Frank Lloyd Wright’s Unbuilt Projects Are Finally Brought To Life

Spanish architect David Romero uses computer-generated models to show how Frank Lloyd Wright’s unbuilt structures would’ve appeared. Frank Lloyd Wright, a very creative and productive architect, designed more than 1000 structures throughout his lifetime, but more than half remained unbuilt. Thanks to a collaboration between Spanish architect David Romero and the Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation, fans of the prolific architect can now see what Wright’s unbuilt or demolished projects look like in 3D renderings as if they had been built or rebuilt.

The Illinois (Chicago, Illinois)

If it had been built, The Illinois would be the tallest building in the world even today. Imagined as a mile-high tower, the skyscraper would be almost twice as tall as the Burj Khalifa. At the time, Wright even boasted that “the Empire State Building would be a mouse by comparison.” The architect had plans to include 528 stories and envisioned the building encompassing more than 18 million square feet.

unbuilt projects

Crystal City (Washington, DC)

Designed in the late ’40s, the series of towers—ranging from 140 to 260 feet—were formed in U shape and would have included a hotel, apartments, a shopping center, garages, a theater, and an auditorium. Unfortunately, Wright was made unaware of information regarding the city’s strict height and use limits, and Roy S. Thurman, the project’s developer, largely kept the architect in the dark about battles over the regulations. Ultimately, the National Capital Park and Planning Commission (NCPPC) voted unanimously to oppose the project.

unbuilt projects

National Life Insurance Building (Chicago, Illinois)

Imagined as a 25-story glass fortress, National Life Insurance Building was not only stunning, but very forward-thinking for the time, as so many other buildings of the era were being designed with historic revival details.

unbuilt projects

Butterfly Wing Bridge (San Francisco, California)

Frank Lloyd Wright designed Butterfly Wing Bridge in 1952, intending it to serve as a southern crossing of the San Francisco Bay. While San Francisco was discussing duplicating its famed Bay Bridge, Wright felt that a “quieter” design, more in tune with nature, would serve the city better. Sadly, the bridge, which included plans for two pedestrian paths and a lush, planted garden with views of the San Francisco Bay, was scrapped when plans for the underwater Transbay Tube were unveiled.

unbuilt projects

Gordon Strong Automobile Objective (Sugarloaf Mountain, Maryland)

To create this rendering, Romero referenced photographs of Wright’s Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in New York. Gordon Strong Automobile Objective was intended to serve as a tourist attraction, housing a planetarium, a restaurant, and a scenic overlook.

unbuilt projects

Larkin Administration Building (Buffalo, New York)

Built in 1904, Buffalo’s Larkin Administrative Building was Wright’s first public work. The five-story redbrick building was demolished in 1950 and now lies buried in the Ohio Canal Basin along the Buffalo River. Romero’s re-creation of the structure includes incredibly detailed renderings that showcase the building’s elegant interior features, like a 76-foot tall skylit courtyard.

Frank Lloyd Wright

Rose and Gertrude Pauson House (Phoenix, Arizona)

Unlike other buildings on this list, the unique Rose and Gertrude Pauson house was built—but, like many Wright buildings, succumbed to a fire in 1943 when a fireplace ember ignited a curtain. The ruins of the house, which included the foundation, walls, and chimney, remained in place until 1979.

Rose and Gertrude Pauson House

Roy Wetmore Car Repair and Showroom (Detroit, Michigan)

In 1947, Wright was commissioned to renovate the service station and car dealership for Roy Wetmore. Plans were drawn up, and Wright’s team did complete some work on the station’s interior, but ultimately, the futurist grand plan never came to fruition. The station is still open today and receives a few visitors a month who are aware of its architectural significance.

Roy Wetmore Car Repair and Showroom

Trinity Chapel (Norman, Oklahoma)

This Wright-designed chapel is a departure from the architect’s typical style, boasting red walkways, a distinctive green-shingled spire, and stained glass windows. The project was commissioned by Fred Jones, a car dealer, with the intent of gifting it to the University of Oklahoma. However, upon unveiling the plans, Wright and his client realized that there had been a misunderstanding: The chapel was supposed to be adjunct to the university, not freestanding. Wright later abandoned the project.

Trinity Chapel