A Vision for Whom?

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The film “Great Expectations: Visionary Architecture” explores the idea of major shifts in architectural and urban design over the past century. Citing examples from architects like Le Corbusier self-contained apartment building community and Paolo Soleri “arcology”, the film charts very unique ideas in the field that, at the very least, have provoked discussion. While it is important to instigate these dialogues, these visions often left a bad taste in my mouth. While I am not a fan of Le Corbusier, though, the proposal in the film that pushed me over the edge was that of Jacque Fresco, the “Venus Project”.

Essentially, the “Venus Project” banks on the idea of complete mechanization of society and allows people to, rather than work in jobs because they have to do those jobs, work in jobs they find engaging and interesting. Fresco points out that, “you wouldn’t need more than 7,000 people to run the entire planet”. Apartments would be added onto super structures as pods that came pre-assembled, including furniture melded into the apartment design. Fresco follows the furniture point up by saying that “When you buy a car, you don’t have to buy the seats. It all comes as one package.”

Apartment “pod” being placed onto a core structure by a mechanical worker.

The “Venus Project” represents a total disjoint with society on one of the grandest scales I have ever seen. No economy could support itself in the model Fresco has proposed. While janitorial, food service, and other lower income jobs might not be glamorous, they have to be done. To mechanize all of society’s grunt work would potentially eliminate billions of jobs. The resources that go into not only creating all of these mechanical workers, but maintaining them, too, requires resources of astronomical amounts and clearly isn’t sustainable. His apartment design also removes any sense of choice from an individual, which has shown itself to have noticeably negative effects on quality of life in the space. With a lack of understanding this profound, what good are these grand visions of cities and architecture really doing? Who are they benefiting, if there is anyone outside its creators’ own egos?

Example city plan of the “Venus Project”, which is almost ver batum a mimic of Ebenezer Howard’s Garden City movement, also a somewhat utopian ideal.
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