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Thursday, October 11, 2012

The landmark buildings that never were

Liverpool's Catholic Cathedral
The recently opened Shard is already a familiar landmark on the London skyline, but how might the UK's urban landscapes look if some of the most architecturally ambitious plans of past centuries had been fully realised?
Economic and social factors across the ages meant that some of the grandest designs of renowned architects such as Lutyens and Inigo Jones were never completed.
Here are five ambitious building projects that never made it off the drawing-board.

Model of Edwin Lutyens' cathedral
House of God: Liverpool's Catholic Cathedral
  • Sir Edwin Lutyens, proposed architect of Liverpool's Catholic Cathedral was Anglican
  • Liverpool's Anglican Cathedral designed in 1903 by Giles Gilbert Scott - a Catholic
  • Foundation stone of Lutyens' plan laid in 1933 but building never finished
  • Lutyens also designed large sections of Delhi
  • Lutyens died New Year's Day 1944
The famed architect Sir Edwin Lutyens was commissioned in 1929 to build a new Catholic cathedral in Liverpool. The building he planned was monumental.
"It would have been 60ft (18m) higher than St Peter's in Rome, it would have been twice the height of St Paul's in London," says Anthony O'Brien, Dean of Liverpool Metropolitan Cathedral, which now stands on the original site.
Lutyens' aim was to build a vast brick and granite cathedral topped with a 510ft (155m) dome. The cathedral was to be perched on a high point in the city, its vantage point and sheer size would have dominated the skyline.

"Right from the beginning, Liverpool Cathedral seemed incredibly ambitious. Lutyens was always intensely competitive in his work," says Jane Ridley, biographer and great-granddaughter of the architect.
A campaign was launched among the city's Catholic community to raise funds.
"In order to finance the building, the parishioners were asked to donate any old gold or jewellery that would contribute to the cost of the building," says Geraldine Judge, a church community worker in Liverpool.
Work began in 1933 with the building of the crypt. That's as far as it got.

"The crypt is complete. It is a great Lutyens building in its own right. It is staggeringly big. It is like walking into a colossal Edwardian railway terminus," says broadcaster Jonathan Glancey.

Why didn't it happen?
The cost was always prohibitive, but work halted with the outbreak of World War II and as the conflict progressed Lutyens lost enthusiasm.
The grand project ran out of steam after his death in January 1944.

Edinburgh's grand classical avenue

Robert Adam drawing of South Bridge

South Bridge

  • Plans followed construction of Edinburgh's North Bridge in 1772
  • Bridge required to cross a ravine
  • Designed by Robert Adam, charged £1200 for his design but only received £900
  • Adam died in 1792
  • Architect Robert Kay went on to complete South Bridge
South Bridge in central Edinburgh is a traffic-heavy road packed with discount shops - a far cry from plans drawn up in the 1780s for a grand, classical avenue that would have provided a welcoming entrance to one of the great cities of the Age of Enlightenment.

Designed by Robert Adam, a giant of 18th Century architecture, the avenue would have included assembly rooms, tea-rooms, colonnades and town-houses.
The avenue was never fully realised but parts of the project were built.
Adam's Register House shows the architect's vision for an "Enlightenment Edinburgh" says historian Nicholas Phillipson.

"There was a sense that Edinburgh would change. There was a shortage of houses and of public buildings. The city had lost its parliament and aristocratic elite. Where would Edinburgh go?" says Phillipson.
Adam's vision was to create one of the most beautiful streets in Europe - on a par with Renaissance palaces of northern Italy.

Why didn't it happen? Although he was a renowned architect, Adam had a reputation for over-spending.
"Adam charged £1200 for his designs alone, so I dread to think how much it would have cost to produce the finished article," says Frances Sands, curator at the Soane Museum.

Adam was asked to build South Bridge but ended up redesigning parts of the city, says Sands.
"It was a little unrealistic to think anyone would have the money to pay for this scheme, but that is characteristic of Adam, who did rather get carried away," says Sands.
Edinburgh's city fathers knew they could get a cheaper scheme, says Iain Gordon Brown of Edinburgh World Heritage.

"They wanted utility, rather than grandeur. They wanted something functional. They wanted a viaduct with houses and shops which could be let to provide rates.
"Adam's scheme was not built but the pattern of it survives, elements of the plan are evident in Edinburgh today in Hunter Square and Blair Street, preserving the ghost of what might have been," says Brown.

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