Development / Film / Infrastructure

Metropolism: A look into the future… from the 1920s

me·trop·o·lis –noun, plural -lis·es.

1. any large, busy city.
2. the chief, and sometimes capital, city of a country, state, or region.
3. a central or principal place, as of some activity.

Before Star Wars, one of the most popularly noted futuristic films came from Germany in the late 1920s. A visionary depiction of skyscrapers ruling the landscape and flying cars. While skyscrapers do not sound to futuristic to you now – in this moment in history, there were very few skyscrapers, and to think a whole population would some day operate around a series of these substancial piece of architecture was boggling.

The term “metropolism” was coined in the 1927 film, Metropolis – a movie that ascended from the innovative forecasts for the future urban environment, inspired by the industrial revolution. Being one of the most expensive silent movies created of it’s time, Metropolis was a science fiction depiction of the struggles of the future urban city between workers, owners, and capitalism.

The director Fritz Lang created this futuristic land called Metropolis where society was separated into two classes: the planners and managers, who live high up in luxurious skyscrapers and workers, who lived and operated underground. Not too farfetched from where we are “present day metropolis”.

The city was exaggerated in a theatrical way. But there was truth behind artificial representation – a City was both an object of fascination and of fear and anxiety. Some forms of the buildings found in the film did not exist yet – but it was soon to come. The best example of this is the “New Tower of Babel”, a massive skyscraper owned by the main character’s father.

In the Bible, the story of the Tower of Babel goes as such: Everyone on earth spoke the same language. They congregated to a central point of the world to building a tower to reach the heavens above. When God came down to check on his people he was displeased that they were trying to reach the upper realm and neglecting the earth he had laid for them. And so, the “New Tower of Babel” is to reflect the desire of skyscraper architects to build towards the heavens as they had done centuries ago. The phrase, Tower of Babel, does not appear within the Bible, instead it is always “the city and it’s tower”.

These towers to soon rule the landscape of the most populated urban cities, would became a reality and a testament to the rapidly increasing developments in architecture and design. Fritz Lang had shown the world it’s future, and it listened – minus the flying cars!

Manhattanism is the one urbanistic ideology that has fed, from its conception, on the splendors and miseries of the metropolitan condition—hyper-density—without once losing faith in it as the basis for a desirable modern culture. Manhattan’s architecture is a paradigm for the exploitation of congestion.” – Rem Koolhaas


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