The Transport of Future Past

We have built ourselves into a mess. An over-abundance of demand for personal mobility is rapidly draining our supply of...

We have built ourselves into a mess. An over-abundance of demand for personal mobility is rapidly draining our supply of fossil fuels. How did we get here? One part of the answer lies with a group of men and women who, a half century ago and more put into the public record their ideas about what our future world should look like. Their visions-sleek lines, orderly grids, automated systems, and fantastic structures-influenced our modern transportation infrastructure. Their ideas ultimately buckled under the weight of their own grandiosity, but the impulse that motivated these explorations-to envision a better future, and hope for its realization-is still relevant. It falls to us to imagine our own better tomorrow.(Above: The Futurama exhibit at the 1939 World's Fair is often credited with instilling in Americans our current ideas about transportation. The exhibit, sponsored by General Motors, imagined a world two decades in the future as a vast network of high-speed roadways, connecting disparate suburbs with massive urban centers.)

Above Le Corbusier's concepts for future urbanism predate GM's vision, but are strikingly similar. His sketches for a "Ville Contempor-aine" show towering urban corridors conducting traffic on various levels at high speed through dense city centers.

Above Buckminster Fuller envisioned a time when giant geodesic spheres would float cities of thousands high above the clouds. Fuller hoped Cloud Nine (as he dubbed the project) would enable entire communities to migrate according to the whims of their inhabitants, and "converge and deploy around Earth without its depletion."

Left As part of the avant-garde architecture movement in the 1960s, the English architect Ron Herron of Archigram proposed the Walking City, autonomous robotic structures that could roam the earth depending on the needs or wants of the inhabitants.

Above In the 1970s, NASA commissioned a series of explorations about space colonies, and had artists render some of the concepts. The idea of space settlement is predicated on the notion that someday, humans will need to travel beyond earth and colonize the solar system.

Left The Italian architect Antonio Sant'Elia imagined "La Citta Nuova" in 1914; it showcased large transportation hubs servicing concentrated vertical domestic and industrial structures, common themes in futurist transportation visions. FUTURMA CorbisCLOUD NINES Courtesy of the Estate of R. Buckminster FullerSPACE COLONY Courtesy of nasa.govLE CORBUSIER'S 1927 vision of Paris and the world (re-drawn by Michael E. Arth)THE WALKING CITY by Archigram


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