5 Rejected Designs for the Lincoln Memorial

Can you imagine Martin Luther King Jr’s “I Have a Dream” speech taking place in front of a pyramid? Or what the $5 bill would look like with a ziggurat on the back? The Lincoln Memorial as we know it has been an iconic monument for nearly a century; it was dedicated by Chief Justice William Howard Taft on May 30, 1922. But the memorial committee had a host of other designs to choose from—and the National Mall would have looked much different if one of them had made the cut.

Congress approved funding for a structure honoring Lincoln in 1911, and gave the Lincoln Memorial Commission a budget of $2 million—an incredible sum that had never been given for a national memorial before. Many architects were eager to do work at that scale, but it ultimately came down to two: John Russell Pope and Henry Bacon. While Bacon's offerings were largely of the neoclassical variety, Pope submitted a number of sketches inspired by monuments and memorials from other cultures, from classic Greek to ancient Mesopotamia.

This Parthenon-inspired structure would have been located at Meridian Hill instead of the National Mall. At 250 feet tall, it would have bested Capitol Hill by about 150 feet.

A colossal ziggurat monument, similar to styles from ancient Mesopotamia, Pope's other proposed structure would have featured four statues at the base, with a massive bronze statue of Lincoln standing guard from the top.

An pyramid with porticoes on each side, this design from Pope would have reflected the Egyptian-inspired obelisk of the Washington Monument.

Another pyramid from Pope, this one a Mayan-style tribute, would have included an eternal flame burning at the peak.

Pope's final design, an open rotunda that would have been 320 feet in diameter, catered to the classical, Greek-inspired route that the Lincoln Memorial committee seemed to favor. But in the end, they deemed Pope's efforts too ostentatious and opted for one of Bacon's versions:

Though the winning design submitted by Bacon was altered, you can see how elements of this design were used in the final result—a neoclassical temple with a statue of Lincoln and engravings of some of his most famous speeches.

Though Pope was no doubt disappointed that one of his designs wasn't chosen for the Lincoln Memorial, he secured his own spot in architectural history when he won the Jefferson Memorial job in 1935.

Stones, Bones, and Wrecks
Buckingham Palace Was Built With Jurassic Fossils, Scientists Find

The UK's Buckingham Palace is a vestige from another era, and not just because it was built in the early 18th century. According to a new study, the limestone used to construct it is filled with the fossilized remains of microbes from the Jurassic period of 200 million years ago, as The Telegraph reports.

The palace is made of oolitic limestone, which consists of individual balls of carbonate sediment called ooids. The material is strong but lightweight, and is found worldwide. Jurassic oolite has been used to construct numerous famous buildings, from those in the British city of Bath to the Empire State Building and the Pentagon.

A new study from Australian National University published in Scientific Reports found that the spherical ooids in Buckingham Palace's walls are made up of layers and layers of mineralized microbes. Inspired by a mathematical model from the 1970s for predicting the growth of brain tumors, the researchers created a model that explains how ooids are created and predicts the factors that limit their ultimate size.

A hand holding a chunk of oolite limestone
Australian National University

They found that the mineralization of the microbes forms the central core of the ooid, and the layers of sediment that gather around that core feed those microbes until the nutrients can no longer reach the core from the outermost layer.

This contrasts with previous research on how ooids form, which hypothesized that they are the result of sediment gathered from rolling on the ocean floor. It also reshapes how we think about the buildings made out of oolitic limestone from this period. Next time you look up at the Empire State Building or Buckingham Palace, thank the ancient microbes.

[h/t The Telegraph]

Ker Robertson, Getty Images
5 Scrapped Designs for the World's Most Famous Buildings
Ker Robertson, Getty Images
Ker Robertson, Getty Images

When an architect gets commissioned to build a skyscraper or a memorial, they’re usually not the only applicant for the job. Other teams of designers submit their own ideas for how it should look, too, but these are eventually passed over in favor of the final design. This is the case for some of the world’s most recognizable landmarks—in an alternate world, the Arc de Triomphe might have been a three-story-tall elephant statue, and the Lincoln Memorial a step pyramid.

GoCompare, a comparison site for financial services, dug into these could-have-been designs for Alternate Architecture, an illustrated collection of scrapped designs for some of the most famous structures in the world, from Chicago's Tribune Tower to the Sydney Opera House.

Click through the interactive graphic below to explore rejected designs for all five landmarks.


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