1939 Futurama meets an Australian regional centre

7 discovery
70 years before Futurama was a cartoon, it was an exhibit and ride at the 1939 World’s Fair in New York. It was designed by a theatre set designer with a penchant for aerodynamics, and like Le Corbusier’s Plan Voisin, was sponsored by a car company, in this case General Motors. And yes, it would be all about cars changing the design of our cities. Of the dozens of similar visions born of those times, Futurama was one of the most widely viewed and achievable, and for those reasons, prophetic.
Visitors to General Motors "Futurama" Exhibit
None of us know anyone old enough to recount the design world’s fascination with cars in those days. Perhaps our great grandchildren will look back in wonder at our generation, and the hopes we held for the internet. I sometimes wish the internet would just go away, or reach its potential and peter out. Room would be left in these limited imaginations of ours to marvel at the potential of cycling, a technological mode that would have changed the world, if only there had not been all of that oil in the ground during the boom times of the twentieth-century.
I promised in a recent blog post to share a redesign of the docklands in the city I live in, by designers Alex Adams, Ryan Gates, Dominic Wells and Sam McQueeney, for an architectural design studio I am currently leading. In their vision there would be no car parking whatsoever, across a 17 hectare new urban district—roughly the size of Launceston’s CBD. The money developers would have spent on car parking, and city-wide infrastructure contributions, is proposed to be spent on bike infrastructure to connect residents to the rest of the city by bike. Think of this as a step toward a Futurama type vision, 2013 style, as applied to any old post-industrial centre in the US or Australia.
Our proposal for a bike masterplan of Launceston looks to connect the outer suburbs with the docklands redevelopment site and CBD, with an arterial network of looping bike highways.1
1. a bicycle bridge across the Gorge would connect the northwestern suburbs.2
3. We propose a safe, raised bicycle “expressway” along Wellington Street. This street has a high amount of car traffic, and acts as a main arterial road in Launceston. [editor’s note: driver behaviour and the frequency of blind driveway entries justify a raised bike path in this location] This also creates bike envy, where cars will wish they were travelling with such ease as the bikes overhead.4
4.The bridge located near the seaport is an important connection to the site. Our proposed path allows separation of bikes and cars, allowing safe passage to the site, and allowing a connection to the existing and proposed bike infrastructure near the city.5
5. Part of the upgrade of the North Esk Levee banks involves a bicycle/pedestrian bridge that connects Holbrook Street to the city.6
6. Creating further links to the site involves a bicycle/pedestrian bridge from Home Point across the mouth of the North Esk to the site.7
7. The bicycle city loop in the city looks to provide barrier protected bicycle infrastructure in proximity to all the key parts of the CBD, running along George, York and Margaret Streets.8
8. Our first urban scale experiments, testing the size of existing global urban environments on our site, to understand the scale of built forms needed in our masterplan.910
9. Analysing direct context surrounding the site and past, present and future key developments.11
10. First explorations of key pathways in terms of proposed nodes of activity and their connections.12
11. The final, ground floor masterplan.Resid-Comm Template
12. Diagrams explaining how the plan works.14
13. Building form development.15

14. Use of trafficable rooftops to create bicycle circulation and space for urban farming. This urban farming looked to create produce for commercial and residential tenancies on the site on otherwise unused roof space.16
15. Showing how pinching the slab-blocks in the middle creates a more bike friendly environment, providing an extensive array of bicycle routes for the user.17
19. Proposed levee development looks to upgrade existing space by creating a trafficable space on top of the levee. This also decreases the space taken up on the ground plane, which creates a generous market space. This proposal doubles as protection from elements.18

20. We propose to revitalise the derelict Kings Wharf building to act as a ferry terminal. This will provide water-based transport for people working further up the Tamar Valley, in particular, people working at the Bell Bay Aluminium Smelter (employs approximately 700 people on site per day).19


  1. biketaviousmaximus says:

    Need a supporter/campaigner/lobbyist/hangeroner… I’m in!

  2. […] New York’s 1939 and 1964 World’s Fairs, run by Moses, were largely auto industry ads for a car-based world of tomorrow. Jane Jacobs’ resistance to Moses took her from neighborhood activist to national icon. Their […]

  3. I love it! This would truly make Launceston worthy of the claims that it is the Number 1 city to move to in Australia and that it is Family Friendly. I think there would be no objections from cyclists, bogan motorists would be happy that we are not using ‘their’ roads, and grumpy pedestrians would no longer be able to whinge… Imagine it…

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