Blade Runner was optimistic

We are now far enough advanced that several futuristic books and films are set in the past.  1984 is long gone.  Back the Future‘s 2015 is in the rear view mirror, as is Blade Runner‘s 2019.  Nothing is as we had imagined.

Instead of hoverboards, we have arguments about whether men can use women’s change rooms.  Instead of venturing Off-world, we can’t even go to the park because we’re under lockdown.  Instead of replicants, Siri scolds us.  Everything is lame and dumb.

One thing we got completely wrong is architecture.  This is how Blade Runner imagined the world would look by now:

https://images-wixmp-ed30a86b8c4ca887773594c2.wixmp.com/f/3ac17be3-72eb-43fd-b2a1-e66191372ee7/d52x1iz-29aecee0-11d7-4497-ae48-8512a175d97b.png/v1/fill/w_900,h_450,q_75,strp/blade_runner___city_night_2_by_elclon-d52x1iz.png?token=eyJ0eXAiOiJKV1QiLCJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiJ9.eyJpc3MiOiJ1cm46YXBwOjdlMGQxODg5ODIyNjQzNzNhNWYwZDQxNWVhMGQyNmUwIiwic3ViIjoidXJuOmFwcDo3ZTBkMTg4OTgyMjY0MzczYTVmMGQ0MTVlYTBkMjZlMCIsImF1ZCI6WyJ1cm46c2VydmljZTppbWFnZS5vcGVyYXRpb25zIl0sIm9iaiI6W1t7InBhdGgiOiIvZi8zYWMxN2JlMy03MmViLTQzZmQtYjJhMS1lNjYxOTEzNzJlZTcvZDUyeDFpei0yOWFlY2VlMC0xMWQ3LTQ0OTctYWU0OC04NTEyYTE3NWQ5N2IucG5nIiwid2lkdGgiOiI8PTkwMCIsImhlaWdodCI6Ijw9NDUwIn1dXX0.-cLIjUudkh5we4rYm0kOp8cHBJ7tzqWhdByph71XTRY

https://sovietmen.files.wordpress.com/2020/07/1d2b3-bladerunnerhd084.jpg

https://sovietmen.files.wordpress.com/2020/07/af25e-bladerunnerhd014.jpg

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https://stillsfrmfilms.files.wordpress.com/2013/03/273.jpg

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Gritty, dark, polluted, but infinitely more beautiful than any modern aspects of a Western city today.  All decoration has been stripped from new structures, as though prohibited by building codes.  The streets are not gritty – they are full of shit and people who hate us.  The modern city, overall, presents us with a message of overwhelming ugliness, nastiness, and pettiness.

https://www.telegraph.co.uk/content/dam/news/2017/07/23/TELEMMGLPICT000135536690-xlarge_trans_NvBQzQNjv4Bqek9vKm18v_rkIPH9w2GMNoGXySPv9M1Jbe0Fc3Bi1Fk.jpeg

https://qph.fs.quoracdn.net/main-qimg-51f25697d0d928c008025cda89e3c481

https://sovietmen.files.wordpress.com/2020/07/55c6c-ugliestarchitectureroyalontariomuseum.jpg

https://i.ytimg.com/vi/zZwu0ZFpZHs/maxresdefault.jpg

Normally, any natural, organic activity will lead to some kind of beautiful, random order.  Termite mounds in the outback.  A towering rainforest.  A medieval town.  Even an algorithm can generate the Mandelbrot set:

https://sovietmen.files.wordpress.com/2020/07/2e3e6-mandelbrot-automatic-art.jpg

In Blade Runner, the creators imagined a world where high technology and immense populations would combine to create something with its own, innate beauty when looked at the right way.

The reason we have managed to create such ugly cities, despite beauty arriving naturally in human settlements throughout all times and places up until now, is that architects and town planners have made it deliberately so.

Normally, the functional straight lines and symmetry of human construction lead to an order and pattern that our eye finds just as pleasing as a natural environment:

https://i.ytimg.com/vi/oTFvLAcfQIY/maxresdefault.jpg

It is only by deliberately eschewing natural forms and patterns that we have been able to create such modern monstrosities.

Further, there can be nothing beautiful in crime and degeneration.  By barely prosecuting minor offences and permitting vagrancy and undocumented migration, cities have been brought low.  They are a dystopia not even imagined by the darkest SciFi writers.

https://static01.nyt.com/images/2019/06/04/us/04homelessnesscatoday/merlin_155936898_bd7483c4-5b81-4e66-861b-db785b09cdac-videoSixteenByNineJumbo1600.jpg

https://media.boingboing.net/wp-content/uploads/2016/10/050-056c026d-1c66-4d42-9fae-a8e96df290c5-1020x1202.jpg

I chose not to post images of public defecation, but I could have.

How terrible it is, that our cities are falling into a state that even the most pessimistic cyberpunks of the 1980s did not dream of.  A time traveler to our age would be shocked.  Upon his return, he would campaign for immediate changes in various policies.

I suppose it’s never too late.

Some modern cities have managed to achieve the futuristic charm imagining in Blade Runner.  LA never turned Japanese – it changed in other ways.  Japan, however, has managed to pull it off.  Modern architecture that houses a functional society:

https://static.mansionglobal.com/production/media/article-images/21a7e279a976ac7e22ffeba76dd557f9/large_osaka-lead.jpg

https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/9/9e/Kabukicho-Sinjyuku-Tokyo_2014_%E2%85%A1.JPG/1200px-Kabukicho-Sinjyuku-Tokyo_2014_%E2%85%A1.JPG

A living city can not be greater than the sum of its inhabitants.

*               *               *               *               *

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6 comments

  1. Kentucky Headhunter · July 6, 2020

    I fail to see any “charm” in the Blade Runner pics, but maybe that’s just me. I think it was Black Pigeon who posted vides of walking around the mostly deserted streets of Tokyo district a while back. Almost all the lights still on, but just a dozen or fewer people per block. Streets and even alleys very clean though.

    I’b be more interested in seeing the Japanese country side and maybe some fishing villages.

    “Everything is lame and dumb.”

    Nailed it.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Derek Ramsey · July 6, 2020

    I can see it: the lines, the symmetry, the decorations. You still can see the beauty that exists under the grit, darkness, and pollution. Good design resists corruption.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. luisman · July 7, 2020

    Reblogged this on Nicht-Linke Blogs.

    Like

  4. collegereactionary · July 8, 2020

    BAP book takes a different view of city planning. His view is that the beauty of Western cities was intentional, an act of rebellion against the natural trend of civilization, which is ugly, corrupt, and polluted.

    Of course, intentionality can go too far. Suicide is a schizophrenic act of will, and our architecture is an insane act of self-mutilation against the public space. Ugliness can creep in on accident or through laziness, but nothing was accidental or lazy about these projects.

    Like

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