Though reaching ever further toward the skies, today’s cities are overshadowed by multiple threats: climate change, overpopulation, social division, and urban warfare all endanger our metropolitan way of life. The fundamental tool we use to make sense of these uncertain city futures is the imagination. Architects, artists, filmmakers, and fiction writers have long been inspired to imagine cities of the future, but their speculative visions tend to be seen very differently from scientific predictions: flights of fancy on the one hand versus practical reasoning on the other. In a digital age when the real and the fantastic coexist as near equals, it is especially important to know how these two forces are entangled, and how together they may help us best conceive of cities yet to come.
Exploring a breathtaking range of imagined cities—submerged, floating, flying, vertical, underground, ruined, and salvaged—Future Cities teases out the links between speculation and reality, arguing that there is no clear separation between the two. In the Netherlands, prototype floating cities are already being built; Dubai’s recent skyscrapers resemble those of science-fiction cities of the past; while makeshift settlements built by the urban poor in the developing world are already like the dystopian cities of cyberpunk. Bringing together architecture, fiction, film, and visual art, Paul Dobraszczyk reconnects the imaginary city with the real, proposing a future for humanity that is firmly grounded in the present and in the diverse creative practices already at our fingertips.
Rest your eyes long enough on the skylines of Delhi, Guangzhou, Jakarta—even Chicago or London—and you will see the same remarkable transformation, building after building going up with the breakneck speed of twenty-first-century urbanization. But there is something else just as transformative that you won’t see: sprawling networks of tunnels rooting these cities into the earth. Global Undergrounds offers a richly illustrated exploration of these subterranean spaces, charting their global reach and the profound—but often unseen—effects they have on human life.
The authors shine their headlamps into an astonishing diversity of manmade underground environments, including subway systems, sewers, communications pipelines, storage facilities, and even shelters. There they find not only an extraordinary range of architectural approaches to underground construction but also a host of different cultural meanings. Underground places can evoke fear or hope; they can serve as sites of memory, places of work, or the hidden headquarters of resistance movements. They are places that can tell a city’s oldest stories or foresee its most distant futures. They are places—ultimately—of both incredible depth and breadth, crucial to all of us topside who work as urban planners, geographers, architects, engineers, or any of us who take subway trains or enjoy fresh water from a faucet. Indeed, as the authors demonstrate, the constant flux within urban undergrounds—the nonstop circulation of people, substances, and energy—serves all city dwellers in myriad ways, not just with the logistics of day-to-day life but as a crucial part of a city’s mythology.