A visual history of the future

Published at the end of September 2014, a new report, A Visual History of the Future, commissioned by the British government, offers a remarkable overview of alternative future visions for cities.

Plug In City

There are some bizarre omissions, Wright’s Broadacre City perhaps being the most glaring. Likewise, with Okhitovich’s Red City of The Planet of Communism nowhere to be seen, there is little discussion on the idea of a disurbanised city, only of a dense urban metropolis. This seems short sighted. Only MARS 1942 plan for London and of course Ebenezer Howard’s Garden City offer any sort of urban/rural engagement.

Other important missing projects, off the top of my head, would be OMA’s Exodus proposal, nothing by Superstudio. In a section on floating cities there nothing on Krutikev, no Klucis. Khidekel, not even the more prosaic NASA visualisations that inspired Elysium. But perhaps here I’m nitpicking - a comprehensive volume of alternative city designs would be a major undertaking.

It is odd that some science-fiction cities are represented, Neo-Tokyo from Akira, the Los Angeles of Blade Runner, along with Neill Blomkamp’s District 9, Fritz Lang’s Metropolis, Terry Gilliam’s Brazil. Neuromancer and MegaCity One are name checked. Such a light scratching of the surface of urban visions in film and literature adds little.

But as primer on the history of futuristic urban visions, it's a pretty good start.