Archive.org
Archive.org

21 Designs for The Great Tower of London That Never Was

Archive.org
Archive.org

"Taking into consideration the enormous popularity of the Eiffel Tower and the consequent pecuniary benefits conferred on those interested in that undertaking, it is not too much to anticipate that, in the course of a short time, every important country will possess its tall Tower." So said a pamphlet released in 1890 entitled Descriptive Illustrated Catalogue of the Sixty-Eight Competitive Designs for the Great Tower for London.

Unfortunately, Fred C. Lynde, writing on behalf of the Tower Company, Ltd., was wrong about the Eiffel Tower's influence on international architecture, and London's own never came to be. But let's back up.

After the Eiffel Tower debuted as the entrance to the 1889 Paris World's Fair and the then-tallest man-made structure in the world, Sir Edward Watkin, a member of the British Parliament and newspaper and railway entrepreneur, supposedly vowed that "anything Paris can do, we can do bigger." His patriotism was probably well received, but it wasn't the only motivation for his founding of the Tower Company, Ltd. Watkin was also the chairman of London's Metropolitan Railway, which was being extended around that time out into the surrounding countryside. Eager to incentivize Londoners to patronize his railway, Watkin planned to open a park, resplendent with amenities, near a proposed station at Wembley. The Tower was to be the centerpiece of this park.

When a request to Gustave Eiffel himself was denied, Watkin's Tower Company launched a design competition in November 1889 to solicit proposals for the Tower. Sixty-eight plans were submitted from architects all over the world—and although a winner was chosen, the project was never completed. Construction began in 1892 but stalled four years later with just the first of four levels complete. The ground they had chosen to build on turned out to be marshy, and with the crowds not flocking to the park as Watkin anticipated, funds ran dry.

In 1899, the Tower Company was liquidated, although their unfinished project—known as "Watkin's Folly" or "The London Stump"—remained until it was demolished in 1904.

London never got her Great Tower, but the catalog presents an imaginative and sometimes fanciful array of what could have been.

1.

This design by Stewart, MacLaren and Dunn ended up being chosen as the plan for the ill-fated Tower. The architects were awarded 500 guineas—a short-lived British coin equal to 20 shillings—for their effort. The proposal included plans for a 90-room hotel housed inside the 1200 foot structure.

2.

The second place prize of 250 guineas was awarded to this design from Webster and Haigh for a 1300-foot Tower that the architects imagined would be heavily occupied. The buildings on the first level were "adapted for Hotels, Restaurants, Residential Flats, Offices, Warehouses, Stores, etc., Concerts and other entertainments." There was also to be a balcony level that could comfortably seat 3000 people.

3.

This proposal, from an American architect, would have included a scientific observatory as well as recreational space.

4.

A Canadian architect proposed this design, which resembles a modern skyscraper, and boasted, "capability of being taken down in sections—each section being useful for other purposes."

5.

S. Fisher was perhaps overly ambitious when he drew up plans for a 2000 foot "Monument of Hieroglyphics emblimatical of British History during Queen Victoria's Reign" (whatever that means). In addition to the staggering height—more than double the size of the Eiffel Tower—this design was probably nixed for the ahead-of-its-time locomotive engine that Fisher imagined would carry visitors upwards on a spiraling track.

6.

No futuristic contraptions or sky-high heights in this American-made design. But the "modern Indian Oriental style" is beautiful in the depiction.

7.

E. Worral and Co. deviated from the conical majority for a lean tower with a glass-roofed restaurant on the top level.

8.

Thomas V. Trew's design was full of symbolic value, meant to resemble the "Crown," with the "Colonies and British possessions for the base."

9.

J. Horton's giant screw certainly stands out—although the addition of spiral tramcars makes it seem more like a proto-roller coaster than a national monument.

10.

J. W. Couchman's proposal came without much exposition, but the unusual shape was given a name: "The Century Tower."

11.

This hexagonal submission was to be covered in glass so as to resemble a "Crystal Tower."

12.

For some reason, the architect from Constantinople named his tent-like tower after a poisonous tree found primarily in Africa.

13.

A. F. Hill's super-sized submission was designed to resemble the "Monoliths of Ancient Egypt" and was supposed to house everything from international courts, flower and fruit shows, hotels, and mansions to an observatory 1960 feet up in the air.

14.

The series of domes that form the exterior of this Tower are unique in form but the proposed specially "trained mules to carry people up the spiral incline" are perhaps the most distinguishing aspect of the design.

15.

Economy was surely a factor in Watkin's consideration of the different design proposals, but this barely-there tower—anchored by wire ropes to save on material costs—was probably not what he had in mind.

16.

Robery Wylie's design riffs off the Eiffel Tower as well. But it does so with stunning, intricate detail.

17.

The design from Max am Ende stands out from the rest with a classic Gothic style of architecture.

18.

The base of webbed design from Henry Davey was proposed as an indoor Winter Garden.

19.

The interior of the giant terrestrial globe atop this design would itself house a number of floors of recreational activities.

20.

The odd shape of Edwin Roundtour's design was intended to mimic that of a tree, and thereby cut down on the wind resistance, which posed a threat to the teeteringly tall Tower Watkin hoped to achieve.

21.

An Eiffel Tower knock-off ominously named "I See All."

All photos courtesy of Archive.org.

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Romano D’Agostini, Giorgio Cargnel, Soprintendenza Speciale di Roma
Utility Workers May Have Found One of Rome’s First Churches
Romano D’Agostini, Giorgio Cargnel, Soprintendenza Speciale di Roma
Romano D’Agostini, Giorgio Cargnel, Soprintendenza Speciale di Roma

The remains of what may have been one of Rome’s earliest Christian churches were accidentally discovered along the Tiber River during construction, The Local reports. The four-room structure, which could have been built as early as the 1st century CE, was unearthed by electrical technicians who were laying cables along the Ponte Milvio.

The newly discovered structure next to the river
Romano D’Agostini, Giorgio Cargnel, Soprintendenza Speciale di Roma

No one is sure what to make of this “archaeological enigma shrouded in mystery,” in the words of Rome’s Archaeological Superintendency. Although there’s no definitive theory as of yet, experts have a few ideas.

The use of colorful African marble for the floors and walls has led archaeologists to believe that the building probably served a prestigious—or perhaps holy—function as the villa of a noble family or as a Christian place of worship. Its proximity to an early cemetery spawned the latter theory, since it's common for churches to have mausoleums attached to them. Several tombs were found in that cemetery, including one containing the intact skeleton of a Roman man.

Marble flooring
Romano D’Agostini, Giorgio Cargnel, Soprintendenza Speciale di Roma

A tomb
Romano D’Agostini, Giorgio Cargnel, Soprintendenza Speciale di Roma1

The walls are made of brick, and the red, green, and beige marble had been imported from Sparta (Greece), Egypt, and present-day Tunisia, The Telegraph reports.

As The Local points out, it’s not all that unusual in Rome for archaeological discoveries to be made by unsuspecting people going about their day. Rome’s oldest aqueduct was found by Metro workers, and an ancient bath house and tombs were found during construction on a new church.

[h/t The Local]

nextArticle.image_alt|e
Alexis Pantos, University of Copenhagen
Scientists Just Found the Oldest Known Piece of Bread
Alexis Pantos, University of Copenhagen
Alexis Pantos, University of Copenhagen

An old, charred piece of long-forgotten flatbread has captured the interest of archaeologists, anthropologists, and historians around the world. Found in a stone fireplace in Jordan’s Black Desert, this proto-pita dates back 14,400 years, making it the oldest known example of bread, Reuters reports.

To put the significance of this discovery in context: the flatbread predates the advent of agriculture by 4000 years, leading researchers to theorize that the laborious process of making the bread from wild cereals may have inspired early hunter-gatherers to cultivate grain and save themselves a whole lot of trouble.

“We now have to assess whether there was a relationship between bread production and the origins of agriculture,” Amaia Arranz-Otaegui, a researcher with the University of Copenhagen, told Reuters. “It is possible that bread may have provided an incentive for people to take up plant cultivation and farming, if it became a desirable or much-sought-after food.”

A report on these findings—written by researchers from the University of Copenhagen, University College London, and University of Cambridge—was published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

It was once thought that bread was an invention of early farming civilizations. A 9100-year-old piece of bread from Turkey was previously regarded as the oldest of its kind. However, the Jordanian flatbread was made by a group of hunter-gatherers called the Natufians, who lived during a transitional period from nomadic to sedentary ways of life, at which time diets also started to change.

Similar to a pita, this unleavened bread was made from wild cereals akin to barley, einkorn, and oats. These were “ground, sieved, and kneaded prior to cooking,” according to a statement from the University of Copenhagen. The ancient recipe also called for tubers from an aquatic plant, which Arranz-Otaegui described as tasting “gritty and salty."

[h/t Reuters]

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