PreviousNext

Oculus Book Review: Never Built New York by Greg Goldin and Sam Lubell

Book Reviews by • 01/13

Never Built New York is a straight-forward embrace of the architectural imagination that has flourished around New York City since the Industrial Revolution. Greg Goldin and Sam Lubell have put together an exhilarating romp through the New York City-that-could-have-been with 400 pages of speculative buildings, monuments, and infrastructure.

Never Built New York traces the many trajectories of architectural work in New York City; with each proposal you see its economic sagas, its political conflicts and patronages, and its citizens’ grassroots agendas. The book is organized into geographic territories as opposed to chronologically. After reading about the fallout from Frank Gehry’s Miss Brooklyn debacle, you will bump into the 1909 proposal for a never-built Beaux Arts-style National American Indian Memorial in Brooklyn. Each project description is crystalline and lively; the book’s “pep rally” tone encourages readers to root for each outlandish and heroic endeavor. It is also unapologetically image heavy, with full-spread drawing reproductions and luxurious plans, sections, and concept sketches rounding out each story. What a joy!

Goldin and Lubell’s introduction elegantly links Thomas Cole’s painting, The Course of an Empire, to the heroic acts in New York’s architectural landscape. Architect Daniel Libeskind offers up a “poem as preface” that feels more like an open wound than a graceful homage to the unbuilt. But, it’s honest, as is much of the text; the authors’ acknowledgement of the lack of representation of women architects is admirable (although a search through student archives at Columbia, Pratt, or Cooper Union might have been a good addition). The open discussion of the David Childs versus Libeskind 9/11 throw-down was refreshing. The authors succinctly framed the contentious proposals for the United Nations, showing the dreamy, but deemed too suburban, Corona Park scheme. The shaping of Grand Central Terminal is explained in terms of political cronyism.

Interestingly enough, the reader never fully laments the demise of many of the schemes. The original version of Michael Arad’s 9/11 Memorial might have been a loss, but Venturi Scott Brown’s 1994 42nd Street pastel skyscraper was not. Like the egocentric Richard Morris Hunt’s theatrical entrances to Central Park show, New York City dodged many architectural bullets in leaving many of these proposals unbuilt. Nonetheless, the 1960s Philip Johnson Chelsea Walk apartment proposal was disarmingly handsome for the era and the architect and the Paul Rudolph Graphic Arts Center initiated by the Amalgamated Lithographers Guild is an amazing tale of American unions envisioning a physical community. American unions refusing to allow prefab housing elements to be made outside of New York City, the project remained in Rudolph’s long list of (unbuilt) dramatic urbanist architecture.

Mostly, this volume is just fun. The reader walks away with multiple ways to make a subway, infill the East River, or strike a modernist slash through the island of Manhattan, all the while knowing that the beauty of New York is all its “unsolvableness.” Readers are lucky to have this tribute to New York City as the dynamic catalyst for the architectural imagination.

Comments are closed.

Upper East Side residence by Gabellini Sheppard, New York. Photo: Paul Warchol.
Michael Gabellini, FAIA, Delivers AIANY 2017 Gil Oberfield Lecture At the Center for Architecture
AIANY 2017 President David Piscuskas, FAIA, at the National Summit on Design and Urban Mobility. Credit: Center for Architecture
Are We Ready for Autonomous Vehicles? From the Executive Director
Reflections at Keppel Bay in Keppel Bay, Singapore. Photo: Keppel Bay Pte Ltd.
Featured Member: Daniel Libeskind Elevated to AIA College of Fellows Featured Member
Join us for FitCity 2017! Hunter's Point South Waterfront Park by Thomas Balsley Associates and WEISS/MANFREDI. Credit: Albert Vecerka/Esto.
Policy Pulse: FitCity 2017 Policy Pulse
Speakers of "Hesitation and Constraints: Barriers to Social Research in Practice." Credit: Center for Architecture
Social Sciences, Good for Your Bottom Line and Society At the Center for Architecture
The Quad Cinema, renovated by Projects Design Associates with rebrand by Pentagram. Credit: Marion Curtis / StarPix.
In the News In The News
Names in the News Names in the News
New Deadlines New Deadlines
"Architecture of Independence - African Modernism" closes on 05.27.17. Credit: Sam Lahoz
On View On View
Classifieds Classifieds
Claremont University Consortium, Claremont, CA. Photo: Michael Moran.
Featured Member: Paul Lewis Elevated to AIA College of Fellows Featured Member
Diane Lewis at a Design IV review, Fall 2008
In Memoriam: Diane Lewis, AIA In Memoriam
Photo courtesy of Aaron Burson via Unsplash
Policy Pulse: AIANY Launches New Civic Leadership Program Policy Pulse
Ben Prosky, Assoc. AIA (AIA New York and the Center for Architecture); Medal of Honor winner Dr. Sharon E. Sutton, FAIA; Award of Merit winner Fiona Cousins, PE; and David Piscuskas, FAIA (AIA New York and 1100 Architect). Photography: Samuel Lahoz.
Industry Gathers at 2017 AIANY Honors and Awards Luncheon Around the AIA + Center for Architecture
AutoPound in Queens, NY. Credit: Alex Severin.
Featured Member: Jane Smith Elevated to AIA College of Fellows Featured Member
Obama Presidential Center by Tod Williams Billie Tsien Architects | Partners and InterActive Design Architects. Credit: Obama Foundation
In the News In The News
Names in the News Names in the News
New Deadlines New Deadlines
"El Helicoide: From Mall to Prison" opens 05.09.17. Image credit: Pietro Paolini, 2012
On View On View
Classifieds Classifieds
The Medical University of South Carolina, Ashley River Tower, Charleston, SC. Credit: Frank Ooms.
Featured Member: Timothy Johnson Elevated to AIA College of Fellows Featured Member
Image courtesy pixabay
Policy Pulse: AIA Urges Policymakers to Keep Carbon Neutral Goals Policy Pulse
Students at IS 234 present their scale store models to their peers. / Image credit: Dustin Atlas
Store Design Program Engages Students in Real-World Design Problems Learning by Design
Maritime and Seafood Industry Museum, Biloxi, MS. Credit: Francis Dzikowski.
Featured Member: Daria Pizzetta Elevated to AIA College of Fellows Featured Member
The Arab City: Architecture and Representation
Oculus Book Review: The Arab City: Architecture and Representation Book Reviews
Never Built New York by Greg Golden and Sam Lubell
Oculus Quick-Take: Never Built New York Podcast
David Ginsberg, FAIA / Image credit: ©Alex Kaplan
In Memoriam: David l. (Dave) Ginsberg, FAIA (1932-2017) In Memoriam
75 Kenmare by Andre Kikoski Architect / Image credit: Redundant Pixel
In the News In The News
Names in the News Names in the News
New Deadlines New Deadlines
Summer House Winter House by Hayes Slade, on view in "Follies, Function & Form: Imagining Olana’s Summer House.”
On View On View
Classifieds Classifieds
Library of the Gambelli School of Business, Fordham College at Lincoln Center, Fordham University, New York, New York. Credit: Roy Wright.
Featured Member: Kevin Hom Elevated to AIA College of Fellows Featured Member
George Washington Bridge ADA Access Paths, New York North Side Plaza, New York, NY, and Fort Lee, NJ. Credit: ACME Digital.
Featured Member: Robert Eisenstat Elevated to AIA College of Fellows Featured Member
Star Apartments, Los Angeles. Credit: Iwan Baan.
Michael Maltzan, FAIA, Says Public Housing Must Anticipate the Future At the Center for Architecture
Michael Kimmelman, New York Times architecture critic, and Jeanne Gang, Founding Principal of Studio Gang. Credit: Center for Architecture.
Jeanne Gang and Michael Kimmelman Discuss Truth and Public Work in Architecture At the Center for Architecture
Photo credit: Thomas Habr via unsplash
Policy Pulse: AIA Releases Disaster Assistance Handbook Policy Pulse
Malcolm McLaren, founder of McLaren Engineering, receives proclamation from AIANY and Center for Architecture Executive Director Benjamin Prosky, Assoc. AIA.
AIANY Presents Proclamation to McLaren Engineering At the Center for Architecture
Al Hamra Tower, Kuwaut City, Kuwait. Credit: Tim Griffith.
Featured Member: Gary Haney Elevated to AIA College of Fellows Featured Member
Citicorp Center, 601 Lexington Avenue, to be renovated by Gensler.
In the News In The News
ASLA-NY 2017 Design Award winners are currently on view at the Center for Architecture.
Names in the News Names in the News
New Deadlines New Deadlines
“Follies, Function & Form: Imagining Olana’s Summer House,” through 04.22.17
On View On View
Classifieds Classifieds
World Trade Center Transportation Hub Oculus Interior, New York, NY. Credit: Peter Aaron.
Featured Member: Thomas Grassi Elevated to AIA College of Fellows Featured Member
Credit: Martin Falbisoner/Wikimedia.
Policy Pulse: 300 Architects, Advocates and Leaders Attend AIA Grassroots Conference Policy Pulse
Hugh Hardy at the New York Academy of Sciences. Credit: Kristen Richards, Hon. AIA, Hon. ASLA.
Remembering New York Architect Hugh Hardy, FAIA (1931-2017) In Memoriam
Allie Mae Public Library, View of Story Hour Corner, New Orleans, LA. Photo: Courtesy of MDA Designgroup.
Featured Member: Elisabeth Martin Elevated to AIA College of Fellows Featured Member
Alex O'Briant takes the mic. Credit: Center for Architecture.
Busting Myths: How Can Social Research Impact Design? At the Center for Architecture
The TRA Studio-designed restoration of the façade of the New York Academy of Art (NYAA). Credit: TRA Studio.
In the News In The News