It has been said that the past is a foreign country—but it is the future that remains undiscovered. Despite the obvious truth that no one has been to the future, that no one has even seen a photograph of it, the last two centuries have witnessed the rise of a body of visual codes and tropes that are commonly seen and understood as “futuristic.” These “progressive” or “modern” attributes are derived from an entirely imaginary landscape, indicative of a destination that is impossible to visit; yet nearly everyone can recognize the place where no one has been.
Building Expectation: Past and Present Visions of the Architectural Future offers a glimpse into this undiscovered country, presenting a collection of historic and ongoing visions of the future from the nineteenth century until the present day. The exhibition’s content has been drawn from a number of university libraries and private collections, as well as the Swiss state-supported museum of utopia known as the Maison d’Ailleurs (House of Elsewhere). Many of these objects have never before been exhibited in the United States.
The “world of tomorrow” has usually been imagined first and foremost as a place—the new Promised Land, the millennial landscape. And architecture, cast since the Enlightenment as the calling card for cultural and technological “periods” in the “grand narrative” of human development and progress, is one of the future’s most revealing and recognizable features. The exhibition’s collection of past architectural vision