The Alternate-Universe Chicago In Which Our Craziest Unbuilt Buildings Exist

Some of Chicago’s great unbuilt buildings are as remarkable as the ones that make up its skyline. What would happen if Harry Weese’s Lake Michigan Islands, the Sears Tower on its side, and a Tribune Tower in the shape of a giant classical column shared downtown?

Last year, the architecture school at UIC put together Visionary Chicago, an exhibit of buildings, infrastructure, and urban planning planned for Chicago—to different degrees of seriousness—that were never actually built. Some are famous, like Burnham’s plan for Chicago, or Adolph Loos’s spectacularly weird idea for the Tribune Tower. Others are less so, like the “urban islands” of Harry Weese, the architect who designed our correctional center and D.C.’s Metro. (Weese’s plan for small, narrow islands in Lake Michigan was never adopted, but they bear an uncanny resemblance to the manmade Palm Islands in Dubai.)

Matthew Messner took a handful of these ideas and envisoned what the city might look like if they’d come to pass. The big reveal to Weese’s islands is wonderful.

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