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The experimental city (1967)

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New power

At the very center, presumably, will be an atomic power plant to serve the total industrial, domestic and transportation power, needs of the city. Also centrally located will be an information, communications and control facility, fully computerized and connected by multi-purpose links with every home, office and factory to serve every need from television to grocery shopping to scientific data processing to commercial banking — even to voting.

The city will be centrally heated and possibly air-conditioned. It will require no external water supply, since all of its water, for whatever purpose, will be recycled and reused. It very possibly will have no sewers and it certainly will have no conventional garbage or rubbish disposal systems.

No fuel-burning automobiles or plants will pollute the atmosphere with fumes and noise. Public and private vehicles will be electrically driven. There will be no freeways or rush hour jams. There will be no slums and no ghettos, nor any impingement of industry on residence, nor of unbridled commercial squalor on the quiet beauty of the streets.

There will be no urban decay, not only because the historic reasons for it will have been abated, but also because construction will be of an easily disassembled and changeable design that can be modified to suit new or unforeseen needs.

Massive relics of buildings will not stand as monuments to obsolescence because it is too expensive to tear them down. They, like all other blights of urban and industrial waste, will not be permitted to come into being in the first place.

Happytown

It will be a clean, quiet, comfortable, active, gracious and — if these qualities make for human happiness — happy city.

Furthermore, it will remain that way, because it will be designed as a machine would be designed: for a certain capacity. When demand exceeds a machine’s capacity, you do not tack new parts onto the machine or feed it more work until it breaks down. You build another machine.

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So with the Experimental City. If it is designed for 250,000, people that will be its absolute size. It will not be expanded into the chaos typical of conventional cities. You will build another city.

This may sound like a combination of Buck Rogers and George Orwell, but it is hoped that subsequent portions of this series can demonstrate that the Experimental City is not only possible and feasible now, but also that it must be tried.

We should do so because no one has, no one knows how — and this is why it has to be done. This is the same reason that we push the frontiers in space, in the oceans, in microbiology and high energy physics. This is important not only to the United States. It is important to people all around the world; every country is spawning old-time cities.

Modern urban life has generated problems that conventional “remedies” can no longer alleviate. The present-day city is strangling, poisoning and suffocating itself. If we are to continue living together, we must seek new techniques of doing so.

 

Top image page 1: General Motors’ “Futurama 2” from 1964, which showed what they thought life would be like in the year 2024. Captions for side photos on page 1: “In the heart of a streamlined city, at right, a two-deck super highway carries automobiles and trains without congestion. In the background are commercial office buildings, shops, hotels and apartments. Below left, a city center of commerce, communication and culture is surrounded by transportation centers, industrial complexes, living areas and auxiliary communities. Below right, tiered buildings house garages, shops and living areas reached by motor ramps at strategic levels.” Page 2 photos from same series. Pictures courtesy General Motors.

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