Unrealized city plans for major cities

Wired has a set of interesting maps of city plans that were never carried out including a 1948 highway plan for San Francisco, plans for expanding Boston’s subway in 1945, and a 1925 rapid transit plan for Los Angeles.

But there are also maps that describe the world as it never came to be.

Those are the maps that interest Andrew Lynch, who runs a Tumblr called Hyperreal Cartography & The Unrealized City that’s full of city maps collected from libraries, municipal archives, and dark corners of the internet…

Many of the works featured on Lynch’s Tumblr date to idyllic post-war America. I asked him if these represent dreams of a perfect future. “Old plans are always so optimistic,” he said. “There are these beautiful, sometimes utopian visions of what these cities could be.” Of course, while a car for every home and a highway through every neighborhood seemed charming at the time, such an idea would make a modern urban planner shudder. One era’s Utopia is another’s hell.

Lynch embraces these contradictions. The maps featured on his blog are not reality, but they are not entirely fictional. They serve as a reminder that every city is built on the past while keeping an eye on the future. Somewhere underneath these maps is the skeleton of a recognizable place, but the flesh on the bones is both foreign and oddly familiar.

How could they not feature Burnham’s famous 1909 plan for Chicago? The plan still gets a lot of attention even if his biggest ideas were not carried out. Perhaps it is too well-known for this small sampling. Check out the full collection here.

While these maps are featured as interesting “what-ifs” or alternative futures, I suspect most cities have such plans floating around. Wouldn’t we prefer that big cities are thinking about all sorts of possibilities?

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