Water Resource Collections and Archives


Futuristics : Innovative Transportation and Maritime Designs

Futuristics : Innovative Transportation and Maritime Designs

About the 2006 Calendar

The futuristic images in this calendar illustrate maritime, terrestrial and aerial vehicles envisaged by their creators as viable modes of transportation. These designs, however, never made it past the drawing board and many have been superseded by their cheaper, faster, and more popular counterparts.

All of these designs are products of the Industrial and post-Industrial ages. The accelerated innovation of this era inspired engineers to imagine an even more remarkable future when addressing emergent transportation issues. The Aerial Sedan (November) illustrates the quest for personal freedom, while the Freedomship (September) evinces a changing perspective on what this "freedom" might mean.

Many of these illustrations were showcased in popular magazines and advertisements of their time. Just as the illustrators speculated about the future, we can speculate retrospectively about the meaning of their visions. Their imaginative models encourage us to consider, among other issues, the economics of transportation, our evolving relationship with the environment, popular ideals of travel, the nature of human imagination and aspiration, and the aesthetics of design.

Various factors ultimately could have led to the failure of these designs. Some required a substantial infrastructure that did not exist at the time of their creation; for instance, the TransDrive system (August) would have required overhead rails to be installed above miles of roads and highways. Some conceptions of the future were uneconomical, such as The Bee (February), a personal hover-craft, which would have consumed fuel at a prodigious rate. Politics may have gotten in the way of other designs: train travel on the Golden Gate Bridge (May) reflects the original design of a lower deck on the bridge, a feature which remains unrealized.

On the other hand, a few futuristic concepts have made their way into contemporary designs: doesn’t the Hornet (April) bear some resemblance to today’s microlight aircraft? And of course, trains similar to the Goodell Monorail (June) operate in cities throughout the world.

Although some practitioners have failed to deploy their inventions, their ideas have influenced our thinking about the problems and possibilities of transportation. Perhaps these "futuristics" will inspire tomorrow’s engineers and architects to examine the ineffective elements of these designs in order to devise better modes of transportation that can both improve our happiness and promote a healthy environment.

Futuristics is produced jointly by UC Berkeley's Water Resources Center Archives and the Harmer E. Davis Transportation Library and supports their exceptional collections and programs.

An Engineering Futuristics exhibit is currently on display in the O'Brien - McLaughlin Halls Breezeway Gallery. This is a subset of the larger Transportation Futuristics exhibit that was hosted at the Doe Library last Fall. Visit the Institute of Transportation Library's virtual exhibit for more details.

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Produced jointly by WRCA and Harmer E. Davis Transportation Library

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Last modified: 4/26/2011 3:40 PM by S. Haren

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