Dream (House) Deferred

A Survey of Unbuilt Architectural Designs

By   |     |  Architects Guide

Over the course of a career, an architect may have dozens of their designs turned into buildings. This is the nuts and bolts of
the craft, working with clients to translate dreams into constructed reality. There are plans and drafts and redrafts and visions and revisions along the way. But not all designs get turned into structures. Sometimes designs that an architect has spent much time and creative work on just go unbuilt. “So much work goes into these things that when it doesn’t get built, it can be a bit disheartening,” says Ben Albury of Amalgam Studio.

“It goes into the attic loft of unbuilt designs, which has piled up a bit over 35 years of being an architect,” says Brad Will of Ashokan Architecture. There’s a lot that goes unbuilt. Ones that you don’t feel a lot of connection with, others that you put a lot of time and creative energy into and you think, ‘That kind of hurt.’”

There’s a variety of reasons for designs ending up on the dust heap of architectural history, but according to the people I spoke to for this article, there are two main categories of project killers: cost and relationship problems. (A third option: Designs that act as creative exercises, as in Grigori Fateyev’s Cantilevered Live/Work Space.)

Kevin Conklin of Conklin Architecture has acted as a therapist to numerous couples who’ve come to him to build a dream home. “They don’t teach you relationship counseling in architecture school,” he says with a laugh, “but it’s part of the job.” The trickiest part can be when clients aren’t in agreement to begin with and launch a design process with divergent concepts. “Sometimes it’s clear the couple haven’t communicated with each other and you can see the tension in the air,” he says. “They have different ideas and things can fall apart pretty quickly.”

In this feature, we take a look at some designs by regional architects that have not (yet) seen the light of day. “This is kind of therapeutic for me,” says Will. “I don’t have to keep it packed it away.” Happy to help. And who knows? Perhaps a client- to-be will find their dream home among these designs!

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