Futurama - a view of the future


 GM Future Futurama General Motors Bel Geddes 1940 New York World Fair USA Technology

It has always been men's wish to look into the future. It's easy to fantasize about a distant future, filled with striking, utopic inventions. Either way, no one will be alive to see if they'll come true... But it's hard to imagine such innovations happening in a short term. This was the hard task General Motors embraced when it decided to promote the Highways and Horizons exhibit, also known as Futurama, at the World Fair, in New York, in 1939. The goal was to show what the world would be like in 20 years, that is, in 1960. At the end, the audience would get a badge that proudly stated "I saw the Future!"

The pavilion where the exhibit was located was clearly the Fair's biggest attraction and there was good reason for that, as GM had made a big investment in the event. In a building created by architect Albert Kahn, designer Norman Bel Geddes placed a railway track with over 300 little cars, similar to a merry-go-round, that allowed the public to move comfortably around the entire exposition. Each car had an individual sound system with a taped message that was played during the course and informed the visitors about what they were watching.

 GM Future Futurama General Motors Bel Geddes 1940 New York World Fair USA Technology

 GM Future Futurama General Motors Bel Geddes 1940 New York World Fair USA Technology

 GM Future Futurama General Motors Bel Geddes 1940 New York World Fair USA Technology

And what was so extraordinary at this exposition? The entire interior of the pavilion was occupied by a huge model of a future city, in 1960. A network of roads of every kind and shape dominated the landscape and showed the importance given to the automobile, through concepts such as the Automated Highway and the Super Highway, developed by Bel Geddes and formerly published in the book Magic Motorways. During the entire course, the visitors were also shown various dioramas about life in the cities of the future.

 GM Future Futurama General Motors Bel Geddes 1940 New York World Fair USA Technology

 GM Future Futurama General Motors Bel Geddes 1940 New York World Fair USA Technology

 GM Future Futurama General Motors Bel Geddes 1940 New York World Fair USA Technology

A ravishing world, that leaned on machines and technology, was promised to the visitors, who left the exposition marvelled at, and confident about, the near future. I would like to have lived during that time, for which I have an irrational nostalgia, and I would like to have believed in such a bright future, conveyed by such an optimistic, fairy-tale propaganda. Today, we are aware that it was all an illusion; when I was born, in 1960, none of that was awaiting me...

Video of the exposition: Highways and Horizons (part 1 and 2)


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