There is a whole category of urban design that Jim Kunstler has called "yesterday's tomorrow", those great images from the past predicting how we will live in the future. I have suggested that the Y Combinator kids now trying to reinvent the city should have a look and did a slideshow for them.
Most of them look from the bottom up and some even put roads on the roofs of buildings, but Matt Novak of Paleofuture, who has been collecting this stuff forever, shows one that I have not seen before that turns it upside down.
In this city of the future, all the buildings are the same height and all their roofs are connected by big bridges into one giant green roof filled with public uses like gardens, orchestra pavilions and open air theatres, "all symbols of the public good, rather than privatized spaces; an idea that’s perhaps foreign to a lot of us in this era of greed and malice."
This particular vision of the city of tomorrow was illustrated by Louis Biedermann (1874-1957) and was clearly inspired by European visions of what civilized life could look like. Gernsback, an American originally from Luxembourg, took many of his ideas about what hypermodern futuristic cities could look like from Europe and mashed them with a very New York sensibility.
Indeed, the planning is very European; according to the copy in the source article, "In Europe, as a rule, people do not travel to and from business, taking from 15 minutes to an hour on an average in doing so. Usually they live near their place of business, and often just over them." So the city of the future is designed so that everyone can walk (or take an elevator) from the offices on lower levels to the apartments above and cut commuting time. "The advantages of this plan are so huge it is surprising the idea has not been tried, as yet, on a large scale."
The rooftop also includes an "open air school" which actually was the name for a major European educational and health movement of the postwar period; as noted in our healthy home series, people believed that sunlight and fresh air were the best prescriptions for preventing disease. It does seem odd to place it right next to the parking spaces for flying autos; that seems like an accident waiting to happen.
My favourite Open Air School is the one in Suresnes designed by Eugène Beaudouin and Marcel Lods with Jean Prouve; I will follow up with a post on this concept as soon as I find my old slides of it.
The Louis Biedermann with the green roof actually makes a great deal of sense compared to this Popular Science version. If all the light and fresh air is up at the top, why not put the people there? Green roofs for everyone, not just as privatized spaces for those who can afford penthouses.