A Visual History of The Future

Nick Dunn, Paul Cureton, Serena Pollastri

Research output: Book/ReportCommissioned report


This paper is concerned with how future cities have been visualised between 1900 and 2014, what these projections sought to communicate and why.
The paper is organised into eight sections. Each of the first seven sections is highly illustrated by relevant visualisations to capture the main ways in which the thematic content is evident within future cities. We present a brief summary at the end of each section to understand the key issues.
• First, we describe the relevance and power of imagined cities and urban
visions throughout popular culture, a multi-disciplinary discourse, along with an
explanation of the methods used.
• Second, we examine the role of different media and its influence upon the
way in which ideas are communicated and also translated, including, but not
limited to: diagrams, drawings, films, graphic novels, literature, paintings, and
• Third, we interrogate the ‘groundedness’ of visualisations of future cities and
whether they relate to a specific context or a more general set of conditions.
• Fourth, we identify the role of technological speculation in future city scenarios
including: infrastructure, mobility, sustainability, built form, density and scale.
• Fifth, we examine the variations in socio-spatial relationships that occur across different visualisations of cities, identifying the lived experience and inhabitation of the projected environments.
• Sixth, we consider the relationship of data, ubiquitous computing and digital
technologies in contemporary visualisations of cities.
• Seventh, we establish the overarching themes that appear derived from
visualisations of British cities and their legacy.
In conclusion, we establish a synthesis of the prevalent patterns within and across legacies, and the diversity of visualisations, to draw together our findings in relation to overarching narratives and themes for how urban life has been envisaged and projected for the period under scrutiny.
Original languageEnglish
Place of PublicationLondon
PublisherGovernment Office for Science
Number of pages142
Publication statusPublished - 25 Sept 2014

Publication series

NameFuture of Cities: Working Paper


  • A Visual History of The Future
  • City Visualisation
  • Urban Futures
  • Cities of Tommorrow
  • City Planning


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