To New Horizons (1940)

To New Horizons–a short film produced by Handy (Jam) Organization and sponsored by General Motors–paints the picture of a utopian autocentric future seen as the result of constant pioneering progress. A couple of days ago, author David Levinson wrote about some potential futures that we might see a few decades out from today. In 1940, To New Horizons was what General Motors wanted to see  20 years later in the “wonder world of 1960.” This vision includes a lot of cars, of course, but also includes some familiar things to Minneapolis Saint Paul such as “separated land uses for greater efficiency and greater convenience” and “elevated sidewalks [that] give a new level of safety to pedestrians [while] doubling the actual available width for traffic in the street.”

Please take 20 minutes to take in this film and then share your thoughts and reactions in the comments below.

Matty Lang

About Matty Lang

Matty Lang has been interested in land use, transportation, and cities since he fell in love with Paris, France while studying there in 1998-1999. He is a filmmaker living in Minneapolis. He loves film, bicycling, and basketball. Follow him: Vimeo | @MattyLangMSP | Facebook

2 thoughts on “To New Horizons (1940)

  1. Steve Harper

    Optimistic. Almost unbelievably so. But, seeing as the country was coming out of the depression, and the changes that technology had made in the previous fifty years, I can see where they thought everything could be made to work out fine.

    I caught the lie about separating industrial, residential, ad commercial areas. That has been done, and is one of the reasons it is often difficult to walk or bike to get anywhere. I also caught the line about using the road construction to clear the slums. Thing is, the slum doesn’t go away. It just moves a little bit down the road.

  2. Steve Gjerdingen

    It’s incredible to see the absence of parking lots in most of these videos. The farm areas with 7 lane one way highways moving past them look very green. The whole video looks unexpectedly green despite the industrialization and commercialization going on in the background that is required to make these changes and create this amount of traffic demand.

    Speaking of green, did anyone think about how elevated pedestrian walkways in a city would automatically mean no opportunities for soil and a true green space? I suppose back then concrete everywhere wasn’t as tiring to look at?

    The bicyclist seems to be absent from all scenery in this film and it’s easy to see why. They don’t really have a place below in the automobile sewer or in the elevated pedestrian walkways.

    Stack interchanges appear throughout the film but are still incredibly expensive to build nowadays, thus we see few of them. We also see major stack interchanges in urban areas with buildings built up very close to them, but this is also something that is missing in reality. It’s difficult to plan freeway growth and urban space maximization in close proximity to each other.

    One big theme I see throughout the film is the idea of us making the world a better place via technology. That only goes so far. Technology doesn’t easily change human behavior, and when it does, sometimes it makes it worse.

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