Welcome back to Curbed's Could Have Been, where we investigate some of the most outlandish proposals and grandiose buildings that were never built. Today we have a special Hotels Week addition. Know of a plan that never saw the light of day? Send it to the tipline.
In the early 1900s, when the Astors, Rockefellers, and other rich folk were busy building up New York City with elaborate Beaux-Arts buildings, two unknown businessmen wanted to build something different. So they traveled to Spain and met with whimsical genius Antoni Gaudi, whose Catalan Modernist architecture was unlike anything in America. Gaudi proposed a soaring Grand Hotel Attraction, a castle-like structure of conical towers rising some 1,100 feet into the sky. It was envisioned as a downtown playhouse for the wealthy and elite, with lavishly appointed guest rooms, six floors of restaurants, a large theater and lecture hall, multiple galleries, and a 390-foot-tall exhibition space. A star-shaped sphere would top the tower, giving 30 people at a time unobstructed views of the city. Had it been built, it would have been the tallest building in the country.
Many people believe that the futuristic hotel, proposed for an unspecified Lower Manhattan site (although some believe it was planned for the World Trade Center site), was unrealistic for the time, and Untapped New York notes that there are two versions of why the building never rose. One story says that Gaudi fell ill in 1909, therefore canceling the project, while another, more dramatic tale says that Gaudi, a communist, disagreed with the businessmen's desires to cater to the wealthy so he abandoned the project on principle.
All that remains of the plans are a few conceptual sketches, most drawn by Juan Matemala, but the building has by no means been forgotten. In 2003, a group of Spanish architects submitted the plans into the new World Trade Center design competition, and in 2010, the spaceship-like building was created in an episode the sci-fi TV show Fringe.
Unfortunately, this virtual reality is as close as we'll ever get to seeing the real thing. Hotel design these days just isn't what it used to be.
· The New York that Never Was: The Gaudi Hotel [Untapped NY]
· Antonio [sic] Gaudi's grand New York hotel -- built by sci-fi [Bowery Boys]
· Fables of the Reconstruction: Can Antonio Gaudi's Grand Hotel replace the Twin Towers? [Sinehead]
· Curbed's Could Have Been archives [Curbed]