Tales of Future Past v2

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Future City

Future City

This painting by Frank R. Paul's of a city of the future and is pretty  typical of such predictions. The city is a massive pile of steel, plastic and glass put together in a way that not only has no past, but actively rejects it.  It is a place of heroic technology with skyscrapers the size of whole districts, roof-top aerodromes, wide pedestrian boulevards, and metal roadways strangely devoid of traffic. There are even urban space launch pads where giant rockets are winched upright before blasting off to the heavens.  Noise regulations, Shmoise regulations.

The iconic image of the future is the city. Think about it.  In how many films have directors established the fact that we're in the future by conjuring up some landscape of incredible buildings with air cars whizzing about like semi-regulated gnats. Metropolis, Bladerunner, Just Imagine, Things to Come, and any number of god-awful Star Trek instalments; they're all there.  

That's because a city's skyline tells you so much about the culture that built it. New York looks different from London because New York is different from London.  Skyscrapers suit New York. They tell you all about New Yorkers and the de facto capital of the United States.  Skyscrapers in London, no matter how many they build, look like pimples on a noble face.  It's St. Paul's and Westminster Bridge that define London and what she stands for. Westminster Bridge in New York would look like frilly knickers on a Coney Island hot dog.

This was the reason why Stanley Kubrick decided against setting any scenes from 2001: a Space Odyssey on Earth. Kubrick wanted to be as accurate as he could and felt that it was impossible for him to predict what a city on Earth would look like in 2001. Little did he know that he could have just set up a camera in the Strand and he'd have had a good approximation. That's because artists tend to forget that cities have pasts.  Unless a city is built from scratch in the wilderness at some insane pace, you will always be surrounded by the evidence of earlier times, which is a good thing. Otherwise you end up with something antiseptic, like Brasilia.

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