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There’s a fascinating collection of unrealized city plans at Wired’s MapLab today.  It’s a startling look into what some of the most iconic cities of today, such as New York and Washington, DC, could have looked like, had certain city planners had their way.  In some cases, economic and political conditions prevented the change.  For example, the expansive and intimidating “Welthauptstadt Germania” plan for Berlin, planned by the Nazis to be ready for the 1950 World’s Fair, never became reality due to the Nazis’ defeat at the end of World War II.

But the 1966 Plan for Lower Manhattan was much more grounded in reality, while still creative and ambitious.  It was intended to complement the soon-to-be-built World Trade Center towers, forming the backdrop for a cutting-edge, mixed use neighborhood along the East River.  Sadly, when the towers opened in the 1970s, the city was experiencing an economic decline, and the plan was scrapped.

To a non-New Yorker like me, the plan generally resembles the Lower Manhattan of reality.  We can see the familiar landmarks of the area, such as the Brooklyn Bridge in the top right, Battery Park at the bottom, and Wall Street as the first main horizontal street from the bottom.  But look closer and there are some key differences, and I’m sure New Yorkers will notice more.  In this plan, for example, there is much greater development along the East River, made possible by the addition of landfill.  There was also a plan to add underground highways, solving the age-old problem of traffic in the New York City streets.

Below is a map of present-day lower Manhattan, for the sake of comparison:

Map of Lower Manhattan today (via http://www.mappery.com)

It’s not too far off from the plan, except for the shape of some streets, the lack of landfill developments along the East River, and, of course, the tragic loss of the World Trade Center towers.  One also notices the lack of green compared to the city map in the plan, and I hope that city planners keep in mind the need for parks and public spaces when considering ways to improve this mostly-concrete jungle in the future.

More unrealized plans for a variety of cities, including DC, Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Boston, are at the following link: http://www.wired.com/wiredscience/2013/08/hyperreal-cartography-city-maps/?pid=8991

Happy Mapping!

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