Yesterday’s tomorrow today: what we can learn from past urban visions

From modernist machine-built perfection to a nuclear-proof metropolis buried far underground, our predictions for future cities tell us much about the past

Future Cities: Architecture and the Imagination by Paul Dobraszczyk is published by Reaktion Books

Ever since the world’s first recognised skyscrapers were built in Chicago and New York in the 1880s, cities have been in thrall to visions of extraordinary height. Early intimations of the ways in which skyscrapers would transform cities came in the 1910s, with images such as Richard Rummell’s below suggesting a future not only of immensely tall buildings but also of multilayered streets, railways and flying machines.

Scores of new cities are rising across the world from previously untouched desert and jungle, or on land “reclaimed” from the sea. While the history of cities built from scratch is long, the scale of the current epidemic is beyond anything seen before. 

Image: United Artists/Photofest

Image from the San Antonio Light newspaper

Image: Newton Fallis/A Visual History of the Future

Image: Warner Bros

Image: estate of Lebbeus Woods, Aleksandra Wagner, San Francisco Museum of Modern Art and David Rozelle

Image: Smithsonian American Art Museum

Image: TriStar Pictures

Related: Do you live in a city planned from scratch? Share your experiences

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