Last Futures

Last Futures is a clear and compelling journey through key architectural and social movements in the late 1960’s and their subsequent impact. One thing it may not do so acutely is address the ways in which these things may have failed and or why, but in most cases the rationale is self-evident. Murphy touches on all manner of psychic preoccupations for Western countercultural and mainstream theorists alike, including for example the implications of the space colony craze. For several years the space colony craze continued to spread through all pockets of American culture, from the most speculative edges of academia to the more intellectually active parts of the counterculture, to household advertising, to the American government itself. Murphy records that Gerard O’Neill, a Princeton University particle physicist and space colony advocate, “gave evidence to the US Senate on the prospect … and NASA began to publicise the idea”. It was not until the late 1970’s that funding cuts ended this official interest, and condemned the artists’ impressions of space colonies produced by NASA to be remembered, if at all, as science fiction kitsch.

In the late 1960’s the world was faced (as it often is) with impending disaster: the height of the Cold War, the end of oil and the decline of major cities worldwide. Out of this crisis came a new generation that hoped to build a better future, influenced by visions of geodesic domes, walking cities and a supposedly meaningful connection with nature. Murphy traces the ‘lost archaeology’ of the present day through the works of thinkers and designers such as Stewart Brand, the Archigram architects (who envisioned the Plug-In City in the 1960’s), as well as co-operatives in Vienna, communes in the Californian desert and protesters on the streets of Paris. He touches also on the failed architecture of communes and the other structures erected by the 60s and 70s counterculture - the DIY counterpart to the period’s bold new campuses and housing estates. After Drop City was abandoned in the 70s, we learn for example, it became “an odd, scrappy ruin still visited by dropouts long afterwards” – kind of a horrifying image; long toothed zombie hippies picking amongst the ruins of a failed utopic experiment.

Non fiction
Douglas Murphy

Lawson Park Electronic Library is a Guestroom project for Grizedale Arts, designed and built by Dorian Moore