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Thursday, January 24, 2008
New Movement in Cities, by the late Brian Richards, was intended as a book for 'cities that want to plan and design for new underground and elevated systems, minirails, buses, automated roads, people movers and pavements, escalators and heliports.' A key document of 60s-era aspirations, it included the work of Archigram, the Japanese Metabolists, Victoria futurists and American industrialists, all striving to make sense of role of traffic in towns.

Amongst other things, New Movement in Cities contains a history of the many attempts at shifting large volumes of pedestrians, either via moving pavements, travelators or ultra-light transit systems. Enthusiasm for such concepts was high throughout the 1960s, from the 'carveyor' proposed for the Atlanta Transit System, an 'elevated air conditioned tube' that snaked above the existing streets, to the so-called 'dual mode' systems that retro-fitted conventional cars so that it could latch onto a guidance rail when needed..

Another serious suggestion of the era was to engineer cars so that they could be set up to follow each other, thus cramming more vehicles onto each highway with a correspondingly higher average speed. Back in the 1960s this required some serious number crunching (pdf), as in this piece of GM-sponsored research into 'car-following theory' ('the study of stimulus-response type interactions in a single lane of traffic caused by various acceleration and deceleration patterns induced in vehicles').

Others thought it better to concentrate on autonomous Personal Rapid Transportation systems that were slotted into existing urban situations without complex equations for human interaction, using a combination of new bus systems and small 'Personalised capsules' for just two people. PRT had its origins in the 'never-stop' trains originally suggested for London Underground - one simply stepped on or off, a bit like a paternoster lift (althouth there was a successful never-stop railway at the 1924 Empire Exhibition in Wembley). The city of tomorrow was envisioned as being awash in moving pavements and stairs, a place of perpetual, trundling mechanical movement.

It didn't quite sit well with the autonomy of automobile, and as well as the 'dual-mode' system suggested above, the car companies kept up a steady stream of concepts that stressed individual freedom and the ability to consume - GM's 1965 runabout, with its integral shopping basket, for example. There was even the much-vaunted electronic highway, developed by the Russian TV pioneer Vladimir Zworykin (more history here). Zworykin also created a television-guided bomb, used at the end of WWII. The perils of automated highways still ring true. From 'Driving Without Drivers,' Time, 3 August 1953: 'The drivers will have nothing to do; they can sleep or play cards or stare at the flowing road. Then some irregularity—an electronic failure or a blown front tire—pokes a mischievous finger into the smooth system. The dreaming drivers awake only when their cars are already piling in great, mangled heaps.'

*

Other things. Building the world's new eco-cities: enough theory, time for action, Pearman on sustainable urbanism / incredible set of images taken in the Roosevelt Warehouse, the Detroit Public Schools Book Depository. Via me-fi, via making light. More information courtesy of Sweet Juniper / new website for photographer Andreas Gehrke / huge repository of articles on World's Fairs and Expos.

SpaceCollective, 'living the lives of science fiction today' / a smattering of flickr pools: Atomic Ranch, Midcentury Neighbourhoods, 1960s interior design, mid-century illustrated, Retro Kid / more stepping back into the past, the Intercut wood typeface project / Print Club London, reviving the art of screen printing. A Weblog / 120 years of electronic music at obsolete.com / online guitar tuner / architecture photos by aqui-ali / the NASA Thesaurus, every acronym under the sun.

Virtual London in Crysis; video game engines take another leap forward in sophistication, allowing them to take huge chunks of complex real-world data and render them in real time. Via Rock Paper Shotgun / we remember reading Patrick Lynch in a recent issue of the AJ (not the linked article) sounding off about the quality of architectural education in the UK. One of the schools he rated was Bath. Browse Tand's Photos on flickr to see samples of work. We especially like the Monochord. A bit more about Monochords: I, II, III.

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