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London Visions at the Museum of London

Hypothetical scenarios for the future of the city

Imagining what the future might look like is part of human nature. At every point in history, people tried to make guesses, from the fantastical to the almost possible. Some dreams of humanity have come true, such as seeing your loved ones while you speak on the phone (hello Skype), while others such as flying cars and holidays on Mars are still more a thing of sci-fi movies.

In London Visions, a new display at the Museum of London, part of their ‘City Now City Future’ season, artists from the field of video, art, architecture and design present possible future realities of what the city might look like. Where once the visions of tomorrow’s world revolved around fantasies of robots and UFOs, commuting by spaceships or Alien invasions, today’s artists focus much more on how the issues we currently face – climate change, air pollution, growing populations, overcrowding, the housing crisis, food security - will affect our lives in the future.
The exhibition explores four themes: visions of future cityscapes, the impact of environmental changes on London, the future of work and how or where we are going to live. The visions in the exhibition are based on exaggerated scenarios, aiming to raise questions and to provoke discussions about life in the future. They depict speculative urbanisms or exaggerated presents, in which we can imagine the wonders and possibilities of the future.
Eidos Montreal, a Canadian video game development studio, imagines London after a humanitarian crisis that will divide mankind after some kind of virtual reality game has gone wrong. Their installation shows a new Tower Bridge built of something resembling a pile of debris, while giant TV screens float up and down the Thames broadcasting the news (this seems realistically within reach). Ioan Dumitresco, a concept artist and illustrator, imagines an altogether more positive future where mankind has come to understand the importance of coexisting with nature. In his scenario, the use of alternative energy sources is central, along with secured food supply from farmed rooftops and floating gardens on the river. Endless Vertical City, the competition-winning design by SURE Architecture, centres on issues of sustainability and density within cities and envisions a skyscraper that could house the whole of London with its own ecosystem, water supply and waste disposal within a spiralling form that could be extended infinitely upwards. Funnily enough, this future city ends up looking like a gigantic shopping centre where we could all live in our own little concession.

Endless Vertical City (c) SURE Architecture Limited

In the Robot Skies: A Drone Love Story is a video installation directed by speculative architect Liam Young. Young has developed a body of films that use new technologies of image making in order to tell new kinds of stories about future urban implications. Pioneering the use of drones and laser scanners in narrative filmmaking, In the Robot Skies is the world’s first narrative shot entirely through autonomous drones on autopilot. In the film, the drones follow two teenagers within a London council estate, touching upon the boundaries between surveillance and privacy, as the young couple actively use the drones to send their secret messages.  

In The Robot Skies (c) Liam Young

Flooded London, a series of images created by Squint/Opera depicts imaginary scenes in a 2090 London, where rising sea levels have flooded the city. Flooded London imagines the city as a "tranquil utopia" where rather than fighting a natural disaster, citizens have learned to live in harmony with their new circumstances. A man takes a swim in St. Paul’s cathedral, now a fascinating underwater world, a family in Hampstead is benefiting from the river waterfront right on their doorstep to go on a little boat trip.

Flooded London, St. Paul's (c) SquintOpera

Thinking about the future of work, multimedia artist Lawrence Lek dreams up a futuristic version of the White Chapel Building, now the London headquarters of a mysterious technology start-up known as Farsight. A world leader in digital automation, Farsight trains employees to outsource their jobs as much as possible, rewarding top performers with access to exclusive virtual entertainment and e-holidays.
Another fantasy animation by architectural filmmakers Factory Fifteen shows a swarm of Royal Mail trolleys and equipment colonising the sides of a building and configuring themselves into a temporary automated sorting office. Devoid of any human labourers, the film explores a scenario of ever more machine-centred work processes and the resulting uncertain future of public service jobs.
With ‘City Now City Future’, the Museum of London puts on a year-long season of over 100 events, exhibitions, displays, debates and creative commissions exploring urban evolution in London and around the world.
London Visions will be at the Museum of London until 15 April and entrance is free.