City Lights, City Grunge

Dust, by Alex Andreyev – alexandreev on DeviantArt

From Metropolis to Blade Runner, the city of the future has been a subject for science fiction artists and film makers, who have vented both dreams and deep-seated fears. This blog post offers a collection of cityscapes – some of them futuristic and surreal, others just an exaggerated version of our present reality. Many of these images are concepts and environments for games.

I chose the opening image because it strongly reminds me of the city I myself grew up in, Berlin (West, at the time). The rubble, the dirt, the greyness, the sense of “no way to go”. This is an artist from Russia: geographic provenience does seem to be a factor for the way in which artists choose to depict their imaginary metropolis, but fascination and loathing represent the two extremes between which all of the following images vacillate.

KomputerKonstruktion II, by MarkJbee – MarkJayBee on DeviantArt
New Heights, by Richard Dorran – RichardDorran on DeviantArt
ModularNexus II, by MarkJbee – MarkJayBee on DeviantArt

Will we still be able to see the sky, if our cities grow taller and taller and taller? Skyscrapers from your wildest dream, or nightmare.

A rather more steampunkish take on the future is the image below – clearly inspired by the art noveau of Manhattan, it playfully introduces a zeppelin among the stacks and layers of multi-lane highways.

Future City 1, by Pete Amachree – PeteAmachree on DeviantArt
Neos City, by Jordan Grimmer – jordangrimmer on DeviantArt

Night falls, and the metropolis of the future turns into a brightness of neon lights. Still, it is not so far removed from actual places one might see today – the image above rather reminds me of Sydney.

Real-life Mumbai evidently provided the inspiration for the image below (it is not a place I have been to, so I wouldn’t be able to tell). Diving down into the city streets, there is glamour, colour, light and lood music, jostling crowds, and an almost palpable smell of garbage coming from the back alleys.

Futuristic Bombay, by Raphael Lacoste – Raphael-Lacoste on DeviantArt
A Night at The Gothic, by Pete Amachree – PeteAmachree on DeviantArt
Future Bar, by DrawingNightmare on DeviantArt
Guest List Blues, by Pete Amachree – PeteAmachree on DeviantArt

Blade Runner is never far from most of these artist’s mind, when it comes to imagining the nightlife of the future. Airborne taxies, circular bars, giant video screens – and yet, one might still be refused admittance in a club, if one is not on the guest list. The weather does not seem to be expected to improve in future, either!

Blade Runner Tribute, by Daniel Tyka – artificialdesign on DeviantArt

Diving into the back alleys, the city reveals its less polished aspects. Cheap night clubs, dilapidated buildings and public structures – and if you don’t watch out, some mugger might just club the unwary on the head.

underground, by Stefanie Odendahl – StefanieOdendahl on DeviantArt
Bridge, by Jordan Grimmer – jordangrimmer on DeviantArt
The Alley, by Simon Weaner – SimonWeaner on DeviantArt

Everyone is always in a hurry, in the city of the future. Well, that’s nothing new either. Hongkong might have provided the inspiration for the following image: a place where real life is already busy catching up with the visions of artists and film makers from a few decades ago.

Electric Rain, by Saul Espinosa – unfor54k3n on DeviantArt
The Wireways, by Lana Ansay – frozen-scumbag on DeviantArt

Finally, in the small hours of the pre-dawn, all goes quiet: and are these white rags flags, or pieces of washing? There is something faintly Mediterranean about his future city. It rather reminds me of the first time I ever went to Venice, in my adventurous Interrail days. I got off the night train at some ungodly hour in the morning: probably the only time to ever experience the old merchant metropolis without its hordes of tourists. As I was making my way toward the youth hostel, the streets were dark and deserted, lit only by the occasional wall light, which made me feel as if I had stepped right back into the Middle Ages. Then suddenly, from everywhere, street sweepers appeared … a magic memory.

Dark Satanic Mills, by Pete Amachree – PeteAmachree on DeviantArt
1/12/2013 Speed, by Scott Pellico – Appylon on DeviantArt

Journeying toward the outskirts of the city, we pass through industrial districts: smoking chimneys turn the air a poisonous yellow. Another image that strongly reminds me of my home town, Berlin.

The river then carries the filth and debris downstream, past the last straggling outgrowths of city slums, beating up like a wave against the remnants of an old country village, perhaps.

But in the end, nature gets her own back: the inner-city abodes of the wealthy, reminders of an older epoch, turn into luxuriating gardens. Or it might be that the hot-house effect makes the waters rise, and the ruins of the skyscrapers of Manhattan, or some other such place, turn into a fantastic rockscape green with new plant growth, long after the smog has blown away.

Forsaken zanzibar, to the light, by lordoffog on DeviantArt
Hothouse, by Pete Amachree – PeteAmachree on DeviantArt

All images are copyright the respective artist, and may not be reproduced without their permission.

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