Sunday, June 13, 2010

Retro-Future: Glorious Urbanism

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When living in mega-cities was considered a privilege

That gleaming Metropolis on the horizon? - Something to aspire to, the glorious destination to dream about, to shape your life accordingly and reach it as the utmost reward... Such ideas were popular in the infant days of futurism, in fantastic literature on both sides of the Atlantic.

Thankfully the "mega-urbanism" dream is replaced today by quite the opposite idea of an affluent living in the country - but frankly, both seem to be unattainable, clean-cut ideals that's only pretty to look at. And look at them we will - presenting again the rarely-seen examples of urbanism and architecture, some from the Eastern Bloc "popular science" publications and promotional literature.
Click to enlarge most images

(TM, 1967, Russia)

(illustration to works by A. Kazantsev, 1939-1956, Russia)

(art by Frank R. Paul, 1933)

The Dark Monumentality of Hugh Ferriss' Gotham Style

First, let's cover the basics. The whole "Gotham/Empire" style in architecture really took off after the conceptual work by High Ferriss. His 1929 book "The Metropolis of Tomorrow" influenced the whole generation of architects, with its moody, colossal projections, destined to forever haunt the dreams of would-be dictators and power-mad superheroes:

His works are currently on exhibit, more info here.

Skyscraper Canyons as Reflection of State's Power

Mega-urbanism and colossal architectural dreams of the 1920s and 1930s, in my opinion, reflect the general society's drift toward collective ideals. All Hail the Empire, ruled by (hopefully) benevolent tyrant and powered by the mind-boggling feats of technology. The life of an individual in these visions is indeed microscopic and not to be considered against the backdrop of titanic activity of the masses.

Skyscraper canyons were obligatory part of urban visions from the 20s and 30s:

(Fritz Lang's famous "Metropolis" movie, 1927)

(images from Futurama and "Just Imagine" movie, info)

(image credit: Ryan Bliss, DigitalBlasphemy)

People's Palaces of Socialist Bliss

Soviets had similar gigantic aspirations in architecture, as demonstrated by the well-known Palace of the Soviets design:

(cover TM, 1952, Russia)

That Lenin's statue is proposed on a truly grandiose scale:

Large-scale architectural dreams and conquest of space are combined in this highly evocative Communist cover from 1954:

(cover TM, 1954, Russia)

America had very strange conception of Soviet's architectural ambitions during the Cold War:

The Soviets, however, dreamed large:

(TM, 1970, Russia)

(TM, 1967, Russia)

Note the super-highways, this was definitely very popular transportation vision in the 50s-70s:

(art by Syd Mead, from his book "Sentinel")

(image credit: Klaus Burgle)

US Pavilion Design in the 60s:

An interesting concept for parking: rotating hexagonal cells for each car -

(TM, 1975, Russia)

Flying Cities
(as envisioned by Russians in 1971)

(TM, 1971, Russia)

More rosy urbanism to be found in the Western pulp and promotional literature:

(image credit: Klaus Burgle)

(image credit: Plan59)

(art by Arthur C. Radebaugh)

Illustration by Joe Tillotson, to "Robot: Unwanted" by Daniel Keyes
Other Worlds, June 1952

Bubble cities were a distinct feature of the 50s science fiction:

(cover, Urania 1959, Italy)

Urban Futuristic Interiors

So what's inside cool apartments of the future? Sample Danish designer Verner Panton's rad Sixties interiors:

(images credit: Joel Johnson)

Urbanism turned out to be quite a different proposition than we imagined seventy years ago. There are numerous reasons to stay away from soul-numbing mega-city projects. Overpopulation, however, dictates its own rules, and we are going to see many super-structures to be built in the world in the coming years. Perhaps we'll see the visions of Frank R. Paul come to life, after all.

Previous part here.

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