Stumbling Toward Tomorrow

Stumbling Toward Tomorrow

Nineteen twenty-nine was a banner year for visions of New York. In the heady atmosphere of the beautiful life and endless tomorrows of that doomed decade, just before the future died, all dreams were possible. In 1929 the architect-delineator Hugh Ferriss published his drawings and descriptions of “The Metropolis of Tomorrow,” a crepuscular Elysium of wide-spaced, soaring spires in perfect axial symmetry that managed to combine the aura of the traditional Beaux Arts City Beautiful with futuristic intimations of Le Corbusier’s towers-in-a-park. This magnificent Manhattan was rigidly organized into impressive formal “zones” for business, arts, and science, with supertowers marking the intersections of grand avenues. Multilevel pedestrian and vehicular precincts separated people and cars. Faceted, futuristic skyscrapers were bridged by overhead roads and trimmed with airplane platforms. The text detailed the ways in which this ideal New York would increase the convenience, pleasure, and well-being of its inhabitants. Ferriss’s vision is high fantasy and high art.

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Lima