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Link - article by M. Christian and A. Abrams

Love, Peace, and... Metropolis

We can't stop fantasizing about living in an urban utopia: some try to give their fantasies a realistic foundation, to ground them in the brick and mortar of today... while others have the architectural visions of the World Of Tomorrow that are more ... well, visionary.

If not totally hallucinatory.

(Hydro-Net futuristic urban project for San Francisco - more info)

(futuristic medical center - more info; and MAD architects concepts, like this one)

Some examples of the early pulp illustration (still unmatched in their retro-futuristic grandeur) - New York in 2032:

(fragment of the cover of the "Science & Mechanics" magazine, 1931)

Sliding pavements - and the Depth-scraper! (concept from 1931):

(images via)

The future city by Francisco Mujica: an utilitarian "nightmare":

(image via)

Even worse, a soul-deadening "Cube City" (1930) -

Burj Dubai (or Burj Khalifa) inspiration: the Mile High Illinois

Frank Lloyd Wright was -- without hyperbole -- brilliant. Looking at his designs, it's easy to view them as simple in their loveliness: elegant mixtures of natural and artificial, Asian and Western, minimal and dramatic. But it's easy to forget that Wright completely rewrote architecture when the cars parked in front of his houses were Model T Fords. It's one thing to dream about the future when you're in a world -- like today -- that's always looking forward, always thinking of grandly dramatic tomorrows, but quite another when you're in a time when men are wearing spats, and women hoop skirts -- and the future was relegated to cheap pulps, at best.

And Wright certainly had his eyes to the future. One of his most visionary designs was of a decentralized city, called Broadacre. Although not as striking as some of his other designs, it was radical for its time. But even more radical was what was to be Wright's masterpiece, a single soaring accomplishment: The Illinois.

Soaring is right, as the Illinois was to be a skyscraper -- a rare thing for Wright. But not just any twenty or thirty or forty floor pinnacle of his skill. Nope, The Illinois was to be a Chicago landmark to end all landmarks: a mile-high skyscraper.

(images via 1, 2)

Alas, Wright never came close to seeing his creation as anything but sketches and blueprints.

Floating Atlantis Hotel, 1928:

(images via)

Another architectural visionary with very long-distance sight was Buckminster Fuller. Bucky created what some consider overly practical geodesic and polished steel future with a staggering array of designs and inventions -- many of which had gone beyond the blueprint stage and could be seen, touched, or even driven. Like Wright's, his designs were often even more incredible in light of when they were created. His Dymaxion House, for example, was created in 1929, and his amazing Dymaxion car actually drove the streets of New York in 1933. Fuller's designs were, to put it mildly, rigorously practical: his Dymaxion Houses were to be created on an assembly line with inflexible specifications, not in their manufacture but for those who were to live in them.

(image via)

The houses might have been absolutely brilliant in their design -- integrating many inspired features such as their ability to recycle water -- and his car literally could have driven rings around the cars of 1944, but in Fuller's future visions humanity would have been less flesh and blood and more like uniform parts in his many intricate mechanisms.

A world of living green: a vision by Luc Schuiten

Other architects and visionaries have taken a much more natural approach to their far-forward speculations and designs. Luc Schuiten, for instance, looked at tomorrow and saw not steel and chrome, metal and heavy industry but instead a world of living green. It's called Archiborescence - his designs are for cities grown and tended like orchards. Living in Luc's world would be like existing in a city of skyscraper trees, hedgerow houses, forest stores, and prairie parks - a magnificent dream for those who long for man to finally live with- and not against - nature ... though maybe a ring of hell if you have an hay fever.

(images by Luc Schuiten, via)

Communist Gothic: Architectural Visions by Yakov Chernyakov, 1920s - 1930s

We already wrote about Yakov's stupendous imperial urban dreams - click here. Here are a couple more glimpses of his baroque-looking mega cities:

(images via)

Wright is art, Fuller is cold logic, Luc is nature, but if you want a vision of the future that's none of the above, in every way, you have to look at the work of Superstudio. Created in 1966 by Adolfo Natalini and Cristiano Toraldo, Superstudio's plans for the future are outrageous, disturbing, and -- most of all -- surreal.

(image credit: Adolfo Natalini, The Museum of Modern Art)

To be fair, Natalini and Toraldo never really thought about actually creating their visions of the future -- unlike Wright and Fuler and Luc -- and, considering some of their designs, that might be a very good thing.

Take, for example, their plan to make all the buildings in Pisa lean -- every building except for the town's famous tower; or their famous "Brain City" where the residents would be just that: brains in jars, with the concept of a perfect city fed into their cortexes via direct stimulation.

A contemporary of Superstudio, Archigram created designs that weren't quite as avant guard -- in fact they were almost realistic, at least in comparison. One of their most famous visions is for a city that perambulates across the countryside ... and before you leap to your dictionary, they meant for their cities of the future to be monstrous walking machines, strolling from one part of the world to the other.

Tomorrow might not be here yet, but thankfully there have been, and still are, some dreamers who have tried to look forward to how we might be living. All we can do is hope that some of their more outrageous visions become a reality, and that others never do.

From more realistic near-future visions (click to enlarge):

(image credit: Meduza Arts, Moon City Productions)

(image credit: Mark Goerner)

(image credit: Philip Williams)

(originals unknown)

... to wild stuff, like this overgrown "Coruscant" for example:

(image credit: Craig Mullins)

'Shroom City, by Frederic St. Arnaud (click to enlarge):

Waterfall Castle, also by Frederic St. Arnaud:

(art by Frederic St. Arnaud)



Also don't miss: "Communist Gothic: Architecture by Yakov Chernikov" ->

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Anonymous Tonya said...

Sadly enough, I can't envision that as a realistic possibility for this world. Still, so many of us dream of a future in which humans might co-exist perfectly with nature. It would be ideal.

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Blogger Capn said...

Where's Disney's initial blueprints for Epcot Center?

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

What about Palo Solari and his arcologies?


Blogger E said...

Great collection of pics. What's interesting is that even if those visions were to come to fruition, there will still be used syringes and crack rocks strewn over these futuristic landscapes.

No one seems to consider how telling it is that we should be so inclined to dream up a cosmetically distinct atmosphere while we remain entire as destructive and myopic as ever. Such visions are basically Cosmo magazine pinups for architecture- here cover up your psychological faults and distortions with plum red lipstick.

Go dreams!

Anonymous LunarStudio Renderings said...

M. Christian - that's an absolutely fantastic selection of architectural renderings you have chosen for this article. How long did it take for you to put this all together? Many kudos...

Blogger Stickmaker said...

Some of those older ones remind me of the work of Winsor McCay, though less stylish.

Blogger Glompbot said...

Actually those sliding pavements have been a reality. They existed in 1912, so for someone in 1913 to imagine them to be the way of the future isn't so outlandish!


Anonymous Ajani said...


These are amazing illustrations!

Let's go to the future, right now.

Who has a time machine?

Anonymous Anonymous said...

heh as cool as the waterfall castle is i coulden't help but think how terrible a place it would be to live there. it would be so loud all the time! might as well live next tot he airport

Anonymous Danuta said...

Some of this project are only artistic vision of architects. This will never been built or only for fun or tourist attraction.
In Poland we have such attraction. it's called upsidedown house and it's only purpose is to lure turists.

Anonymous solaris said...

Great images,
I have done a documentary about visionary architecture.
See here:
and here:

Blogger Rox said...

"An utilitarian nightmare..."

It should be "a utilitarian nightmare." The determinant of the use of "a" or "an" is the sound leading the word not the letter. So even though "utilitarian" begins with a vowel, is has the consonant sound "yoo" and thus requires "a" in front of it.

Anonymous Development said...

That's really a fantastic post ! added to my favourite blogs list... I have been reading your blog last couple of weeks and enjoy every bit. Thanks!

Blogger ninni said...

Dont You Think people love the green in fact need it ....

Anonymous arccentric architectural renderings said...

there's something about the original hand renderings / illustrations that makes me a bit sad that they are quickly becoming a thing of the past. They're so great, and required so much talent.


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