As it turns out, London has a history of hosting design competitions for ambitious architecture. These days, the city's busy dreaming up wild bridges over River Thames, but back in 1889, it was all about trying to trump Paris's instantly successful Eiffel Tower. CityLab recently retraced the story of how one British Parliament member and railway entrepreneur named Edward Watkin decided to commission a tower for London and ended up with 68 designs—some more outlandish than others, but all at least 200 feet taller than the Parisian icon.
The 68 entries for the design competition are now viewable in this illustrated catalog, archived online by Open Library. Many of these proposals seem to have it all figured out: material (steel and iron), cost (between $300K and $800K usually), and, of course, amenities (A banquet room! Theaters! A garden for flower and fruit shows!) But the winning design? That'd be entry No.37 (first image below), which called for a 1,200-foot steel tower with a large central hall and a 90-room hotel.
Unfortunately, Watkin's tower only climbed 150 feet before financing troubles halted the project. After he passed away in 1901, the base structure was demolished six years later. Today, Wembley Stadium, home of the English national soccer team, stands on the site of what would have been Watkin's Wembley Park Tower. And 280 miles away to the southeast, the one and only Eiffel Tower is cruising into the 21st-century with some brand new wind turbines. And now, a look at what could have been:
· When the British Tried to Build Their Own Eiffel Tower [CityLab]
· The Eiffel Tower Goes Green with Spiffy New Wind Turbines [Curbed National]
· The Lincoln Memorial Could Have Been an Egyptian Pyramid [Curbed National]