The Great 'What If': Cities Engage the Unbuilt

A spirit of reflection seems to be in the air across America this summer. Exhibitions in Chicago, the Bay Area, and Los Angeles catalog major projects that were never built and allow visitors to imagine what might have been.

We've already looked at the critically acclaimed Never Built: Los Angeles exhibit being staged at the city's A+D Museum. But a couple of other noteworthy areas have turned a critical gaze on their own history of design and disuse.  

"From the abandoned foundations of the ill-fated Chicago Spire to the ghosts of would-be Tribune Towers galore, Chicago’s unbuilt legacy could rival the iconic skyline it actually achieved," writes Chris Bentley. "An exhibition on display downtown, dubbed City Works: Provocations for Chicago’s Urban Future, confronts the city with its alternative skyline in the form of a panoramic wall design and a “Phantom Chicago” iPhone app."

Meanwhile, up the coast from Los Angeles, five locations in San Francisco and Berkeley will present the exhibition "Unbuilt San Francisco," as "part of the 10th annual Architecture and the City Festival, a month of architectural tours, film screenings, lectures and exhibitions beginning Sept. 1," reports Rachel Zarrow. "Each venue will have a distinct theme, but all feature designs that make the viewer wonder: What if this were actually built?"



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