See What Past Generations Thought Today’s Cities Would Look Like

From canals in New York to sunken roads in LA, these visionaries had some big ideas.

2. 25. 17 by Chelsea Gohd
Eric Lloyd Wright
Image by Eric Lloyd Wright

Cities of the Future, Viewed From the Past

If you turned back time and asked people living in Los Angeles in 1965 what they thought the city would look like in the future (the 21st century), you would probably hear a lot of talk about jetpacks, flying cars, and “Star Trek”-like technology that could teleport humans and create food out of thin air.


Now, while a lot of those out-of-this-world technologies actually do exist in some form or another today, many never came to be. In an effort to bring new eyes to these inventive ideas, Greg Goldin and Sam Lubell recently published a book entitled “Never Built Los Angeles” that gives readers an incredible peek into what the City of Angels could have looked like.

The prototypical sketches in the book date back as far as the 1920s and depict a Los Angeles far different from the one that exists today. The plans include everything from sunken roads to a 1,200 foot tall tower that features colorful vertical lights and an observatory. One plan even asserts that, in the future, street taxis would be replaced by “helicabs” with landing zones on the tops of bus terminals.

LAX – 1952 – Pereira and Luckman. Image Credit: Greg Goldin and Sam Lubell

The Future?

As a living member of the 21st century, looking at these mementos from the past is a great reminder of how much has changed since these sketches were made. Technology has surpassed even some of the wildest predictions, but not in the ways that many expected.


This sparks the question of what now lies ahead. We may think that we know what to expect from the decades to come, but do we really? Looking at these images of Los Angeles and other cities shows us that even though we might think we have a pretty good idea of what the future holds, we might be way off base. The only certainty is it will bring with it a lot of surprises.

This vision of New York City was published on December 30, 1900. Image Credit: New York World
The future Manhattan, New York, envisioned by Richard Rummell circa 1910-1911.
The future of San Francisco, as envisioned by Alexander Weygers in 1950.

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