H.G. Wells Pans Metropolis
by Virginia Postrel • Jan 21, 2010 at 8:09 pm
He comes across as the typical, literal-minded geek, missing the appeal of visual wonder. But he gets this right:
That vertical city of the future we know now is, to put it mildly, highly improbable. Even in New York and Chicago, where the pressure on the central sites is exceptionally great, it is only the central office and entertainment region that soars and excavates. And the same centripetal pressure that leads to the utmost exploitation of site values at the centre leads also to the driving out of industrialism and labour from the population center to cheaper areas, and of residential life to more open and airy surroundings. That was all discussed and written about before 1900. Somewhere about 1930 the geniuses of Ufa studios will come up to a book of Anticipations which was written more than a quarter of a century ago. The British census returns of 1901 proved clearly that city populations were becoming centrifugal, and that every increase in horizontal traffic facilities produced a further distribution. This vertical social stratification is stale old stuff. So far from being 'a hundred years hence,' Metropolis, in its forms and shapes, is already, as a possibility, a third of a century out of date.
People are still refusing to believe those 1901 census results: "Real" cities look like Metropolis, not London.
[Hat tip: Paleo-Future Twitter stream.]
ADDENDUM: Reader William Krause of LikeTelevision sends this link to an online version of Metropolis. He also notes that "HG Wells made his own end of the world, life sux movie...called Things to Come...with Sir Ralph Richardson," available here.