Tag Archives: futurism

An Actual, Real Life Walking City

Walking City, Very Large Structure By Manuel Domínguez

I first ran across this idea in the brilliant book The Quantum Thief by Hannu Rajaniemi, which along with The Fractal Prince are some of the best sci fi books i’ve ever read, so you should totally go check them out.

We are not here today however to discuss alternative realities, we are here to discuss actual potentials for this reality. The significant potential in this case being a city that actually walks.

British architect Ron Herron in 1964 first seriously proposed the moving city concept. In an article in avant-garde architecture journal Archigram, Ron Herron proposed building massive mobilerobotic structures, with their own intelligence, that could freely roam the world, moving to wherever their resources or manufacturing abilities were needed. Various walking cities could interconnect with each other to form larger ‘walking metropolises’ when needed, and then disperse when their concentrated power was no longer necessary. Individual buildings or structures could also be mobile, moving wherever their owner wanted or needs dictated. Early precursors to this include Hell On Wheels the  mobile town of support personnel, restaurants, saloons, and various recreation facilities (laundry, gambling, dance halls, etc.) followed the railroad during the building of the U.S. transcontinental railroad. More modern examples include cruise ships.

However, Manuel Dominguez, Spanish architect, proposes an actual walking city.

Walking City, Very Large Structure By Manuel Domínguez

Manuel Dominguez’s “Very Large Structure,”  is the result of his thesis project at ETSA Madrid, and proposes a nomadic city that can move on caterpillar tracks to locations where work and resources are abundant.

Walking City, Very Large Structure By Manuel Domínguez

Dominguez looked to the world of heavy engineering to inspire the structure’s colossal steel frame and caterpillar tracks.Very Large Structure, despite its enormous size, has much less of an impact on its surrounding ecosystem. Its mobility is proposed as a way to encourage reforestation of the static cities which it replaces, and part of its day-to-day function is the management of this environment. The specific social conditions of the Spanish territory it is designed for also add to its relevance: it provides work for the high number of unemployed citizens in Spain. Dominguez even incorporates on-board energy generation.

Walking City, Very Large Structure By Manuel Domínguez

With a length of 560 metres, the city would be made up of three levels. Three levels would house an array of functions necessary for the city to function and accommodate a large nomadic population. The lowest would function as a warehouse and construction area, while the middle would accommodate mechanical functions such as waste disposal and air conditioning, and the top story would be used as a living deck where new architectural structures can be tested.

Walking City, Very Large Structure By Manuel Domínguez

The structure is based on a giant gantry crane. A total of 36 oversized crawlers would allow it to move, propelled by the kinds of electric engines used in large sea vessels. Despite its size, the city would strive to reduce its impact on its surroundings – the area left behind by the city would be reforested.

Walking City, Very Large Structure By Manuel Domínguez

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Posted by on September 19, 2014 in Uncategorized


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Russian Futurism

Futurism was embraced in Pre-Revolutionary Russian heartily by a small but ambitious group of artists and poets. They published their own manifesto (OF COURSE) called A Slap In The Face Of Public Taste. (points for a good title)

They spawned in 1912 and like their Italian counterparts they adopted the painting style of Cubism in 1913, although apparently independently of the Italians. Aristarkh Lentulov came back from Paris having adopted the Cubist style and the Russian Futurists embraced it zealously, just like the Italian Futurists did.

The Russians developed in their own way. Although they too embraced dynamism, movement, machines,modernity and an absolute disdain for the past, they eschewed the Fascist ideology of the Italians, were much more active in literary futurism, openly disdained war (but embraced the Russian Revolution whole heartedly as the dawn of a new era and the end of the old) and denied influence from ANYbody, not even Marinetti, the Italian founder of Futurism, himself.

In fact, when Marinetti visited Russia the Russian Futurists messed with him at every turn and declared they owed him nothing.

The Russian Futurists embraced both the Revolution and Communism when it came and Futurism thrived briefly under Communism before being engulfed and absorbed by the Communist style which would emerge triumphant and which we can all still picture today.

The Russian Futurists even made some Futurist Opera. You know how much i love you. You know that i wouldn’t leave the 3 of you who are still interested in these Futurist posts hanging in morbid curiosity as to what on earth Futurist Opera from 1913 is like. Well, it’s like this:


Posted by on August 20, 2012 in Uncategorized


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Futurist Architecture

Rendering based on Antonio Sant’Elia

The first wave of Futurists, the Italians from 1909 until WWI sparked a lot of fires with their vision of bold, vehemently modern, machine and industry industry loving, confrontationally daring art. One such fire was in the field of architecture.

Futurist architecture is often characterized “by anti-historicism, strong chromaticism, and long dynamic lines, suggesting speed, motion, urgency and lyricism”

Naturally there had to be a manifesto not just on Futurism (as we saw yesterday) but specifically on Futurist Architecture, which Futurism’s founder Filippo Marinetti also had a strong hand in writing along with Antonio Sant’Elia. Truth be told, Marinetti LOVED writing manifestos. He wrote a pile of them for various Futurist endeavors.

However, far more important to the birth of Futurist Architecture was the aforementioned Antonio Sant’Elia, a builder who became a designer whose vision of architecture encompassed and inspired Futurist ideals.

Antonio Sant’Elia

Let us take a brief look at part of that initial manifesto:

“No architecture has existed since 1700. A moronic mixture of the most various stylistic elements used to mask the skeletons of modern houses is called modern architecture. The new beauty of cement and iron are profaned by the superimposition of motley decorative incrustations that cannot be justified either by constructive necessity or by our (modern) taste, and whose origins are in Egyptian, Indian or Byzantine antiquity and in that idiotic flowering of stupidity and impotence that took the name of neoclassicism.

These architectonic prostitutions are welcomed in Italy, and rapacious alien ineptitude is passed off as talented invention and as extremely up-to-date architecture. Young Italian architects (those who borrow originality from clandestine and compulsive devouring of art journals) flaunt their talents in the new quarters of our towns, where a hilarious salad of little ogival columns, seventeenth-century foliation, Gothic pointed arches, Egyptian pilasters, rococo scrolls, fifteenth-century cherubs, swollen caryatids, take the place of style in all seriousness, and presumptuously put on monumental airs.They persevere obstinately with the rules of Vitruvius, Vignola and Sansovino plus gleanings from any published scrap of information on German architecture that happens to be at hand. Using these, they continue to stamp the image of imbecility on our cities, our cities which should be the immediate and faithful projection of ourselves.

And so this expressive and synthetic art has become in their hands a vacuous stylistic exercise, a jumble of ill-mixed formulae to disguise a run-of-the-mill traditionalist box of bricks and stone as a modern building. As if we who are accumulators and generators of movement, with all our added mechanical limbs, with all the noise and speed of our life, could live in streets built for the needs of men four, five or six centuries ago.”

Alas, Sant’Elia did not actually live to see many of his designs become buildings. He was one of the many prominent Futurists who went marching heartily into the jaws of WWI never to march out.

Antonio Sant’Elia

However the banner of Futurist Architecture was picked up and carried onwards by not only successive designers but naturally, successive manifestos. There were at least three more of them, one in 1920, another in 1931 and still another in 1934.

The 1920 manifesto was written by Virgilio Marchi. Here is an example of his design:

Futurism eventually became associated with fascism and the Eastern Bloc. This is no accident. Remember how Marinetti loved to write manifestos? Well, another of his babies is the 1919 Fascist Manifesto. He had strong ties to the Italian Fascist party although his relationship with the Italian Fascists could be stormy. Many prominent fascist architects were indeed futurists, notably among them Angiolo Mazzoni

Angiolo Mazzoni

Futurism never became the official architecture of Mussolini’s Fascist Italy, despite Marinetti’s never ending attempts, mostly because “Mussolini was personally uninterested in art and chose to give patronage to numerous styles in order to keep artists loyal to the regime”, but there is no question that it dominated Fascist Italy and had great impact upon the Soviet bloc and Balkans after WWII.

Hugh Ferriss

In the West, Futurism evolved. It became Art Deco. Later, the Googie movement was an evolution of Futurism, as was space age and neo futurism.  It continues to evolve today, although in a much smoother, more lush way:


Posted by on August 19, 2012 in Uncategorized


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Italian Futurism

As we here at The Steampunk Opera blog are interested in all aspects of the past imagining the future, the time has come to turn our wayward attention to the early 20th century art movement that named itself after the very future itself, Futurism!

Materia by Umberto Boccioni, 1912

Futurism began in Italy in 1909. It was an attempt to throw off the confines of the Victorian era, to embrace change, the future, the power of industry, acceleration, the thrill of speed, the challeng and excitement of conflict and the glory of war. It saw a tumultuous, fast changing, industrial future and wished to embrace it with great aggression. It wanted the young, the strong to celebrate humanity’s triumph of technology over nature.

In 1909 Filippo Tommaso Marinetti published the Futurist Manifesto. I believe there is evidence that during the 19th to mid 20th century no one so much as redecorated their wardrobe without releasing a manifesto to announce the philosophy behind their intentions. In any case, the Futurist Manifesto attracted both attention and followers and the Futurist movement was born.

Speeding Automobile by Giacomo Balla, 1912

Here are some highlights of the Manifesto:


1. We intend to sing the love of danger, the habit of energy and fearlessness.

2. Courage, audacity, and revolt will be essential elements of our poetry.

3. Up to now literature has exalted a pensive immobility, ecstasy, and sleep. We intend to exalt aggresive action, a feverish insomnia, the racer’s stride, the mortal leap, the punch and the slap.

4. We affirm that the world’s magnificence has been enriched by a new beauty: the beauty of speed. A racing car whose hood is adorned with great pipes, like serpents of explosive breath—a roaring car that seems to ride on grapeshot is more beautiful than the Victory of Samothrace.

7. Except in struggle, there is no more beauty. No work without an aggressive character can be a masterpiece. Poetry must be conceived as a violent attack on unknown forces, to reduce and prostrate them before man.

9. We will glorify war—the world’s only hygiene—militarism, patriotism, the destructive gesture of freedom-bringers, beautiful ideas worth dying for, and scorn for woman.

10. We will destroy the museums, libraries, academies of every kind, will fight moralism, feminism, every opportunistic or utilitarian cowardice.

Number 9 is of course very interesting and we will touch upon their intense patriotism and love of violence and war in just a second.

Funeral of the Anarchist Galli by Carlo Carrà, 1911

From an artistic standpoint they embraced ” universal dynamism”. Objects in reality were not separate from one another or from their surroundings. How to best represent this was debated and they attempted paintings in a Divisionist style. Divisionism is a method you probably know through the painting A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte by George Seurat, in which the entire painting is made up of dots of color which the eye puts together into a picture.

However this style was several decades old by this point, hardly a method of the future and the Futurists were derided by some as backwards. Hence, one of their leading painters, Gino Severini headed off to Paris, the mecca of the avante garde art world to see what was up. He discovered Cubism and thus the Futurist love of Cubism was born.

The Galleria in Milan by Carlo Carrà, 1912

The movement became enormously vibrant, not only in painting but in sculpture, architecture and even music. They were serious about changing perception and developing utterly modern forms with no ties to the past. In music they threw off the shackles of tradition harmony, chords and instrumentation. One technique they embraced was imitating the sound of machines and industry as part of music, foreshadowing not only Industrial music, Stockhausen and John Cage, but also certainly A Steampunk Opera. We’ll touch upon architecture in a later post.

Their influence and obsession extended across Europe and into America. Russia had its own particular Russian Futurism, an offshoot based on a mistranslation who disavowed all connection with Italian futurism’s founder Marinetti and which we’ll get into tomorrow.

By 1914 the Futurists got even more political They openly embraced violence and were extremely patriotic. They began campaigning heavily for and against certain politicians and paritcularly against the Austria Hungarian Empire. They championed war and when it came they were delighted. Most futurists enlisted immediately and marched happily into World War I.

They all died of course and there was the end of the first wave of Italian Futurism.


Posted by on August 18, 2012 in Uncategorized


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Raygun Gothic: Googie

Yes, wtf indeed. No this is a real thing. Raygun Gothic is a general term for retro futuristic science fiction environments. Once upon a time, from the 40s to the 60s, they imagined the future. It was bright and slick and full of raygun wielding heroes, and they proceeded to build it.

And build it they did , until the Vietnam War and the hippies created new paradigms and finally the 70s came and bummed everybody out. But while it lasted it certainly LOOKED like the future. And it was called Googie.

In 1949, architect John Lautner designed a West Hollywood coffee shop called Googies.

It was unique, futuristic with bold angles. The editor of House and Home Magazine, Douglas Haskill, saw the shop as he was driving by and stopped his car. He wrote an article about it and dubbed the look “Googie”.  Other designers inspired by the site  in turn designed coffee shops, drive through and restaurants taking the simple idea even further.

It was an architecture for a new, car oriented society. Bold angles, colorful signs, plate glass, sweeping cantilevered roofs and pop-culture imagery were desgined not to entice teh passing pedestrian, but the driver of the automobile. And in the 50s, cars, the economy, the entire future were booming.

The Soviets put sputnik into space followed by Vostok 12, which carried the first human (Yuri Garagin). Eisenhower shit himself and Kennedy made competing with the Soviets a first class priority. The space race was born.

And in California it had arrived. Much of California was still being built. Unlike the big East Coast cities, already well established and based on the architecture of the past, California was being built now, for the future. Roofs at upwards angles, starbursts, boomerangs, all identify Googie.

Googie style signs usually boast sharp and bold angles, which suggest the aerodynamic features of a rocket ship.

Editor Douglas Haskell described the abstract Googie style, saying that ” The buildings must appear to defy gravity, as Haskell noted: “…whenever possible, the building must hang from the sky.” Haskell’s third tenet for Googie was that it have more than one theme, more than one structural system. Because of its need to be noticed from moving automobiles along the commercial strip, Googie was not a style noted for its subtlety.


Posted by on July 22, 2011 in Uncategorized


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