Technology, politics and visionaries

The beginning of the 20th century, and more specifically, the interwar, witnessed many changes, especially technology wise, which, along with the economical climate of the time and the emerging social ideas, favored new political regimes and carved the way for visionaries to imagine new cities and new worlds.

The spirit of the machine age was becoming dominant, industry was beginning to shape the economy and advancements in the car industry (new engines and new tires were being developed at that time) started changing the way people lived.

At the same time the radio was taking shape, with the first broadcasting station being established in the US in 1920 and quickly spreading. In 1928 the radio beacon was invented, and by 1930 the radio was mainstream, providing people with cheap entertainment (the US were going to the Great Depression, radio was cheap and fun) and political powers with a great tool for propaganda. The TV was also invented in this period, with the electrical TV being discovered in 1927.

Politically, dictatorship was beginning to take shape.

Mussolini came to power in 1922, promoting a cult for personality and laying down the principles of the doctrine of fascism. Propaganda was one of his main tools, and the radio was a very good medium for doing this. He presented his ideas of idealism by imposing ideas of collective and hierarchy.

Shortly after, Germany was become Nazi Germany, with Hitler rising to power. Again, this was a regime were the power was centralized in the hands of the dictator, who, through propaganda, burning of books and controlling the radio, was controlling public opinion and the arts society. Needles to say, Hitler`s ideal society was one based on race, and homogeneity.

Russia was also seeing changes. Stalin rose to power and set the goal for a communist society. He promoted authoritarianism, a centralized state and collectivization. He saw the opportunity of the machine age and carved an industry based economy, reshaping the way Russian society was organized, both at a social level, and at a physical one, by promoting urbanization (villages were turned into cities).

Within this context, visionaries began responding.

First moving image produce by Baird`s "televisor", 1926
First moving image produce by Baird`s “televisor”, 1926
Baird`s televisor equipment
Baird`s televisor equipment
jazz singer
Snippet from “The Jazz Singer”, the first talking movie by Warner Bros


Yevgeny Zamyatin

We is a Russian dystopian novel first published in 1924 in New York.

Set in the future, the novel depicts an urbanized setting constructed entirely by glass, which allows the secret political police to supervise the public with ease. Life is organized in such a way as to promote maximum production in a system were the power is centralized in the hands of one person, The Benefactor. Principles of egalitarianism are promoted, the people not having names but numbers, and all wearing identical clothing. The only form of entertainment for the society is the marching in forms, while listening to the State Anthem.

However, the novel is a criticism of an organized dystopia, tackling the theme of the rebellion of the human primitive spirit against a rationalized, machined world. This is apparent from the plot, which is centered around the love story between the two main characters, who play with the idea of a revolution.

In his satire, Zamytian had in mind the Soviet Union, which at that time was a single party dictatorship. Future conditions depicted in the novel might also have been informed by Mussolini`s incipient fascist order. Even thought at that time life in the U.S.S.R. wasn`t exactly as depicted in the novel, Zamytian tackled the inevitable outcome of modern totalitarianism.

A center piece in sci fi literature, We has influenced future works, such as George Orwell`s 1984, which depicts a very similar scenario.

Zamytian`s imaginary world

Brave New World

Aldous Huxley

Brave New World is a novel published in 1932 and a milestone in modern Sci Fi. The novel anticipates changes in society through developments in reproductive technology, psychological manipulation, classical conditioning and sleep-learning.

Similar to We, the society depicted in this novel is a manipulated one, but, in this instance, it is so by the use of chemically controlled substances and hypnotic persuasion, rather than brute force.

Huxley used his novels as a means to express widely held opinions of that time., probably the most notable one being the fear of the loss of identity in a fast paced world. He feared that no one would want to read a book and that society would be given so much information that it would be reduced to passivity and egotism.

A trip which Huxley made to New York gave the novel much of its essence. Huxley was outraged by the youth culture, by the sexual promiscuity and by the commercial cheeriness he had witnessed. In his novel, he talks about “feelies”, which seem to be a response to “talkie” motion pictures (talking television was invented by Warner Bros at that time) and the sex-hormone chewing gum, which draws parallels to the ubiquitous chewing gum, which was a symbol of American youth at that time.

Brave New World
Brave New World

Radiant City

Le Corbusier

In response to the same political and technological context, Corbusier proposed his plans for Ville Radieuse, or the Radiant City.

The Radiant City was Corbusier`s ideal for a utopia which would respond to the world`s rapid development of that time.

Centered around rapid urbanization (specifically present in Russia at that time), advancements in transportation and industry, Corbusier`s ideas depicted high rise housing blocks, free circulation and abundant green spaces. Corbusier also believed that only a dictatorial government would be equipped to inaugurate the “age of harmony”, following the opposing values of benevolent imperialism and community control from European and English perspectives respectively.

Model of Ville Radieuse
Model of Ville Radieuse
Aerial View
Aerial View

radiant city 5

Broadacre City

Frank Lloyd Wright

Broadacre City is a concept for suburban living presented By Frank Lloyd Wright in his 1932 book The Dissapearing City. Is stood as a planning statement, as well as a socio-political scheme by which each American family would be allocated an Acre of land and a new community would be built based on this. Wright depicts a community were all transport would be done by automobile and the pedestrian can exist safely only within the allocated one acre. This proposal was again a decentralized one, with the homestead considered the conceptual center.

Plan of Broadacre City
Plan of Broadacre City
3.7m x 3.7m model of one part of Broadacre City, exhibited by Frank Lloyd Wright
3.7m x 3.7m model of one part of Broadacre City, exhibited by Frank Lloyd Wright
Aerial View
Aerial View
Car sketches for Broadacre City, by Frank Lloyd Wright
Car sketches for Broadacre City, by Frank Lloyd Wright

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