The Arc de Triomphe as an Elephant?! These Illustrations Reveal What Famous Monuments Could Have Been

The Arc de Triomphe as an Elephant?! These Illustrations Reveal What Famous Monuments Could Have Been

A city’s monuments are integral parts of its metropolitan identity. They stand proud and tall and are often the subject of a few of your vacation photos. It is their form and design which makes them instantly recognizable, but what if their design had turned out differently?

Paris’ iconic and stunning Arc de Triomphe could have been a giant elephant, large enough to hold banquets and balls, and the Lincoln Memorial in Washington D.C. could have featured an impressive pyramid.

GoCompare has compiled and illustrated a series of rejected designs for monuments and placed them in a modern context to commemorate what could have been. Here are a few of our favorites:

Arc De Triomphe, Paris 

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45 years before the Arc De Triomphe was built, 18th Century architect Charles Ribart proposed to construct a three-story elephant on the exact same site. The proposal was turned down by the French government, but what a sight it would have been if it was built! The elephant would even have boasted a spiral staircase in its underbelly and a trunk which served to irrigate the surrounding gardens. 

Sydney Opera House, Sydney 

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The Sydney Opera House is one of the world’s most recognizable builds and considered a masterpiece of modern architecture. The conductor of the Sydney Symphony Orchestra, Eugene Goossens, organized a international design competition asking for proposals for the building. Goossens, himself displayed his vision for the landmark, with a rectangular body and tall, striking entrance. His design, however, was beat out by Danish architect, Jørn Utzon, who is responsible for the design we know today.

Tower Bridge, London

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As the East End of London became more commercially important in the 1800s, it became clear a new bridge across the Thames was needed. The challenge was to design something which maintained a steady flow of road traffic while not closing off the river to the tall-masted ships. While we’re grateful Sir Horace Jones’s design was chosen, this idea by F.J. Palmer was one of the most creative runners-up: the bridge features movable platforms at either end, allowing traffic to pass even when the boats were crossing.

Lincoln Memorial, Washington D.C. 

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Henry Bacon’s Lincoln Memorial is a national symbol, but would it still have been if it was a pyramid? The other favorite to design the monument was John Russell Pope, an architect who went on to design other iconic DC buildings like the National Archives and Jefferson Memorial. Pope’s graphic sketches for the Lincoln Memorial offered jarringly different alternatives—borrowing from the grand past of other cultures, he suggested a Mayan Temple, Egyptian Pyramid, and even the Ziggurat, pictured above. 

Tribune Tower, Chicago

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In 1922, the Chicago Tribune ran a competition to design a new headquarters with a brief to create “the most beautiful building in the world.” Over 260 architects from 23 countries entered and changed high-rise architecture forever. New York architects John Howells and Raymond Hood won with a Gothic tower drawing on French traditions which we can see today. However, if the circumstances had played differently, we could have been look at something like this expressionist pyramid by German architect Bruno Taut.

Descriptions of each project were provided by GoCompare. You can see more of these rejected monuments in GoCompare's online gallery, here.

About this author
Cite: Alya Abourezk. "The Arc de Triomphe as an Elephant?! These Illustrations Reveal What Famous Monuments Could Have Been" 15 Jan 2018. ArchDaily. Accessed . <> ISSN 0719-8884

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