Skip
Current Issue
This Month's Print Issue

Follow Fast Company

We’ll come to you.

1 minute read

This Tube Map Shows The Greatest London Buildings That Never Came To Be

From propellor-powered monorails to fungus farms, the city of London has had the potential to be a very different place.

This Tube Map Shows The Greatest London Buildings That Never Came To Be

Illustration: Harmer E. Davis Transportation Library, University of California at Berkeley via The Newcomen Society

Pretty much every one of the abandoned building schemes detailed on the Londonist’s Unbuilt London Tube Map are fascinating, but some of them are just plain bizarre, and it is those which we will look at today. That’s not to say that the concrete hell that was proposed to replace the Covent Garden market, or the completely turfed Diana Memorial Bridge, spanning the Thames in front of St Paul’s Cathedral, aren’t worth a curious glance. It’s just that London has, over the years, gotten more than its fair share of oddball architectural proposals, some of which came surprisingly close to completion.

Let’s start with a heliport, the staple of many a 1950s future-city fantasy. The Charing Cross Heliport, actually from the 1950s, would have sat over Charing Cross station and jutted out over the Thames.

Or what about the fungus farm proposed under the very center of the capital? The farm would have used the abandoned Mail Rail tunnels under Oxford Street to grow mushrooms, with light filtered down via fiber-optic cables from street-level mushroom-shaped sculptures. The date? Just a few years ago, in 2012.

There are plenty more oddball architectural follies, all of which can be found on the modified Tube Map above—from a penis-shaped skyscraper called the Green Bird at Vauxhall, to a vast pyramid designed to last 1,000 years at Lancaster Gate, to an airport on the river Thames itself, to a completely underground bikeway at Green Park. But maybe the best of all is a plan straight out of a Jules Verne novel. Not only is the 1930s Bennie Airway (at Queensway) a monorail, but it’s a propellor-powered monorail, essentially consisting of wingless, propeller-driven airplanes hanging under elevated rails. According to the proposal, the cars would have whizzed over the streets of London at 120 mph.

Laurence Dunn via The Newcomen Society

Some of these unbuilt schemes—like the Bennie Airway—would have been amazing, while others are so hideous that we can just be thankful they never got built. But all of them show plenty of the giant-egoed ambition required by any architect who wants to leave a permanent mark on London, and that’s what makes them such fun to see.

loading