Augmented City 3D from Alpha Ville on Vimeo.

“Visionary Cities” is described as “an international moving image competition in collaboration with the Whitechapel Gallery, Vimeo, FilmDirecting4Women.” The competition, hosted on Vimeo, will close voting at the end of this week from five top picks that imagine cities of the future. Through Friday, “Like” one of the videos to register your vote.

What’s striking to me is that these videos don’t simply glamorize those technologies; the tension between utopia and dystopia is vivid, particularly in the three I’ve selected here. In “Augmented City 3D,” augmented information, heads-up displays, and virtual reality litter the landscape and clutter the visual field, pushing the distraction of the main characters to impossible limits. You may be inspired to switch off your phone and simply gaze out the window on your next train ride. At the same time, the artist provides a fascinating hypothetical vision of how the Facebook-connected world might be transformed into augmented reality displays, alluring and terrifying at the same time. (I’m not sure the results were intended as dystopian, of course, but have a look and see if you have the same reaction. And remember, the much-beloved vision of the future in “Minority Report” was meant, too, as cautionary tale.) In “The Pentacostal Ministry of Fire,” special effect is transformative, a force of destruction and renewal, layered atop the cityscape in a kind of spiritual augmented reality. In “The Transcendental City,” the same powers of digital visual effect create an imagined city that reconciles ecology and high-density living through fancy, in a storybook-like, fantastic wonderland – a hopeful vision to close out the set.

Just as science fiction began to imagine the future in words, now even independent artists can bake their own what-if creations, making the future more tangible. Nor are these the exclusive domain of effects specialists: the democratization of effects tools means architects, planners, and researchers, some of whom are represented in this series, can get their hands directly on their own creations. Of course, whether that prevents a future buried in ecological disaster and over-designed mobile, connected distractions remains to be seen. Enjoy.

“Augmented City 3D”
by Keiichi Matsuda

The architecture of the contemporary city is no longer simply about the physical space of buildings and landscape, more and more it is about the synthetic spaces created by the digital information that we collect, consume and organise; an immersive interface may become as much part of the world we inhabit as the buildings around us.
Augmented Reality (AR) is an emerging technology defined by its ability to overlay physical space with information. It is part of a paradigm shift that succeeds Virtual Reality; instead of disembodied occupation of virtual worlds, the physical and virtual are seen together as a contiguous, layered and dynamic whole. It may lead to a world where media is indistinguishable from ‘reality’. The spatial organisation of data has important implications for architecture, as we re-evaluate the city as an immersive human-computer interface.

The Pentecostal Ministry of Fire from Jonathan Gales on Vimeo.

“The Elephant and Castle regeneration programme was incrementally postponed and amended due to financial and organisational problems. Whilst the local residents awaited plans for improvement in the infrastructure The Elephant was left to rot. The Shopping Centre suffered a severe fire causing vast destruction, incapacitating it from commercial inhabitation. The regeneration of the site was no longer desirable for commercial redevelopment, but became prime real estate for the expansion of a Pentecostal denomination.

The Shopping Centre has been transformed via a series of evangelical events, using fire as a construction strategy a new religious entity has grown from within The Elephant; The Ministry of Fire.”

The Pentecostal Ministry of Fire is a short animation made during my masters in architecture at the Bartlett School of Architecture.

Constructed predominantly in 3dsMax and rendered with Vray, I used FumeFX for all simulated fire and smoke sequences. The character was green screened into the environments and composited using After Effects. For more information please visit

The Trascendent City from Alpha Ville on Vimeo.

by Richard Hardy

The concept of a future sustainable city is developed for a society that is currently not responding effectively to environmental dangers. “Transcendence” in this case referring to a point when artificial intelligence has reached or surpassed that of the human.

The Transcendent City is an autonomous artificial machine that extends across the earth adapting to the natural eco-systems it encounters while deriving its energy from the renewable resources available at each particular site. The systems desire is to maintain homeostasis within itself whilst maintaining homeostasis within the greater system, Gaia. Its processes are engineered on the molecular scale by nano technologies controlled by molecular computers that monitor and analyse the environment.

The film produced for my final year Masters in Architecture questions whether the conception of artificial intelligence has been a necessity in human evolution and if we therefore should embrace emergent technologies to engage with problems of sustainability and the city.


Music by Sonically Yours

The competition aside, if you’ve seen other visions of cities, augmented reality, and the future, we’d love to see them. And if you’re an architect, planner, researcher — all the more so.