Paris to Link Suburb by Cable Car

Construction is due to begin later this year on a cable car connecting the Parisian suburb of Villeneuve-Saint-Georges with the French capital’s metro network.

The 4.5-kilometer line was designed by the architects of Atelier Schall. Doppelmayr, which also builds ski lifts, is due to make the cable cars themselves. Each would seat ten passengers, allowing the system to transport up to 1,600 commuters per hour.

It’s not a new idea. As I wrote in Unbuilt Paris, engineer Jean Pomagalski proposed to link the then-new business district La Défense with the city center by a cable car, or téléphérique, in the 1960s.

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Plan to Expand Manhattan Isn’t New

Manhattan New York map
Barr’s plan (Daily Mail)

Jason M. Barr, an economist who specializes in the history of skyscrapers, has revived an old idea in The New York Times: to expand Manhattan.

Barr writes that the city is confronted by two major crises: a dearth of affordable housing and the threat of rising sea levels due to climate change.

Barrs calls for reclaiming 1,760 acres of land, roughly the size of the Upper West Side. With the same density, this new stretch of land could accommodate almost 180,000 new homes.

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Lost Empire of Tartaria

The lost empire of Tartaria is the most delightful conspiracy theory. It posits that a technologically advanced civilization spanned Eurasia and perhaps parts of North America until as recently as a century ago, when it was erased from history. What’s left of Tartaria are ornate and seemingly out-of-place structures, from opulent churches in Russia to the Shanghai Bund.

The theory stems from disappointment in modern architecture. We once had fabulous Art Deco skyscrapers, Beaux-Arts train stations and Second Empire post offices. Now everything is a glass-and-concrete box. What happened?

The theory is that Americans and Europeans didn’t build those monuments. They are the legacy of a Tartarian Empire that emanated out of Northeast Asia.

Are we supposed to believe that eighteenth-century mapmakers drew a vast “Tartaria” in that region out of ignorance? Surely not! Tartaria was real, and it was the most powerful empire of its time. The Great Wall of China was built not by the Chinese to keep the barbarians out, but by the Tartarians to keep out the Chinese.

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The Art of Charles Schridde

Charles Schridde (1926-2011) was an American artist and illustrator. He is best known to retrofuturists for the homes of tomorrow he drew for Motorola in the 1960s.

The paintings, which were printed in advertisements, were of lavish Modernist dwellings, typically against a spectacular natural background, such as a cliff or a waterfall. Naturally, they were equipped with Motorola radios, television sets and other electronics.

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All Time Travel Authorities Look the Same

I finally watched Loki on Disney+ (it’s hilarious) and one of the things that stood out to me was the aesthetic of the show’s Time Variance Authority (TVA). Brutalist with a mix of midcentury graphics and 1970s decor, it reminded me of the Fallout video games as well as Counterpart, the most underrated science-fiction series of recent years. The Office of Interchange in that show also uses dot-matrix printers, rotary-dial phones, old computers, typewriters, and pen and paper.

The Office of Interchange isn’t a time-travel authority. Rather it manages relations between two parallel Earths. The Temps Commission in The Umbrella Academy (our review here) is, and it too looks midcentury. So does the Federal Bureau of Control in the video game Control. Brutalist architecture and midcentury American office furniture seem to be the time traveler’s favorites.

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Palast der Republik

The Humboldt Forum, Germany’s answer to the British Museum and the Louvre of Paris, reopened this month in the rebuilt Berlin Palace after almost two years of controversy and debate.

The Forum combines the collections of the Ethnological Museum of Berlin and the Museum of Asian Art, with many pieces acquired (or stolen) during the colonial era.

Palast der Republik Berlin Germany
The Palast der Republik at night in August 1976 (Bundesarchiv)

The building is a reconstruction of the Hohenzollern residence that was torn down by East German authorities in 1950 to make way for the Palast der Republik, which was itself torn down post-reunification. Both demolitions were controversial — and both, I think, were a mistake. (Although renovating the asbestos-filled Palast might have been more expensive than knocking it down and building something new.)

The Palast was designed by architect Heinz Graffunder and the Building Academy of the German Democratic Republic in the modernist style and opened in 1976. In addition to the unicameral, and toothless, parliament of communist East Germany, it contained two large auditoria, art galleries, a bowling alley, restaurants and a theater.

Let’s take a tour.

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The Art of Yakov Chernikhov

Yakov Chernikhov

Yakov Chernikhov (1889-1951) was a Russian constructivist architect and graphic designer, born in what is now Ukraine.

He set out his ideas in a number of books published in the late 1920s and early 1930s, but his (for the time) unconventional style did not win him many friends and favors under Joseph Stalin.

His later work, of which examples are shown below, was closer to the Stalinist Empire style — but they don’t exactly suggest he thought life in the Soviet Union was a happy one.

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