Wayback Machine 1932: How Long Will Our Cities Last?

Paired with our post on the decline of the suburbs, this Modern Mechanix article from 1932 makes interesting reading. It concludes that the infrastructure of gas, water and fuel is too complex, and that cities will become increasingly unhealthy.

"SCIENTIFIC prophets looking into the future proclaim that our mammoth cities, the likes of which the world has never seen before, are doomed to obsolescence. In time, cobwebs will enshroud the cloud-piercing Empire State building and dandelions will grow on Fifth Avenue and Wall Street, they believe, after exhaustive studies into the trend of the times."

"Hand in hand with the increase in the number and height of skyscrapers there goes a diminution of the amount of sunlight and fresh air accessible—two elements so necessary for the well-being of the millions which live and work among the tall buildings. Even now multitudes of tall buildings cut off too much of the health-giving radiation of the sun, while giant smoke-stacks and countless automobiles belch gases which work havoc on the lungs of the city's population."

They propose "cluster cities" connected by airplane.

"Where, then, are we to live in the future, you may well wonder? When New York, Philadelphia, Chicago and Detroit are but deserted areas of crumbling skyscrapers facing streets overrun with weeds, where will the millions who once inhabited the cities be living?

The answer to this bewildering question may be found in the prophecies of such renowned architects as Frank Lloyd Wright, who foresees a new era in the modes of human habitation. With the disintegration of the city, these prophets say, there will come the development of diminutive villages which will cluster around a trading center, closely resembling the financial district of the present city, where all business and manufacturing will be carried on, but which workers will abandon the minute their labors have ceased for the day.

What agencies will make possible the inevitable growth of this "cluster city?" The chief instrument, it is believed, will be the airplane. The city really began its disintegration the moment Lindbergh set sail for France on his epochal trans-Atlantic flight, thereby proving the practicability of the airplane in spanning long distances with a minimum of peril and time.

While all these prophecies seem fantastic, it must be remembered that even more amazing changes have taken place in the last hundred years; so that by comparison the "cluster city" will not be so astounding after all. " ::Modern Mechanix

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