The effort to visualize the setting of the plot is often as extensive as the effort put in devising the storyline itself. Hence, when science fiction offers predictions on what the future would be like, it subtly hints to foretell the future of architecture and cities too.
Terrence McKenna has rightly put ‘Imagination is the Golden Pathway to everywhere’.
Both science fiction movies and novels have always visualized the future extraordinarily. Often exaggerations of the present-day issues, the intricacies which are predicted through science fiction, leave us in chills, be it an episode of ‘Black Mirror’ or the ‘Star Wars’ series. Even though imaginary, architecture forms an important part of these visualizations exhibited to the reader or the viewer. The effort to visualize the setting of the plot is often as extensive as the effort put in devising the storyline itself. Hence, when science fiction offers predictions on what the future would be like, it subtly hints to foretell the future of architecture and cities too.
The first example that comes to our mind when we try and relate architecture with science fiction is ‘Metropolis’. The 1927 film aptly predicts what architecture and city life might become with the growing differences in class, mass industrialization, and gigantic state investment in infrastructure and transport. Looking at certain aspects of the development of modern cities like New York and HongKong, the prophecies of the film seem to have come true, even though partially.
Based on today’s socio-economic, political, and technological advances, many sci-fi novels and films offer visualizations of space, cities, and architecture, which are more than relevant in today’s realm. Let us look at some noteworthy examples.
All Technology, Everything!
Black Mirror is a classic example that showcases a possible dystopia shortly; a result of our excessive dependence on technology. In most of the episodes, the cityscapes and the general architecture are not very different from what we live in today; however, the spaces overflow with integrated screens, surveillance systems, virtual, and augmented reality areas. Whether dystopia or not, the effects of technology on our living environment cannot be ignored for long. Automation and surveillance systems have already become an innate part of our buildings. While these technologies keep getting advanced, more and more are included in the palette daily.
Aerial Transportation and Infrastructure
The 1982 film Blade Runner was set in the year 2019. ‘Spinners’ or flying cars, introduced in the movie, became a sensation. Along with the cars, the movie also showcased the change in the terraces and road systems to provide infrastructure for these flying cars. With the UberCopter already functioning in cities like New York, it seems like cities and architecture will soon have to provide infrastructure for aero-mobility, even if it is something as simple as a helipad.
In the movie ‘The Martian,’ the artificial living habitat called ‘Hab’ has always intrigued both space and architecture enthusiasts. Though fictitiously, it explores various concepts like the possibility of greenhouse rooms for growing food, modular systems for easy transportation from Earth, and safety in zero gravity environs. Habitat on Mars seemed quite a far-fetched dream a couple of years ago, but not anymore. With every passing day, researchers are becoming one step closer to setting a place to live on Mars. Many competitions have been afloat driving fresh minds to think of innovative solutions for 3D printed habitats, modular construction, and whatnot. The Architecture department at Carnegie Mellon University has a Mars Studio too!
Climate Change and Floating Cities
Climate change, global warming, and the subsequent rise in sea levels are considered almost inevitable. This has given food for thought to many, on what would happen if our major cities submerge. In his book ‘New York 2140,’ Kim Stanley Robinson, recreates New York after it is submerged in ocean water, with a rather utopian perspective. In his visualization, the roads are replaced with water channels and pedestrian paths are lifted as flyovers; the old buildings have been structurally adapted to be semi-submerged underwater. The book also explores newer concepts like solar paint and others of the sort which promote carbon-negative infrastructure.
While the possibility of submerged cities still seemed implausible, Bjarke Ingels Group unveiled its proposal for a self-sustained floating city in 2019 at the UN-Habitat round table conference. BIG’s Oceanic City is built with Eco-friendly materials; can manage waste, water, and food; and can be scaled up appropriately.
Apart from these examples stated above, many cartoons, graphics, short stories have explored the realm of future architecture. Many of these predictions force researchers, architects, space enthusiasts, etc., to analyze the present and think beyond it. The future innovations arise from foolish predictions many a time!