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.

Waterproofing of the facade system and roof at 540 West 26th Street for Savanna. Design Architect: Morris Adjmi. Rendering: Morris Adjmi.
Featured Member: Howard Zimmerman Elevated to AIA College of Fellows Featured Member
From left: Signe Nielsen, RLA, FASLA; Cynthia Rosenzweig; Susanne Desroches; Jeffrey Raven, FAIA, LEED BD+C; and Jee Mee Kim, AICP. Photo: Center for Architecture.
Climate Change in NYC: Bridging Science and Practice At the Center for Architecture
From left: Peter Lampen, AIA; Luke Surowiec, LEED AP; Steven Winter, FAIA; John Lee, AIA. Photo: Center for Architecture.
A Closer Look at 80×50 Initiative’s NYC Retrofit Accelerator Program At the Center for Architecture
Courtesy of the Center for Active Design.
Policy Pulse: FitCity 2017 Lands in Queens Policy Pulse
Frank Sinatra School of the Arts, Astoria, Queens, NY. Somvanshi’s role: Associate, Project Manager and On-site Supervisor. Firm: Ennead Architects (previously Polshek Partnership). Photo: Jeff Goldberg/Esto.
Featured Member: Kalavati Somvanshi Elevated to AIA College of Fellows Featured Member
Robert Michael Kliment, FAIA. Courtesy of Kliment Halsband Architects.
Robert Michael Kliment, FAIA (1933 – 2017) In Memoriam
Museum of Modern Art  east section renovation by Diller Scofidio + Renfro in collaboration with Gensler. Credit: Iwan Baan
In the News In The News
Names in the News Names in the News
09.17.17: Call for Entries: 2017 AIANY COTE Awards
New Deadlines New Deadlines
Lurie House by Kaneji Domoto, featured in "“Kaneji Domoto at Frank Lloyd Wright’s Usonia,” opening 06.22.17. Credit: Thad Russell
On View On View
Classifieds Classifieds
New York City Police Academy by Perkins + Will. Photo: Courtesy of Perkins + Will.
Featured Member: Michael Plottel Elevated to AIA College of Fellows Featured Member
AIANY Opposes Paris Climate Accord Exit From the Desk of the President
Manhattan Districts 1/2/5 Garage and Salt Shed by Dattner Architects and WXY architecture + urban design, 2016 Building of the Day. Credit: Center for Architecture
Call for Archtober Buildings of the Day New Deadlines
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 representatives at AIA New York State's "Architects in Albany Advocacy Day." Credit: Center for Architecture
Policy Pulse: 2017 Architects in Albany Advocacy Day Policy Pulse
Families make collages of their dream playgrounds. Credit: Center for Architecture
Draw, Design, Build! NYU Teams Up with the Center for Architecture for Family Programming Learning by Design
Weill Hall at Cornell University, Ithica, NY. Photo: Scott Frances.
Featured Member: Renny Logan Elevated to AIA College of Fellows Featured Member
The Shed by Diller Scofidio + Renfro in collaboration with Rockwell Group.
In the News In The News
Names in the News Names in the News
New Deadlines New Deadlines
Siegel House by Kaneji Domoto, featured in “Kaneji Domoto at Frank Lloyd Wright’s Usonia,” opening 06.22.17. Credit: Thad Russell
On View On View
Classifieds Classifieds
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