Art Seen

Here's What 5 Landmarks Could've Looked Like If Their Rejected Designs Were Chosen Instead

What could have been.

It was all thanks to the discovery of a rejected elephant design at a famous landmark that inspired one company to reimagine what these proposed models would look like if they had been accepted.

The rejected elephant design in question was the original concept behind the Arc de Trimophe in Paris. Before it opened in 1836, architect Charles Ribart proposed the elephant plan in 1758, but was rejected by the French government. 

Now, GoCompare, a British website that provides comparisons for different financial services, is behind a project called "Alternate Architecture," a series of illustrations that shows five rejected architectural designs for famous landmarks that include the Arc de Trimophe, the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C., the Tower Bridge in London, the Sydney Opera House in Australia, and the Tribune Tower in Chicago.


GoCompare set up a website for Alternate Architecture where visitors get a chance to hover over each illustration to see how these rejected designs would fit into the sites they are already familiar with today.

Arc de Trimophe in Paris / Photo Credit: GoCompare

It took about a month to get the project up and running, GoCompare's PR and social media manager, Martyn John, told A Plus in an email. The team studied each of the architects' original plans for the landmarks and read historical accounts to make sure each of the illustrations were correct. Another part of the process was checking the scale and perspective of each design to ensure that the illustrated buildings would look realistic in a modern day context.

"The overall purpose is to show that the designs that get built are usually one of many, and what better way to show it than by visualizing what could have been?" John said.

Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C. / Photo Credit: GoCompare

When it comes to thinking about that "what could have been?" question, John believes that if these designs had been accepted, each city's characteristics would not have stayed the same.

"Iconic landmarks like Tower Bridge or the Arc de Triomphe are part of a city's identity, and if we changed them, we would change how people perceive the city," he said. "There's also the fact that iconic landmarks may influence what else gets built around them. So, if the Lincoln Memorial were a ziggurat, perhaps Washington would now like more like ancient Mesopotamia."

Sydney Opera House in Sydney / Photo Credit: GoCompare

Of the five landmarks featured, John said Ribart's design for what became the Arc de Triomphe and architect John Russell Pope's ziggurat proposal for the Lincoln Memorial are the two that stand out the most to him in "Alternate Architecture."

"Both are radically different from what actually got built, and seem somewhat absurd today, but who knows, perhaps we would have got[ten] used to them," he said.

Tribune Building in Chicago / Photo Credit: GoCompare

Ultimately, John and the GoCompare team just want viewers of the illustrations to take some time to appreciate the landmarks that are already there, while also taking a second to continue considering what could have happened if the proposed designs had actually been accepted.

"We hope the collection gets people paying attention to the designs of the actual landmarks," he said. "They are so familiar that it's easy to take them for granted, but these designs were chosen for a reason, and it's worth noting that for every design that gets built[,] there are usually many things it could have been."

Tower Bridge in London / Photo Credit: GoCompare


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