Orozco Room, The New School, New York

In the Orozco Room, filled with an audience of students, teachers and directors of The New School and other universities and institutions from around the New York area, Alexandra Wagner, Assistant Professor at The New School opened the presentation. Preceding the discussion of the panelists, David Scobey (Chair), Commenters Saskia Sassen and William Morrish, and Margarita Gutman the author of Buenos Aires El Poder de la Anticipación noted some relevant ideas of the book, among which are:

The content of this book is a contribution of the construction of the horizon of expectations of the urban future in Buenos Aires (1900-1920). It integrates aspirations and expectations expressed or consumed by the population in terms of plans and urban projects, news stories, drawings and cartoons published in illustrated magazines, essays, literary utopias, ideals, and political and social projects. It was a time of great change and aspirations.

This horizon of expectations displays the set of options that reported, and perhaps helped, to take numerous private and public decisions that transformed the city at that time and in later years. That is where the title of the book comes from.

Main core: Comparative analysis of two sets of anticipations of the future (usually studied separately): 1. “Letter plans” produced in the professional field (by architects, engineers, landscapers and government officials). 2. The “vertical city of the future” which show main sequence of ideas and images of extra-disciplinary anticipation (by cartoonists, illustrators, journalists and writers), published in illustrated magazines.

This is completed with: the technological anticipations as circulated in the local illustrated magazines; the dissemination of futurism, in the same journals; the anticipatory images of the future of New York as circulated in magazines; the local utopias; and a selection of ideas on the future by intellectuals and political and social reformers.

Key features of the “vertical city of the future” circulated in illustrated magazines: A world of cities. Cities: high tech, vertical, dense. With the sky covered of three-dimensional structures of communication segregated by levels and types, with skyscrapers and airplanes. Electricity provides a world of automated services. Humor is one of the ways used to represent the future. New York is the model of this vertical city of the future.

Differences between “letters plans” and “vertical city of the future” Two-dimensional, single piano nobile vs. three-dimensional and vertical structures.

Hierarchical and centralized structure vs. Network structure, isomorphic Multiuse streets vs. Sunken streets in the services and circulation segregated by type Conceived as a unit vs. City seen as fragments Room of spaces vs. Room of flows Distances in real-time vs. Time and space compacted Cyclical rhythms of life vs. City 24 /7

Similarities between “letter plans” and “vertical city of the future” In both cases the future is a world of cities, it is better and safe arrival. None of these anticipations states social political or ideological critics. In both cases the image of the future comes from outside, from Paris and NY. In both cases the future is neutral, uniform, universal and interchangeable. This historical review shows the need to understand the city at the intersection of various disciplinary and extra-disciplinary fields. In the social field, it shows the need to develop a public space where they can negotiate the aspirations for the future and develop projects that balance the expectations of professionals and residents of Buenos Aires.

The current future horizon is more complex and contested than the one from a hundred years ago, and it is probably these advances in information networks that will allow many more actors to make their voices heard and take an active part in its construction. It is possible that the intersection of extra-disciplinary and discipline knowledge are the traces of the future in the present, those that society can see and enjoy, and that the technicians and professionals do not see now, nor took into account a hundred years ago.

The comments of the panelists stressed the depth, scope and importance of the topic addressed in the book and the extension, depth and completeness of its historical research. Saskia Sassen expanded on the “incompleteness” as a constitutive feature of cities as a relational concept, on the roles of different actors who build the city every day, and on (the analytic borderland) the areas of encounters of various anticipations. David Scobey referred to the importance of journals as critical elements in building the metropolis due to their seriality that invites re-creation and co-creation of cities. He stressed the link between the history of magazines and the history of cities. William Morrish expanded such relationship with American examples, and talked about the importance of what he calls the story of the “extreme present” and the quality of the intellectual development of the graphical representation of the documents discussed in the book.

This event is organized by The New School for General Studies, Bachelor’s Program, with the co-sponsorship of The Vera List Center for Art and Politics celebrating the work of its faculty NEW ON PAPER AND SCREEN.

The book is in bookstores in Buenos Aires and New York and at the following locations:

McNally Jackson Books
52 Prince Street
New York, NY 10012
Telephone: 212.274.1160

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