The present like Utopia | Jorge Gorostiza

New York in 1980 according to Just Imagine (David Butler, 1930)

In a previous entry of this blog he was writing on the new magazine of cinema and architecture Teatro Marittimo, created and directed by David Rivera. In his first number dedicated to constructed Utopias, they published my qualified article «The present as Utopia» and subgraduate «sight of the current city from the past», on how in the movies of science fiction they imagined the cities that in this moment were the future and now already they are our past, from the decade of the forties, until the mythical beginning at the time of the 21st century. Movies as Just Imagine, released in 1930 and in that they imagined how it was going to be the Nueva York of the year 1980, probably for example treating itself about a good one and acquaintance, David put the photography that I attach initially of the article.

Since already I have done in other occasions, I copy here only the beginning of this article, because the magazine still is in the bookshops and can be read in paper, because of it it is necessary to buy it, between other motives, to guarantee his subsistence.

«The word Utopia comes from the Greek and etymologically it can have two origins, one means “good place” and other one, “not place”. Both refer to a site, in the first one it would be a question of the ideal one, but in the second one a serious problem is discovered, is a site that does not exist. A place, a space that almost always is built of partial form or is totally urban, that has been described by words and represented graphically in many occasions, having architectural and urban development very diverse configurations, but that only it could have crossed in movement thanks to the cinematographic, television image or of the video games.

The own cinema can be considered to be a Utopia “one no place of the imagination, where the space is the crucial dimension” (Darke 2007: 27), precisely for the importance of his spatial, even architectural qualities, because, since Anne Hurault-Paupe writes: “in the cinema, the notion of Utopia names a certain type of relations between places […] it is possible to consider to be the cinema to create the “places of nothing” (in case of a movie of fiction, the spectator confined in a dark room, is immersed in a fictitious world – the diégesis – that demonstrates for the imágenes in movement and the sounds) […] This way, when the cinema, in the dark rooms, shows the fictions that take place in spaces qualified like not royal and which meaning is the dream of an ideal world, it is extremely loaded with Utopia” (Hurault-Paupe 2007: 50).

Bearing these relations in mind, before continuing, it is necessary to establish two premises, the first one on the term distopía, a word that apparently was created by Stuart Mill at the end of the 19th century, almost to the same one that the literary Utopias were turning into negative Utopias, be remembered between others: When the slept one wakes up (Wells, 1899), The heel of iron (London, 1908), We (Zamiatin, 1924), A happy world (Huxley, 1932) and 1984 (Orwell, 1949); as Danièle André thinks ” the distopía corresponds to a desire of the Utopia, it represents his drive of death: the last aim of the Utopia is the distopía ” (André 2005: 166); for it, on having spoken about the future of the city in the Cinema, this that actually now already is the past, it will not differ between Utopian places and opposite utopians. The second premise is the strict object of study of this article: only those visionary movies, almost always belonging to the kind of science fiction, in whose argument is indicated exactly the year when trascurre his argument and, certainly, when this one should be previous to 2011.

The pacific ones 40

1940, London is the great capital, since one sees when an autodraft takes off from the ceiling of a building and initiates the flight on the Thames, where it crosses with enough aircraft, all of them promoted by propellers; while in the márgenes of the river buildings have been constructed, the majority with airports in his roofs, of eclectic, little stylized styles, without too much architectural attraction and higher enough than the Tower of the Clock of the Palace of Westminster, which can turn to them far, almost buried between these buildings.

This London belongs to High Treason (Maurice Elvey, 1929), which cartel shows an architecture furthermore advanced that the own images of the movie and in that it turns out to be, besides one, apparently inevitable, airport in the high of a building, a great dirigible happening below a viaduct on which they circulate railroads and reads «1930′ VISION OF 1940».

The critique of the moment emphasized everything this waste of futurist technology ” with alive imagination and great technical accomplishment [Maurice Elvey] it has produced images of what the world might be in 1940 what, undoubtedly, attracts the attention. They are interesting, even if one does not consider them to be convincing. But, will it be London a city robot in a time as short as in ten or eleven years? There can be a new bridge in Charing Cross, thinking that it is not sure; and there can be even a tunnel of the English Channel, which is furthermore uncertain. The helicopters can be of common use and the planes can land and take off of the building covers of many floors doing shade to San Paul’s dome. It is possible that there are no newspapers, that the broadcasting has supplanted to the London Times and the magazines that are published by Lord Rothemere and Lord Beaverbrook every morning and evening in this year of grace. But Maurice Elvey does not convince anybody that the images that he presents so admirably it is probable that they prevail in a lapse of time as short as that of ten years from now” (Marshall 1929). In spite of the admiration for what one sees in the movie, the critic doubts reasonably on the possibility of his existence and is true that as for the city, lucky one could not have seen except on the cinematographic screens. An admiration that has continued even some years later, «stand out the skyscrapers of style Tudor of fifty floors» (Ackerman 1997: 179), when actually, it is enough to count the plants of those who are seen, to verify that only they have about twenty.

It is evident that this aspect of the production was more important, like that the press-book of the movie emphasizes it: “a history like this one offers opportunities for the visual and sonorous only effects, and the movie shows us London in 1940, with Charing Cross’s new Bridge, streets of two floors, airplanes, aircraft and helicopters that ascend and land in the building ceilings in the heart of the City; daily use of the television, news spread simultaneously in sound and image, the Tunnel of the Channel in functioning, the night club of the future with his mechanical instruments of music of jazz and ladies esgrimistas when it turns into cabaret; modes of 1940, with more skins for the women and shirts of soft it sedates and trousers up to the knee for the men; definitively, an epoch of scientific marvels and surprises in to dress” (Soister 2004: 99). It´s not necessary to to stop mentioning another London of the future, this time without date, but precedent of the mentioned one, the showed one for The Fugitive Futurist (Gaston Quiribet, 1924) where across a device the waves can be seen breaking in full Trafalgar Square, the Strand full of luminous cartels, an enormous dirigible mooring in the tower of the Parliament and, as makes clear an intertitle, “Tower Bridge will solve the problems of traffic ” because for below they think up a few railway routes, while for your part Superior they circulate high trains and ” the science will revolutionize the methods of building”, as it explains another intertitle and later, after a lazy worker showing how much slow in placing a brick, one sees a wall of bricks getting up alone without human intervention; a pity that ultimately discovers that the device actually only contains a few bricks and his inventor is re-led to the mental hospital wherefrom it has absconded, for what all the marvels that the spectator has seen are elucubraciones that a madman has narrated.

Returning to High Treason in London, there is great tension in the borders between the Atlantic States and the Federated States of Europe, the World League of the Peace tries to avoid the conflicts, nevertheless, the bailiffs of an armament company make explode a bomb in a just train in the tunnel of the English Channel, to provoke the conflagration; Europe mobilizes his men and women, the seguidoras of the League make a detour to the bombardiers preventing that despeguen and when the President of Europa is on the verge of declaring the war, the leader of the League kills, avoiding the hostilidades; but it is not possible to prevent that this one is condemned and executed, turning into a martyr for the Peace. At the beginning of the forties the most powerful man of the world, a corrupt dictator, continues exploiting the machine that, when it was mining twenty years ago, there gave him an extraterrestrial being whom one found in the mine, this machine allows him to create unlimited energy, realizing his terrible acts and before his wicked son does an evil use of her, it decides to destroy it, since it can be verified in Algol (Hans Werckmeister, 1920), all this in a few forties which environments are abstract with broken lines and confirmed own tones of the expressionism, spaces that for his design atemporal, the same thing serve divides the twenties when it begins the history, since for the World of two decades later.

In 1940, as account Non Stop New York (Robert Stevenson, 1937), a transatlantic jet plane was joining London with New York. The first capital had more luck that New York, because in 1940 it suffered an air raid in which the bombs destroyed the Empire State Building, because of the Second World war, which faced EE. UU. with the Federation of Euro-Asian States, prophesied by Men Must Fight (Edgar Selwyn, 1933). The Empire State was already the symbol of the metropolis and for it, since one will see hereinafter, it appears and in addition it is destroyed, in multiple movies. Neither was lucky Everytown, a transcript of London, since this year they began the bombardments on the city, Things to Eats (William Cameron Menzies, 1936). Some of them unfortunately yes succeeded with his predictions. Moscow 1946, in Kosmicheskij reis, can turn “a tower crowned by a figure with wings, which is on the building of the Institute for Interplanetary Trips, attached to this building there is a body built with a dome of the one that divides an immense ramp of launch constructed with metallic profiles, under her, they circulate vehicles for big avenues, to the bottom, after what it looks like a vast park, one sees the city and on her, competing with the tower that has just appeared, there stands out the Palace of Boris Iofan’s Soviets, Vladimir Schuko and Vladimir Gelfreikth, that he turned out to be a winner of the famous contest of 1933” as well as a “rocket supported by a complex metallic studding, inside a hangar constructed with parabolic arches of concrete, as the hangars for dirigibles that Eugène Freyssinet constructed in Orly in 1923” (Gorostiza 2007: 23). The Second World war has not left his frightful sequels in this Moscow and thanks to the Peace that is lived, his scientists could construct even a rocket that moved them to other planets “…..

Hitherto the beginning of my article, since always in this blog, which wants to stop reading it it will have to do it on paper, buying the very advisable magazine Teatro Marittimo, for example in the bookshop of Madrid 8 1/2.

Jorge Gorostiza, architect. Author of the blog Arquitectura+Cine+Ciudad

Santa Cruz de Tenerife, november 2011

Jorge Gorostiza

Doctor arquitecto, proyecta y construye edificios y desarrolla trabajos de urbanismo. Desde 1990, publica numerosos artículos sobre cine y arquitectura en medios de su localidad, revistas como Nosferatu, Nickleodeon, Academia, Lateral, Cahiers du Cinema… y en varios volúmenes colectivos. Entre el 2000 y el 2005 dirige la Filmoteca Canaria. Imparte conferencias sobre arquitectura y cine en instituciones como el CAAM en Gran Canaria, la UIMP, el CENDEAC en Murcia, INCUNA en Gijón, Fundación Telefónica, la ETS de Arquitectura y el CCCB de Barcelona, las ETS de Arquitectura de La Coruña, Sevilla, Valencia y SEU madrileña, La Ciudad de la Luz en Alicante, la UNED en Pamplona, en varios colegios de arquitectos, así como en las universidades del País Vasco, Gerona, Valladolid, Málaga, Granada, SEK en Segovia y CEES de Madrid. Jurado en varios festivales cinematográficos, como los de Alcalá de Henares (2001), San Sebastián (2002), Sitges (2003), Las Palmas (2005) y Documentamadrid (2005), y comisario de las exposiciones Constructores de quimeras. (Centro Conde Duque, Madrid, 1999) y La arquitectura de los sueños (Capilla del Oidor, Alcalá de Henares, 2001).

He publicado bastantes libros y muchos artículos, he impartido conferencias, he sido comisario de exposiciones y jurado en muchísmos festivales. Si quieren saber más no duden en consultar mi blog ARQUITECTURA + CINE + CIUDAD.

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