It seems that we’ve been searching for places to imagine for centuries, as Dan Schindel of Hyperallergic is finding out. Researcher and author Paul Dobraszczyk’s book is an inspiring and eye-opening exploration of the breadth and depth of our collective aspirations. Last year, we explored your visions of the architecture of an urban future with our cultural residency, Super City.
Paul Dobraszczyk’s Future Cities isn’t the usual sort of book on architecture. The structures and locations it discusses are wholly speculative. The book is a survey of the sheer number of ways creatives have imagined how humans might build their living spaces in the future. In his introduction, Dobraszczyk explains that “Imagination can be said to prepare the ground for the ‘real’ and is always at work trying to transform it. Here, what is real and what is imagined are not two separate worlds, but ones that are always informing and transforming each other.”
Imagination can be said to prepare the ground for the ‘real’ and is always at work trying to transform it
Paul Dobraszczyk, researcher and author
To that end, Dobraszczyk has embarked on an impressively in-depth inquiry. The book references hundreds of works, ranging from literature to movies, to comics, to TV shows, to video games, to conceptual art projects. Its scope also reaches farther than one might expect, not merely sticking to contemporary science fiction but going back centuries. One of its first images is of Gustave Doré’s 1872 engraving ‘The New Zealander’, depicting a future traveller looking over the ruins of a flooded London. As fin de siècle visualizations of dirigible cities or trains running through skyscrapers demonstrate, the impulse to conjure both the grimmest and most optimistic possibilities for the future has long been around.