Gothic architecture is a famously dramatic style of building historically used for churches and cathedrals.
You’ll recognize a gothic structure through flourishes such as rib vaults, pointed arches, flying buttresses, and looming spires.
The gothic style is most commonly associated with the Middle Ages in Europe. But just one hundred years ago, ‘Gothic Revival' was reborn in the US – with the style making a comeback at prestigious sites such as Yale University and Chicago’s Tribune Tower.
But not every 20 century building got the Gothic work. We wanted to re-imagine some of America’s most iconic buildings in a Gothic style – and here are the CG renders we came up with.
1. Golden Gate Bridge (San Francisco, California)
Engineered by Joseph Strauss and Charles Ellis alongside architect Irving Morrow, the Golden Gate Bridge’s art deco flourishes establish it as a landmark that was dreamt up in the 1920s – even if it didn’t open until 1937.
The chevron design elements and organic form lighting were Morrow’s response to the Exposition Internationale des Arts Décoratifs et Industriels Modernes of Paris, 1925, when the art deco movement was established. But when those curves and panels are replaced with the rigour and, let’s face it, pointedness, of the Gothic revival, the Golden Gate ends up looking somewhat… British?
2. Terminal Tower (Cleveland, Ohio)
Drawn-up in the Beaux-Arts style by architects Graham, Anderson, Probst & White, Cleveland’s towering 1930 landmark is already rich with neo-Gothic and neoclassical elements such as the steeply-pitched roof and arches.
But the addition of brightly-lit stained-glass and extra pinnacles is just what the rather stern old building needs for a new lease of life.
3. The Space Needle (Seattle, Washington)
Edward E. Carlson’s iconic needle has a bold enough outline to withstand whatever cosmetic changes our designers add to it. The 604-foot futurist structure was originally painted with shades in keeping with its 1962 World Fair debut’s space-age feel: ‘Astronaut White,’ ‘Orbital Olive,’ ‘Re-entry Red,’ and ‘Galaxy Gold.’
But the Needle still cuts quite a figure in ‘Gothic grey.’ Its base provides support through structural pointed arches, but it’s the intricate mesh of the quatrefoil and clover-shaped windows as you reach the top that would make our version worth the visit.
4. Lincoln Memorial (Washington DC, District of Columbia)
Inspired by his studies in Europe, Henry Bacon drew up his design for this 1922 monument to Abraham Lincoln in the Greek Revival or neoclassical style. But his choice of various types of stone to construct his Parthenon tribute building was symbolic. Materials such as Massachusetts granite and Alabama marble created a ‘union’ theme that would have pleased Old Abe.
Our redesigners have kept the stone feel, but added clover windows and imposing-looking gargoyles atop those Doric columns for a bit of Gothic shock-and-awe.
5. Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum (New York City, New York)
Opened to the public on October 21, 1959. It took 16 years for architect Frank Lloyd Wright to finalize the design for the Guggenheim. In this time he produced six separate sets of plans and 749 drawings in total.
There’s not a hint of Gothic inspiration in Wright’s eventual modern design, so to re-imagine this beloved building necessitated a total overhaul. Rows of columns spiral around the circular floors, the first floor is decorated with a host of gargoyles and the entrance is granted pointed arches. Our design is a truly terrifying clash of contemporary and medieval.
6. United States Air Force Academy Cadet Chapel (Colorado Springs, Colorado)
The Air Force Academy’s centerpiece as we know it is a modernist statement, structured around 17 glass and aluminum spires that are each composed of 100 tetrahedrons.
The chapel’s architect, Walter Netsch of Skidmore, Owings and Merrill, invoked some of modernism’s most striking ideas for his 1963 masterpiece. And Netsch’s dramatic spires themselves reference Gothic architecture. All the same, our switch back to stone and inclusion of a major frontal oculus takes away the Cadet Chapel’s key feature of contemporaneity in favor of the medieval.
7. Transamerica Pyramid (San Francisco, California)
San Francisco’s second highest building was designed by William Pereira and debuted in 1972. The Pyramid borrowed some of the fashionable materials of the time – concrete (16,000 cubic yards in the foundation alone), glass and steel – towards a futurist tower that stands quite apart from its neighbors.
When the 1989, 6.9-magnitude Loma Prieta earthquake struck, the Pyramid shook for more than a minute, its tip swaying almost a foot from side-to-side. Whether the Gothic pinnacles and gargoyles of our rendering would hold on tightly in such conditions, we can’t guarantee!
8. The Chrysler Building (New York, New York)
The Chrysler may be an ostentatious landmark, but it had a stealthy start in life: built between 1928-30, architect William van Alen managed to keep its 125-foot spire secret until 90 minutes before the grand unveiling.
The spire pushed the art deco building’s height to 1,046 feet, nudging it past The Bank of Manhattan (now The Trump Building) to briefly become the tallest building in the world. The Chrysler’s Gothic makeover pays tribute to that ambition, its pointed windows seeming to direct the skyscraper, rocket-like, to the stars.
Switching up the architectural style of iconic buildings such as these reveal the strength not only of the respective design schools, but of these specific architects at work. While some buildings are inseparable from their style, others are so brash as to shine through whatever façade we might add. But either way, you have to admit: there’s still some life in the Gothic style yet!
The Skyscraper Center. (2018). Chrysler Building. skyscrapercenter.com
United States Air Force Academy. (2018). Cadet Chapel. usafa.edu
Pyramid Center. (2018). Transamerica Pyramid Center. pyramidcenter.com
Pyramid Center. (2018). Pyramid Facts. pyramidcenter.com
Space Needle. (2018). Space Needle History. spaceneedle.com
Cleveland Historical team. (2017). Terminal Tower. clevelandhistorical.org
Bacon, H. (2017). Lincoln Memorial Builders. nps.gov
Guggenheim. (2018). About Us. guggenheim.org
California Bug Dream. (2018). Golden Gate Bridge. visitcalifornia.com
History Lists. (2016). List of Top 10 Most Spectacular Gothic Buildings. historylists.org
Waldek, S. (2018). 9 of the Best Gothic Cathedrals. architecturaldigest.com
History Lists. (2018). 10 Defining Characteristics of Gothic Architecture. historylists.org
Richman-Abdou, K. (2017). What We Can Learn From the Exquisite History and Ornate Aesthetic of Gothic Architecture. mymodernmet.com
Pfingsten, M. (2018). Gothic Architecture: Style, Characteristics & History. study.com
Encyclopaedia Britannica. (2018). Gothic Revival. britannica.com
Craven, J. (2018). An Introduction to Gothic Revival Architecture. thoughtco.com
Bulovska, K. (2017). Gothic Revival architecture. wallswithstories.com
Sygic Travel. (2018). Best Neo-Gothic Buildings in United States of America. travel.sygic.com
Skidmore, Owings & Merrill (2018). U.s. Air Force Academy – Cadet Chapel. som.com
Golden Gate Bridge Highway & Transportation District (2017). Bridge Aesthetics - Art Deco on a Grand Scale. goldengate.org