built proposals for queens
image by hai zhang, courtesy of the queens museum

new built new york
bouncy house interpretation of eliot noyes’ ‘unbuilt westinghouse pavilion’ for the 1964 world’s fair
image by hai zhang, courtesy of the queens museum