Imagined Worlds & Design Fiction: Science Fiction

Invisible Cities, Italo Calvino (1972)

Looking Backwards, Edward Bellamy (1888)

News from Nowhere, William Morris (1890)

We, Yevgeny Zamyatin (1929)

1984, George Orwell (1949)

Dystopia: A world of forced conformity, no individuality or self-expression, where society bends the knee to corporations and billionaires.

Utopia: A world of equal rights for everyone, enough food, water and land for everyone. A stable and fair political situation, no war and with animals and humans living peacefully together.

Story: An advert plays before the latest blockbuster movie, advertising a Utopian space station or colony called Babylon. It shows an ideal colony where everyone shares equal rights with a kindly Overseer watching over everyone. Everyone would have a home with supplies of food and water. There would be a democratic political system, monitored by the Overseer, no war or conflicts and animals, humans and other species would all live together safely and side by side. The advert talks about the price and it seems moderately affordable but small print talks about extortionately high rates of interest etc. The entire advert ends as the Babylon Colony is sponsored by a mega-rich corporation and the main feature starts being played, a film adaptation of Lord of the Flies.

Joanna Russ, Marge Piercy, Sam Delaney, Ursula Le Guin – the subversive imagination of Utopian society.

He, She and It, Marge Piercy (1991)

Xenogenesis Trilogy, Octavia Butler (1987-2000)

The Last Angel of History, John Akomfrah (1997)

Triton, An Ambiguous Heterotopia, Samuel R Delaney (1976)

NASA Space Colonies, Rick Guidice – Toroidal Colonies

 

Imagined Worlds: Architectural Visions & The Megastructure

In a post WW2 society, there was rapid technological advancements and obsolescence became more of a common idea, as industries such as the American Car Market began to plan on when a model would be out of date. A good present day comparison would be Apple and Android smartphones as they released yearly models that claim to offer upgrades on the previous models, but they also only get supported via software and security updates for two or three years – obsolescence.

The influence of events like NASA landing a man on the moon in 1969 had a profound affect on young creatives, and many technological advancements happened thanks to the Space Race, echoing medicinal advancements due to the two World Wars.

Megastructures – a term later coined in 1976 by Reyner Banham – were concepts and buildings that were colossal in size and scope, potentially housing say entire cities inside of one structure.

Buckminster Fuller was one example of an early environmentalist and mega-structuralist, as he realized that natural resources were finite and that design and technology could offer solutions – an idea which some still use as a design principle today. One of his most famous examples was the Geodesic Dome (from 1954), which was constructed from triangles rather than rectangles and could be cheaper, lighter and stronger than traditional brick houses.

Some examples of mega structures in video games or popular culture – and examples of how art imitates life and life then imitates art – could be the Death Star from Star Wars, the Dyson Shell concept from science fiction, and the Citadel from the Mass Effect video games.

deathstar1-swe

A moon sized space station that typically houses a super weapon laser capable of destroying a planet.

h2a_mission_deltahalo

Colossal ring worlds with diverse and varied ecosystems, artificially built.

masseffect2citadel

Gargantuan space stations capable of housing civilizations.

Imagined Worlds: Utopia & Dystopia

This week we were introduced to some concepts regarding Utopias and Dystopia, with all of us having to write down our “Utopian Demands” on a piece of paper, fold it up and hand it in. Based on the assumption that Utopia is an “ideal(ized) society” I noted things like;

Multiculturalism

Peace

Freedom

And a few more that I forget at the time of writing.

The term “Utopia” comes from Thomas More’s Utopia, originally written in Latin in 1516, and was written as something of a critique of Feudalism – the idea that society would be built around land holdings being exchanged for labour or services – although it was a patriarchal Utopia, so its not what I would assume/hope most people nowadays would think of as Utopian.

Utopian cities and ideals have been represented in various forms in “recent” history, for example: Le Corbusier was hired to come up with a blueprint, layout and plan for a Utopian version of the Indian city of Chandigarh. Welthauptstadt Germania was Hitler’s vision for a post WW2 renovation of the city of Berlin as an absolute example of a Nazi Utopia, via a restructuring of the city and society. Brasilia was founded in 1960 and built as ¬†Utopia of Brazilian society, the ideal example and place to live.

Ernst Bloch suggested that Utopia was the expression of hope, “not only as emotion, but more essentially as a directing act of a cognitive kind”. He also suggested that there were two kinds of Utopias;

Abstract – Wishful thinking, but not prepared to actually do anything (typically emphatic people in a position of privilege).

Concrete – Wishful thinking AND with the will to actually do something about it.