America’s Abandoned Megaprojects
That time we almost put a dome over Manhattan
America is home to many iconic structures.
But for every unique building you see popping out of the skyline … there are dozens of even crazier projects that were never built.
In 1960, the architect Buckminster Fuller proposed erecting a two-mile wide dome over Manhattan.i
Fuller proposed building “Dome Over Manhattan” out of shatterproof, one-way glass.
The dome was designed to let Manhattanites live in a climate-controlledii environment … and Fuller claimed the money the dome would save on snow removal would pay for its construction.iii
Dome Over Manhattan wasn’t the only proposal that would have changed a major city’s skyline.
Before settling on the facade that has since been immortalized on the penny … the commission responsible for designing the Lincoln Memorial entertained some curious designs.iv
The architect John Russell Pope proposed memorializing Honest Abe with a pyramid … or a massive Greek temple raised above Washington, D.C., at the top of a seemingly endless staircase.v
Some unbuilt infrastructure is interesting primarily because of *how* it would have been built.
In the 1950s, the Energy Department proposed creating an artificial harbor in Cape Thompson, Alaska … through the use of five hydrogen bombs.vi
Physicist Edward Teller backed the plan as an example of a “peaceful” application of nuclear weapons.vii
And although officials assured residents that the area’s wind and ice would push radiation away … local protestors successfully petitioned to halt the project in 1962, which was probably for the best.
You *do not* want to encounter a radioactive polar bear.
WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW:
- The architect Buckminster Fuller proposed erecting a two-mile wide, weather-proof dome over Manhattan in the 1960s.
- The original proposals for the Lincoln Memorial included pyramids and giant staircases.
- In the 1950s, the U.S. government proposed building a port in Alaska using nuclear weapons.
- "The High-Tech Dome That Could Save Us Energy and Make a Better City" (Janette Kim and Erik Carver) — Next City
- "This Was Buckminster Fuller’s Plan To Cover Manhattan With a Giant Dome" (Allison McNearney) — The Daily Beast
- "What Might Have Been: Original Concept Art for the Lincoln Memorial" (Amy H. Edwards) — National Archives
- Project Chariot — Princeton University
- "Actual 1950s Proposal: Nuke Alaska" (Jeni Hackett) — Atlas Obscura
SOUND: "Weaver of Dreams" (Rob Mcallister)
FOOTAGE: Estate of R. Buckminster Fuller / John Russell Pope (National Archives: 6087967, 6087981) / United States Fish and Wildlife Service (Wikimedia Commons) / Derek Mead (Vice via Princeton University) // CITED SOURCES AND NEWS OUTLETS ARE NOT AFFILIATED WITH AND HAVE NOT ENDORSED OR SPONSORED ANY PORTION OF THIS PRODUCTION.
- Next City
"The High-Tech Dome That Could Save Us Energy and Make a Better City" (Janette Kim and Erik Carver)
- The Daily Beast
"This Was Buckminster Fuller’s Plan To Cover Manhattan With a Giant Dome" (Allison McNearney)
- National Archives
"What Might Have Been: Original Concept Art for the Lincoln Memorial" (Amy H. Edwards)
- Princeton University
- Atlas Obscura
"Actual 1950s Proposal: Nuke Alaska" (Jeni Hackett)