The City After The Automobile: An Architects Vision

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The city is a process, rather than a form.

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Thus, in Broadacre City, Wright set about to provide, on a community scale, for the expression of democratic ideas as he saw them. His city would provide the space, freedom and beauty necessary for the growth of the individual. In studying the models one of the most obvious characteristics of Broadacre City is that it contains many small farmsteads and houses intermingled.

Virtually every freestanding house has some agricultural land attached to it.

During the Depression era of the s, Wright was not the only person to theorize that if people had a plot of land, however small, they would be able to subsist. All that Broadacre houses ask of society is that they be genuinely Democratic, and of all government that it be strictly impersonal. This city of the future does, however, ask for a quality of thought and a kind of thinking on the part of the citizen that organic architecture alone at the present time represents or seems to understand … a new reality in our way of living and building, an environment in our democracy.

Broadacre City proposes a physical fabric and social arrangement necessary to achieve the broader values of democracy.

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Broadacre City was never realized. The group had just completed their cross-country trek from Wisconsin driving in a caravan of cars and trucks loaded with bounty from the gardens of Taliesin. As guests of Dr. Alexander Chandler, the Fellowship stayed at La Hacienda, a polo stable that had been converted into living quarters.

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It was there under the entry roof that the Broadacre City models were constructed. Wright saw this idea as extending out over the land and that it would assume different characteristics depending on the terrain. The main thing was to have an architect that understood building in relation to the site and who understood the needs of the people.

I worked on the small houses that had orchards and vineyards behind them.


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I started painting my section in earth tones, which Mr. Wright liked. The addition of flying cars, a familiar and recurrent staple of future city visions, accentuates the dense verticality of a Los Angeles reimagined for the 21st century. The dark, brooding and claustrophobic atmosphere of the city in the film proved popular with those creating near-future scenarios and reflected concerns about cities toward the end of the 20th century. Spanning across the latter half of the last century we have the myriad dystopias given by Ballard.

Cities of the future in his work were above all dysfunctional, often due to environmental and technological apocalypses. And of course future cities are not the sole domain of fiction. This was explicit in his work — simultaneously focusing on radical new forms for the skyscraper and his seminal masterplan for the urbanisation of the American landscape, Broadacre City. So which future is here? Encouragingly, nearly a century on it appears we are shifting toward a more people-based approach.

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The recurrence and growth of more socially engaged future city visions in the early 21st century is notable. The reemergence of street-level urbanism, which favours the pedestrian and active public realm in the manner of Jane Jacobs , reflects our increasing environmental concerns coupled with technological possibilities. Further evidence also supports our growing worries about the longevity of the city, adaptability to climate change, resource management and resilience of changing social dynamics and populations.

Past visions of future cities have been outlandish, they have been dark and dismal, they have also been clairvoyant.

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They embody a range of ideas of the cities we have and have had. The power of these images demonstrates deep cultural resonances from the time they were produced. Future cities, even in fiction, reveal an enormous amount about how a society views itself. So after more than years of dystopian cities of the future it is positive to see that many artists, architects and designers have remembered that perhaps the most important element of cities are their people.

Science Fiction Cities: How our future visions influence the cities we build

Published in collaboration with The Conversation. The views expressed in this article are those of the author alone and not the World Economic Forum.


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  6. The inspiring story behind this picture of two world leaders Rosamond Hutt 18 Sep More on the agenda. Explore context. Explore the latest strategic trends, research and analysis. Almost 20 years ago, the celebrated prophet of doom and disorder JG Ballard wrote about the future of the city in his novel Cocaine Nights: Townscapes are changing.