Timothy Simonds, M.A. student, Theatre Arts and Performance Studies, Brown University
A two-storied boulevard runs into the horizon, with non-combustion cars skimming down the road’s slick surface. Office towers frame the road’s path, drawing our eyes up to a clear and unpolluted sky. This is Syd Mead’s “L.A. 2013,” the front cover of a 1988 issue of the Los Angeles Times Magazine.
Although Mead’s vision is not an accurate representation of L.A. today, it doesn’t seem that farfetched. Neil M. Denari Architects’s High Line 23 or nearly any of the new buildings over-hanging the highline line in New York could easily be figured into the scene, and the Prius’s silent float would fit perfectly among the white noise that the traffic in Mead’s image evokes. Like Mead’s other creations, the rendering reorganizes the existent within the realm of emerging technologies rather than presuming a completely reinvented world.
In just over a year it will be 2013, and there is something uncanny about existing in a time that has been rendered “a future.” What does it mean to share the same temporal space as a utopia? When utopia – which comes from Greek οὐ τόπος meaning “no place” – becomes right here.
Do images of the future exist when these “futures” become the contemporary moment? The literary traditions of utopia, dystopia, and Sci-Fi might say, “no…but yes.” Utopia is always nowhere and right here. It reorganizes the existent and estranges itself from reality with some kind of border. It is lost in a lacuna of some navigator’s memory, beyond some insurmountable wall, or held in the graves of those that have got there but could not return. In the case of Mead’s “L.A. 2013,” a temporal barrier separates our reality and its own, a characteristic akin to Sci-Fi. But as our 2013 approaches, this divide seems to fall. “L.A. 2013” entangles temporal landscapes and places “a future” in the past. I am (the image exists in its own time) and will be (presents the plausible evolution of our built environment in 1988) once I am (the plausible of 1988 and our time collide, giving us nostalgia for “a future”).
Read more about the exhibition <a href=”Read more about the exhibition “Building Expectation: Past and Present Visions of the Architectural Future” here: http://news.brown.edu/pressreleases/2011/08/future