25 Totally Crazy Buildings That Almost Happened

These architects' designs reached for the stars—and then some.

As kids we're taught to fan the flames of our imaginations in the interest of stoking creativity, pushing boundaries, and changing the ways we view the world. But in the case of some architects throughout modern history, it's safe to say that their imaginations could perhaps do with fire extinguisher.

Take the towering building in Paris, proposed in 1937, which would rise a staggering 1,640 feet into the sky with all of the beauty of a giant suppository? Or the Kremlin's plan for a notorious eyesore titled "the Palace of the Soviets" that looked as if it were designed by a child? Or the totally crazy pyramid-looking thingy in Japan that was supposed to stand a nose-bleeding 2.5 miles high? Perhaps craziest of all: They all nearly happened!

That's right, here are the tallest, weirdest, and utterly daring buildings that almost came to fruition—but whose plans were grounded by war, lack of funds, or simply fate. So read on, and try not to get dizzy! And for more more on colossal feats of architecture, check out these 40 Crazy Facts about the World's Tallest Buildings.

Tatlin's Tower; St. Petersburg, Russia

Tatlin's Tower Russia Craziest Buildings That Never Happened

This Constructivist tower, designed by Russian artist and architect Vladimir Tatlin, was designed to be built after Bolshevik Revolution in 1917. The main form was a twin helix with four large suspended geometric structures that rotated at different rates.

Unfortunately for Tatlin, he had chosen the wrong time to propose such a costly project (not to mention a project that was mostly structurally improbable). And for more examples of why bigger is better, check out The Biggest Homes on the Planet.

The Chicago Spire; Chicago, Illinois


Originally proposed as the Fordham Spire in July 2005, the Chicago Spire in downtown Chicago would have been the tallest building in the city at 116 stories. Designed by Spanish architect Santiago Calatrava, the spiraling skyscraper would have included a hotel and luxury condominiums.

However, quickly after they broke ground on the project, Calatrava failed to receive the proper amount of funding for the building. Recently, a new project has been planned to fill the construction site—two sleek and sprawling towers at the mouth of the Chicago River.

Image via Wikimedia Commons

Nakheel Harbour and Tower; Dubai, United Arab Emirates

Nakheel Tower Craziest Buildings That Never Happened

Depicting the future of architecture (or perhaps a past episode of Battlestar Galactica), the Nakheel Harbour and Tower was proposed by developing group Nakheel in 2003 as a centerpiece for the man-made Palm Jumeirah islands.

The height of the building was to be a monstrous 2,460 feet with 120 floors of luxury apartments. Though, due to the 2009 debt standstill in Dubai, the project evaporated and was eventually replaced by the Trump International Hotel and Tower. And for more on luxurious places across the globe, check out The 25 Most Exclusive Clubs On The Planet.

Image via Wikimedia Commons

Phare Du Monde; Paris, France

Phare Du Monde Paris Craziest Buildings That Never Happened

Perhaps one of the more treacherously-designed on the list, the Phare Du Monde in Paris was proposed in 1937 as an observation tower to complement the World Fair. Designed by architect Eugène Freyssinet, the tower was advertised as "Pleasure Tower Half Mile High" and featured a spiraling road on the outside of the building that drivers would use to ascend to the parking garage located 1,640 feet above the ground. Due to the dangerous design of the building and steep costs of production, the project was quickly discarded after its inception.

Image via Wikimedia Commons

Hotel Attraction; New York, New York


Designed to be a beacon of power and style on Manhattan's skyline, the Hotel Attraction was a project proposed in 1908 by architect Antoni Gaudí. According to later stories published about Gaudí and the building, his proposed designs were incredibly advanced at the time, and would probably never have been carried out successfully.

According to these stories, the design was too advanced for its time, and itwas actually Gaudí himself who canceled the project after realizing that his building would only cater to wealthy clients. (As a communist, he rejected this idea and quickly abandoned the elaborate plans for Manhattan's skyline.) And for more on amazing hotels, check out these 20 Hotels So Outrageous You Won't Believe They're Real.

Image via Pinterest

Palace of the Soviets; Moscow, Russia

Palace of the Soviets Russia Craziest Buildings That Never Happened

This ode to the powerful Kremlin was designed in 1933 as a part of an architectural contest won by Boris Iofan. This enormous and opulent neoclassical building was to become the administrative center and congress hall in Moscow. Construction began in 1937 but was eventually terminated after the outbreak of World War II.  The foundations of the palace have since been turned into the largest open-air swimming pool, the Moskva Pool.

Image via Wikimedia Commons

X-Seed 4000; Tokyo, Japan

X-Seed 4000 Japan Craziest Buildings That Never Happened

While the X-Seed 4000 was only ever in blueprint form, it still holds the record for being the tallest building designed in the history of the world, climbing to an impressive 2.5 miles tall. Designed by the Taisei Corporation in 1995, the building was specifically built to be taller than Mount Fuji (by 735 feet), and, according to the architects, X-Seed 4000 is not a plausible design due to its location in the Pacific Ring of Fire, making it constantly susceptible to tsunamis and earthquakes, and the internal air gradations most likely harming those ascending to the top levels of the building. Today, X-Seed 4000 would cost approximately between $479 billion and $1.2 trillion to build.

Image via Wikimedia Commons

The Volkshalle; Berlin, Germany

The Volkshalle Germany Craziest Buildings That Never Happened

This huge domed building was proposed by none other than Adolph Hitler and his architect, Albert Speer. The word "Volk," while loosely translating to "the people's movement," had specifically racist undertones, and the building's plans were eventually discarded after the fall of Hitler's empire. According to Hitler, he drew the inspiration for this building from the Pantheon.

Image via Wikimedia Commons

The Fourth Grace/The Cloud; Liverpool, England


The Fourth Grace was a planned proposal designed to become the fourth addition to the trilogy of historic buildings in Liverpool, including the Port of Liverpool Building, the Cunard Building, and the Royal Liver Building.

Four proposals were submitted to design the building, and, though the standout was a mixed-use building featuring a 1000-seat theater designed by Edward Cullinan Architects, the one eventually chosen was the more conceptual design from architect firm Alsop, pictured above. However, eventually, due to budget cuts, the project was canceled.

The Illinois; Chicago, Illinois

The Illinois Craziest Buildings That Never Happened

If it had been successfully completed, the Illinois would have become the world's tallest building, making the Burj Khalifa in Dubai look like child's play. Towering over the Chicago skyline at 528 stories tall (1,600 meters), The Illinois was intended to become a pillar of Chicago's bustling metropolis, designed by famed architect Frank Lloyd Wright in 1956. Unfortunately, due to its utter ridiculousness and a lack of funds, the project was never completed.

Image via Wikimedia Commons

The Russia Tower; Moscow, Russia

The Russia Tower Craziest Buildings That Never Happened

The Russia Tower was once planned to be the Moscow International Business Centre. The city of Moscow eventually held a contest for the building's design in 2006, which was won by architect Norman Foster with his set of towers, climbing 118 stories above the ground. Despite the demand for the business center, however, Russia's debt crisis in 2008 caused the project to be canceled.

Image via Wikimedia Commons

Shimizu Mega-City Pyramid; Tokyo, Japan

Shimizu Mega-City Pyramid Japan Craziest Buildings That Never Happened

Designed by the Shimizu Corporation in 1996, the Shimizu Mega-City Pyramid was set to be the Earth's biggest man-made structure ever carried out. Standing at over a mile tall and able to house approximately one million people at its capacity, this dwelling was designed to be a more sustainable way of living for those in Tokyo in the distant future.

Image via Wikimedia Commons

Ville Contemporaine; Paris France


This unrealized Parisian utopia, Ville Contemporaine, was designed by French-Swiss architect Le Corbusier in 1922. The neighborhood, designed mostly with the wealthy in mind, featured a group of 60-story skyscrapers with offices and lofts, set on lush parks, with a transportation hub in the center housing buses, trains, major highways for automobiles, and an airport. If these ugly things look familiar, it's because these plans were later lifted by American planners to create low-income housing here in the states.

Image via Reddit

Ultima Tower; San Francisco, California

Ultima Tower San Francisco Craziest Buildings That Never Happened

While the Ultima Tower is merely only a skeptical design by American architect Eugene Tsui, it does give a nod to the growing popularity and resurgence of Utopian design. In this colossal building, towering two miles over the ground, roughly a million inhabitants would be able to live and work comfortably within the confines of its walls. And, though the building materials have yet to be discovered that would allow for such a feat of engineering to exist, many believe that this 1991 plan can be executed sooner than once previously believed.

Image via Wikimedia Commons

Clusters in the Air; Tokyo, Japan

Clusters in the Air Tokyo Craziest Buildings That Never Happened

This incredibly imaginative design was created by Japanese architects Kenzo Tange, Kiyonori Kikutake, Kisho Kurokawa, and Fumihiko Maki, and first appeared in the Tokyo World Conference of Design in 1960. The "Clusters in the Air" project turned out to be one of the more compelling feats of architecture to combat urban expansion, specifically in Tokyo, under the "Metabolism" movement that found new ways to design buildings with moving parts that could be added or removed from structures as needed. You guessed it: this wacky design never saw the light of day.

Image via Pinterest

Bangkok Hyperbuilding; Bangkok, China


The Bangkok Hyperbuilding, designed by Rem Koolhaas's OMA (Office of Metropolitan Architecture), and proposed in 1996, never really stood a chance, seeing that much of the design revolved around its shocking nature—and not its practicality. The building was designed to stand on the banks of the Chao Phraya River in Bangkok and serve as more of a feat of architecture than a design with substance and space for business.

Image via wikiarquitectura

Asian Cairns; Shenzhen, China

Asian Cairns China Craziest Buildings That Never Happened

These "sustainable farmscrapers" created by Vincent Callebaut Architects in 2013 are crazy pod-like structures that feature "three interlacing eco-spirals of pebbles which weave their way up two megalithic towers," designed to curb the area's CO2 emissions and urban expansion crisis, according to World Architecture News.

Guggenheim Museum; Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates


As of 2017, this massive project, designed by Frank Gehry and spearheaded by the Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation in New York City, was suspended due to building concerns. This branch of the Guggenheim Museum, designed to be built on Saadiyat Island, along with other current cultural centers, is intended to reflect the Islamic and middle-eastern culture of the people in Abu Dhabi.

Image via Instagram

The Minerva Building; London, England

Minerva Building Craziest Buildings That Never Happened

This sleekly-designed skyscraper was once meant to inhabit the Eastern edge of London's financial district until political and financial turmoil promptly ended the project before construction could even begin. Proposed in 2001 (and revised multiple times over the years) by Minerva plc, the 712-foot tall building meant to house offices was eventually involved in the Cash for Peerages political scandal, after it was discovered that two of Minerva's senior figures had made major donations and loans to the Labour Party—terminating the project for good.

Image via Pinterest

Sky City; Changsha, China

Sky City China Craziest Buildings That Never Happened

This proposed skyscraper, stretching above the Changsha skyline at an impressive 2,749 feet boasted an equally impressive construction timeline, claiming that the building would be finished in a mere 210 days. However, due to increased regulations and protests regarding the disrupting of the Daze Lake wetland, it didn't happen. Now, the construction site is being used as a fish farm.

Image via Wikimedia Commons

Dubai Towers Dubai; Dubai, United Arab Emirates

Dubai Towers Dubai Craziest Buildings That Never Happened

This four-tower complex in Dubai, designed by tvsdesign, was to intended to serve as the centerpiece for The Lagoons, located on Dubai Creek and consisting of seven separate islands. The towers would have been varying heights between 57 and 94 stories, projecting a dramatic new silhouette over the water. However, due to an economic downturn in 2008, shortly after its inception, the project was officially terminated.

Image via Wikimedia Commons

Signature Tower; Nashville, Tennessee

Signature Tower Craziest Buildings That Never Happened

The Signature Tower in Nashville, intended to house retail businesses, offices, condominiums, and a hotel, was crafted by Giarratana LLC in 2006. Designed to stand 1,030 feet tall, the building was set to become the tallest in the Southern United States. Its impressive stature was soon downsized when the economic recession hit in 2008, forcing the developer to cut corners to save on losses. Eventually, the developer, after struggling to make the project a reality, used the construction site to build a much smaller residential tower called the 505.

Image via Wikimedia Commons

Guggenheim Guadalajara; Guadalajara, Mexico

Guggenheim Guadalajara Mexico Craziest Buildings That Never Happened

Another architectural brainchild of the Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation, this dreamy building overlooking the expansive hills of Guadalajara, Mexico, is most likely never going to happen. After laying down the foundations for the project in 2004, and moving forward with Mexican architect Enrique Norten's designs, it was eventually decided that the $170 million project was just too steep for those looking to invest in the project.

Image via Wikimedia Commons

La Tour Sans Fin; Courbevoie, France

La Tour Sans Fin Paris Craziest Buildings That Never Happened

Translating to the "Endless Tower," this building, before the economic crash of the early 1990's suspended its construction, was designed to be the antidote to stuffy architecture, rising in the heart of La Défense in Courbevoie.

Image via Wikimedia Commons

Jeddah Tower; Jeddah, Saudia Arabia

Jeddah Tower Saudia Arabia Craziest Buildings That Never happened

American architect Adrian Smith is set to outrank the Burj Khalifa by hundreds of feet with his design of the Jeddah Tower, poised to become the calling card of Jeddah, Saudia Arabia—that is, if he can manage to actually build it.

Due to multiple financial and political setbacks, the building's construction has nearly ground to a halt—forcing many investors to rethink this sky-high strategy. And for more staggering images, don't miss the 50 Most Death-Defying Selfies.

Image via Wikimedia Commons

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Ashley Moor
Ashley hails from Dayton, Ohio, and has more than six years of experience in print and digital media. Read more
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