The Unisphere at the 1964 World’s Fair, was the site of an IBM exhibit by Sam Falk

There have been centuries of imagined and reimagined utopias, many of which seek impose specific societal ideals...

 

Depiction these ideals has occurred through representation in world fair exhibitions, museums, books, movies, and through the actualization of our cities. An examination can be made of these various utopian representations from the standpoint of the particular subjectivities that they imply, specifically, how limited and non-diverse those subjects are.

 

In the 1939 World’s Fair in New York thousands rode on two moving balconies and looked down on Democracy, a massive model of the city of tomorrow inside the 18-story sphere. The model depicted a city of broad streets, many parks, and large buildings. After the ride the audience members left with a button stating, “I have seen the future.”  Donald Albrecht in World War II and the American Dream describes the war as a symbol of American technological and organizational progress where “optimistic media, reinforced by turbulent wartime change, enshrined a notion of accelerated progress in the nation’s collective psyche… and an ever-expanding abundance seemed just the reward following a war fought to protect the American way of life.”  

The Unisphere at the 1964 World’s Fair, was the site of an IBM exhibit by Sam Falk

Theme Building LAX from Architectural Digest, Beau Peregoy, 2016.

Union 76 Station in Beverly Hills from Architectural Digest, Beau Peregoy, 2016.

The political climate of the Cold War extended the same sense of national unity and technological optimism, represented in Googie architecture. Googie architecture, as a style of futurist architecture drawing from Space Age ideals and Rocketship dreams, expressed a singular vision of the spirit unique to the middle of the 20th century. Influenced by car culture, jets, the Space Age, and the Atomic Age, it began in the 1930s in southern California but remained popular nationwide in the late 1940s through the mid-1960s. It was an expression of the spirit of the time and the rationale for many of the products that were produced. Thomas Hine defined the period of the mid-50s through mid-60s as the populuxe decade - a decade of ‘’one of history’s great shopping sprees.’’ Populuxe is a synthetic word by Hine combining ‘’populism,’’ ‘’popularity’’ and ‘’luxury,’’ with an unnecessary ‘’e’’ thrown in at the end ‘’to give it class.’’ It derived from populism and popularity calling for popular luxury and luxury for all. The term refers not to a single look, but to ‘’an attitude expressed by a family of looks, a series of options added to such utilitarian objects…it speaks of optimism and opulence.’’ 

Union 76 Station in Beverly Hills from Architectural Digest, Beau Peregoy, 2016.

Interior of a Stanford torus, painted by Donald E. Davis

Interior of a Stanford torus, painted by Donald E. Davis

Following Googie, the mid-70s was a period of development of various studies for space stations such as the Stanford torus. In studies such as this one, “no matter whether this new space would be more like a Greyhound bus, a prairie commune, a megastructure, a French village, or a shopping mall, each of these would invite, and indeed produce, a specific type of human subject as occupant.”  The design emphasized existing notions of utopia and a narrow view of societal normalcies and values. 

objects that activate individuals' virtual space

Objects with Love by Connie Hüsser, Design Miami, 2019