31 March 2015

The Future City exhibition at RIBA

The RIBA (Royal Institute of British Architects) headquarters building at 66 Portland Place is one of my favourite places in London because they hold many good exhibitions there, the building is grand and attractive, and the little cafe is a comfortable place to rest and recuperate.

The building also has the advantage of being about 2.5km away from my London office so it is a place that I can pop into at lunchtime for a quick architectural treat while also getting some good steps in.

And that is how I found myself at The Future City exhibition on a Tuesday lunchtime.

RIBA has various spaces in which it holds exhibitions, I can think of six, and most of these are spaces that were designed for other uses and which have exhibitions squeezed into them from time-to-time. Future City was up on the second floor spread along the corridor around the atrium. This is a space that is often used and while the space has obvious limitations it works well enough as an exhibition space.

Despite the restrictions, there was space for a townscape model and I always love to see townscape models.


The exhibition looked at how cities could evolve by considering themes like population and traffic.

The bulk of the exhibition, i.e. the thing that I spent most time looking at,  was the information boards on each theme that explained the history, challenges and some of the possible solutions.

This made it quite a wordy exhibition that was good for information value but less so for entertainment. I prefer models, maps and pictures as you can "read" then in any sequence you like and take as long as you like whereas text has a forced direction and a natural speed. I will also admit to being not much of a texty person, I have always preferred comics to novels and I very rarely read anything that it text-heavy these days.

It is no surprise, therefore, that one of the things that caught my attention the most was this cartoon on transport in the future. I like the visual impact of both the relentless tide of cars and the bleak blocks behind them. This is the sort of Future City that we do not want to see but which we may be heading towards.


This was only a fleeting visit and still it managed to tickle my intellect and spark some new thoughts. RIBA is a great resource and I should make more use of it.

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