Cities are all pretty much the same -- just sprawling environments spiraling outward from a central hub with no particular plan or theme to speak of. But if any of these designers had had his way, every city would be a bizarre, science fiction-esque place full of strange sights, wondrous inventions and occasionally, people-movers slick with vomit.
Triton City: If It's Good Enough for an Aquaman Villain, It's Good Enough for You!
In the 1960's, Buckminster Fuller (the geodesic dome guy) was commissioned by Matsutaro Shoriki, a wealthy Japanese patron, to design a city in Japan. This architectural marvel was to be a tetrahedron that measured two miles on each side, capable of housing one million residents, and would be located in Tokyo Bay. Not along Tokyo Bay, but in Tokyo Bay. Floating.
It's about time that shiftless ocean pulled its weight.
The tetrahedron shape provided many benefits as well, like maximizing the availability of outside living area, and protecting residents from potentially fatal falls off of the tall buildings (guard rails were not to be invented until 1992, by Sir Preston Guardrail, of the Oxford Guardrails). Unfortunately, Shoriki died in 1966, which brought an end to the plans for the gargantuan artificial floating pyramid. Until the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development caught wind of the idea. So Fuller went to work on a scaled-down model for the US, called Triton City.
Triton anticipated a lower maximum population of just over 100,000 people, and was also to be the first fully organic city, complete with a desalination system to re-circulate ocean water. Schematics for Triton were sent to the United States Navy's Bureau of Ships, to check it for "water-worthiness," stability and organic capabilities, then off to the Bureau of Yards and Docks to see whether or not they could even build this thing, specifically at the cost they had projected. Both Bureaus gave the thumbs up, and the Navy's cost estimate came within 10% of Buckminster's. And that's probably the craziest part of Triton: At every stage, it was going to work.
Except maybe the "convincing people to move into a giant floating pyramid" stage.
So why aren't you living in a floating metal pyramid, mocking the ocean and all her impotent fury? Like all things, you can probably blame Lyndon B. Johnson for that: The plans had taken too long to get approval, and by the time they did, LBJ left office and took all support for the idea with him. He even took the Triton City model when he left and put it in the Lyndon Baines Johnson Library & Museum. You guys didn't play nice, so he just took his futuristic water-city and went home.
"LBJ, LBJ, how many floating futuristic ocean cities did you kill today?"
Metropolis: Where Everybody Is Your Neighbor. Literally!
Metropolis isn't just a fictional city ruled by a power-mad Aryan Ubermensch. It was originally a real place -- or at least it was going to be. Just prior to the turn of the 20th century, King Camp Gillette (yes, the shaving guy) had a slightly different idea for Metropolis:
You missed a spot there, buddy.
"Under a perfect economical system of production and distribution, and a system combining the greatest elements of progress, there can be only one city on a continent, and possibly only one in the world."
No more Chicago, Miami or L.A. Just one gargantuan city, home to everyone in North America, and maybe, eventually, the entire planet. Sure, there would be other, smaller areas scattered throughout the country for people to work for temporary periods of time, and even others to vacation in, but Metropolis would be "home to the people." All 6,075 square miles of it, located directly over Niagara Falls.
And we can't stress this enough: In no way was it a mammoth training base for King Gillette's Razor-troopers.
Gillette's plan was to use the falls not only as the main source of water but also to power the city. The design and layout of the buildings themselves were so brutally efficient that we wouldn't see their likeness again until the pod towers of The Matrix.
And Gillette was dead serious about his mega-city. Not only did he write a book on the subject of Metropolis, detailing dimensions and specific methods of implementation, he also wrote a book on the hypothetical company that should create and manage it. He offered the presidency of said company to Theodore Roosevelt at the bargain price of $1 million. Which seems like a pretty fair trade once you realize that one of Gillette's main goals was to abolish the concept of money entirely.
"I will give you complete control of the entire continent in exchange for 1 million nothings!"
Roadtown: Liberating Women With the Power of Straight Lines.
Imagine you're standing on the Great Wall of China. Now, imagine that instead of endless miles of inert brick, you're instead gazing upon a long, thin line of bustling city. Welcome to Roadtown, Edgar Chambless' idea for a two-room-wide, two-story-tall technological utopia. The uppermost levels are reserved for the recreation area of the roof promenade, the apartment levels are below that and the employment levels below those, and underneath it all is a three-level underground railway system, which is good, because when everything is located along one long, straight line, it's going to take fucking forever to get anywhere. It's basically Traffic Jam: The City.
All the fun of riding in a cramped train, with none of the benefits of ever actually arriving anywhere.
The problem with the early 1900s city designs, Chambless figured, was that land was being underutilized because of a lack of transportation. And like most terrible ideas, his started off being absolutely right: That was the biggest problem of the early 20th century. But where the rest of the world proposed building up (thus the popularization of the skyscraper), Chambless instead proposed building out, in a long, continuous line. He thought that transportation and utilities would be improved by running things linearly, which would allow services like heat, water, electricity, phone and public transportation to be universally available and easy to maintain.
Chambless obviously never had to deal with Christmas tree lights.
Of course, like all mad city builders, Chambless couldn't quit with just one weird concept: He also proposed that all meals would be cooked in cooperative kitchens and then delivered via the underground transportation system. Afterward, dishes and dirty linens would be dropped down a chute for delivery to a centralized dish- and clothes-washing room. The problem, of course, being that the already taxed two-lane, three-story rail system -- which is the only means of transportation -- is now attempting to ferry not only every person in the city in a straight line, but also all of their clothes and meals. Chambless essentially wanted to eliminate an entire dimension by tacking all the contents of said dimension onto the ends of a giant line.
But at least his heart was in the right place: The dish, dinner and laundry systems were all conceived to help free women from the stereotypical homemaker role. Chambless felt that women were being suckered into the position of household servant, and he wished to abolish "woman's economic dependence on man that makes her a sexual slave." And somehow, through a series of labyrinthine insanities that only Chambless, God and a litany of confounded psychiatrists can know, he figured that women were being oppressed only because cities were just too goddamn wide.
"We demand the right to vote! And also the right to live in a hellish tube of horrors!"
Minnesota Experimental City: Not Just a Dome of Poo!
A necessary evil of any city is the morning commute, but in the Minnesota Experimental City (or MXC), things are done a little bit differently. For starters, if you lived in town you could forget the car altogether, since personal automobiles were to be restricted to the city's perimeter. Not just to ease congestion, reduce pollution, encourage foot traffic, or any of those other pussy hippie concerns -- but because the entire downtown area was to be covered by a temperature-controlled geodesic dome. And that's perfect if you've always wanted to live inside a giant game of Trouble. But it is not without its downsides.
As illustrated here.
Living in a dome doesn't eliminate crime, after all -- there are still going to be rough parts of town. It's like the great man once said: "Just because we're trapped in a bubble, doesn't mean we can't cause any trouble." So what if you live in the dome and you're not entirely comfortable with throwing Junior on public transit to receive his education? Well, MXC has thought of that, too: Instead of going to class, Junior will be practicing lifelong learning -- An educational theory that has children constantly building knowledge throughout their lifetimes, and according to their own wishes, with no compulsory formal education. In theory, this would result in well-rounded children with an eternal passion for all things academic. In practice, it actually results in agoraphobic Level 60 clerics who fly into rages when they see people kissing, as anybody who's known a homeschooled child can attest to.
Cue the furious comments ... now!
This is indicative of the core problem with the MXC: Being a domed city just wasn't enough for them; absolutely everything was to be experimental. From the moving sidewalks to the driverless minibuses, all the way down to and including the poop: In MXC, all toilets would be waterless toilets. So all told, it's probably a good thing that MXC did not come to fruition: The idea of a self-contained bubble full of social-anxiety-suffering fecalphiliacs, where every transport is public transport, is a dystopian nightmare that would terrify Orwell himself.
Illustrated proof that Hell = Other People.
Fordlandia: All Are Welcome (No Jews)
Back in the 1920s, Henry Ford had grown sick of a lot of things: Horse-drawn carriages, Jews, sanity - but most of all he was sick and god damn tired of having to fill Ford Motor Company's tire needs by paying in to the British rubber monopoly. So he did what any other reasonable businessman would do when faced with the rising costs of raw materials:
He had an entire fucking city built in the middle of the Amazon Rainforest.
And then he cut an album.
Fordlandia was born, and with it the hopes of reestablishing a major rubber producing presence in Brazil. The goal was to put out a staggering eight million tires annually, while simultaneously improving the Brazilian workers' way of life. Ford offered to pay his Fordlandia workforce up to 75% more than other East Indies plantations were paying, as well as provide them with free housing, food and medical care. And as an added bonus he threw in a community pool, shops, restaurants and even a golf course. It's like Ford took all that hatred of the Jews, and just shuffled it over into love for the Brazilians. Likely because of their excellent rhythm and notoriously fantastic asses. Who can blame him?
Above: Brazil's primary export.
Unfortunately, Ford also implemented a strictly enforced Midwestern style of living. This extended to every aspect of life, even down to diet: Ford's workers were fed an unfamiliar and inevitably gut-wrenching diet (like hamburgers, which were alien to them and could not be digested comfortably.) There were also mandatory awkward social events like western dances and poetry readings, as well as a 9 to 5 workday - which is fine when you don't live in the tropics. But in Brazil, that translates to toiling under the hot, tropical sun during the hottest part of the day. All of this culture shock resulted in low morale, a high turnover rate and eventually, riots. Not that it mattered much, since the factory supervisors (read: not horticulturalists) that Ford put in charge of the plantation, knew precisely dick about growing rubber trees in the Amazon. As a result, the trees were constantly under attack by insects and disease.
"Experts cost money, Jenkins. Anyone can drill holes into a goddamn tree."
So was it worth it at least? Did all of this turmoil help Fordlandia meet its goal of eight million tires produced? Not even close: Exactly zero tires were made from rubber produced in Fordlandia.
That's right: He missed his production goal by infinity percent.
He'd have made off better paying his workers to steal old tires from dumps.
But perhaps worst of all, this whole thing occurred during the 1920's, meaning it was Prohibition era in the United States. Ford applied this same ban on alcohol -- also throwing in a tobacco ban, just for shits and giggles -- to the residents of Fordlandia, which extended all the way into their own residences. Understandably, Fordlandians really wanted to drink away the shame of that evening's mandatory sock-hop and Frost reading. So to get around the ban, they established a community of bars and brothels five miles or so up the river, called the "Island of Innocence." And that's almost more insane -imagine, a community devoted solely to drinking!
BoozeTown: A Community Devoted Solely to Drinking
Like all men named Mel, Mel Johnson loved to get hilariously shitfaced. But Johnson didn't love drinking like we do: Like a secret lover, made all the more tantalizing by the taboo of visiting them in the daytime. No, he loved it like a religious zealot loves the Lord: With complete and total devotion. He was so passionate about drinking, that he felt there should be an entire city devoted solely to it. So, in 1950 he began his elaborate plan to build this "lush" paradise. Mel set out to establish BoozeTown.
He was immediately accused of plagiarism by every city in Texas.
BoozeTown was to come about in three stages. First, it would be built as a vacation spot with practically nothing but 24-hour bars and hotels. Mel hoped to establish BoozeTown as the exclusive spot for celebrities to overindulge with impunity. Then, once enough revenue was raised from the tourism stage, the next step would be to build an elaborate transportation network, including an electric trolley system to eliminate drunk driving and moving sidewalks to assist the stumblers- because drunk people have no problem mounting moving sidewalks; everybody who's gotten drunk in an airport bar can verify that. Finally, with his vacation spot in full tilt, Johnson would establish the residential communities and focus on growing BoozeTown's full-time population. If that sounds too crazy to believe, keep in mind the concept has already been proven sound, just with a different vice: Gambling.That's almost the exact path Las Vegas followed on its way to cityhood.
It goes without saying that the police force in BoozeTown had to be unique: Dubbed The Party Police, law enforcement would not be patrolling the streets looking to haul your sloppy ass to jail. In fact, those who had a few too many would merely be escorted home by the friendly officers and tucked in to bed - but not read a story: That's the Bureau of Storytime's job.
Even the city infrastructure touted a hefty alcohol theme. Street names included Gin Lane and Scotch Street, and the city's headquarters would be shaped like a giant martini glass, complete with rooftop olive garden.Because nothing inspires faith in one's government like having them meet in a giant liquor glass.
Unfortunately, while Johnson was worth a few hundred thousand bucks himself, he by no means had the capital to back up his plan. So he hosted fundraising events (a.k.a. parties) where he liquored up the potential investors before selling them on his idea. But as with almost anything that seems great while drunk, it quickly loses its luster come morning. Johnson was the only one who never sobered up long enough to realize it himself, however, so when the booze wore off of his investors, Johnson was left with nothing. He died in a mental hospital in 1966 after having been diagnosed a paranoid schizophrenic.
Pour one (keg) out for our fallen homey.
The founder of Pukesberg and Drunken Assaultville, a crazy person? No!
You're sure to learn more in the brand new Cracked.com book!
For a real live insane city, check out Should I Build in Dubai? Checklist for (Crazy) Architects. Or check out other ways humans are thumbing their noses at nature, in The 5 Ballsiest Ways Man Has Replaced Nature.
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