Tomorrow’s Future Today

Back in May, the London Architectural Association hosted a symposium called Thrilling Wonder Stories: Speculative Futures for an Alternate Present, an all day event that sought to bridge the gap between the worlds of science fiction and architectural design. Participants included authors (Warren Ellis, Ian MacLeod), architects (Sir Peter Cook – Archigram, Stephanie Lavaux – R & Sie), and video game designers (Viktor Antonov – art director of Half-Life 2).

Fortunately for those of us who missed it, the whole event has been uploaded to the web, and we can watch it at our own convenience (see below for the link). For better or worse, the future is where all of us are going to end up living, and it’d be nice to know how some people are preparing for it.

MVRDV: When it comes to incorporating science fiction into design scenarios, MVRDV are at the head of the class. The picture at the top of the article is MVRDV’s winning proposal for a new city center to be built in Gwanggyo, South Korea. MVRDV have released a monograph in the form of a city-simulator video game (Spacefighter: The Evolutionary City) and have investigated the design implications personal flying vehicles might have on city planning (SkyCar City: A Pre-Emptive History). And while the idea of SkyVespas might strike some people as frivolous, MVRDV are also proponents of vertical farming and flood plain pontoon cities.

OMA – Rem Koolhaus’ design firm, OMA designs entire cityscapes, such as this waterfront city and walled city, both set to be built in the United Arab Emirates. Of course, as has become evident with Dubai, there’s more to city planning than simply drafting fantastic landscapes, and we’ll see how these places function a generation or two after their initial inhabitation. Certainly though, both potential cities provide fodder for the imagination. One can almost glimpse the Budayeen—home to Marid Audran, George Alec Effinger’s 22nd century detective.

London Yields – Then again, maybe we shouldn’t be thinking of designing new cities for the future, but adapting our current ones for the expected shortages to come. Quoting the claim that “England was only nine meals away from anarchy,” London Yields sought to investigate the possibility of developing an agricultural framework within the preexisting urban infrastructure. In other words, it was about reclaiming vacant lots by putting crops and animals on them.

Ian Douglas-Jones’ 2070 project pushes this idea even further by imagining a scenario where “imports of food dried up forty years ago, and our self reliance has necessitated the development of uber dense enclaves of self subsistence, and self sustenance.” The whole notion might possibly strike some as far-fetched, but plans are already in place for planting vineyards in the center of London.

Victory City: I had to include this one. Honestly, I don’t know if this is an Internet hoax or not. According to the website, Victory City is for the rugged individualist who is sick and tired of the disorganized and violent cities as they exist today. Brainchild of multi-millionaire Orville Simpson II (he looks a bit like John Galt’s long lost brother mixed with your crazy uncle who spent all his money developing a patent for edible linoleum), Victory City offers all the comforts and amenities of the urban metroscape crammed into a self-sustaining and featureless cube plopped down in the countryside. In Victory City, even the cafeteria has Persian carpeting. By all means take the tour. Only remember: prolonged exposure might make Dark City resemble a screwball comedy.

Finally, here’s that link to Thrilling Wonder Stories by way of AA School of Architecture’s video lecture index page. Enjoy!


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