The idea of a Heathrow Garden City splices all sort of current thinking together into a big, improbable melange. Greening over runways and building homes, schools, lakes and gardens smacks of fantasy urbanism, a post-technological Eden slash post-apocalyptic jungle that apparently lurks beneath the facade of technology and progress, waiting for its moment to sprout. This theme is a familiar underpinning to the work of J.G. Ballard, science fiction directors, image-makers and game designers.
Just what is it that makes a vine-strewn urban panorama so fascinating? In the past we’ve mentioned Squint Opera’s Flooded London as an archetype of the genre, but there are parallels to be drawn with everything from the ruined New York of Crysis 3 to the encroaching new town that is ultimately reduced to ruins in Asterix’s Mansion of the Gods (a trenchant satire of France’s 60s and 70s-era rush to build new high-rise communities).
Creating a verdant garden city atop the historical ruins of Heathrow – the bulk of which would surely be allowed to remain as cracked, weed-infested tarmac, half-collapsed hangars and vine-draped control tower – already sounds evocative. It demonstrates the importance of nostalgia in place-making, and the complex and little understood distinction between nostalgia and pastiche, at least in architectural terms.
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