Cars and architecture have been our best tools. Skyscrapers would’ve never been possible if it weren’t for elevators, but cars were actually the key players who nurtured megacities such as Shanghai, New York, or Seoul. The intertwined web of the city cannot happen without the help of cars, so architects always have to take them into account when they want to design a new building, or, a city.
This connection and bond will become much more intimate in Smart Cities that house artificial intelligence, big data, and autonomous cars. This is why Hyundai showcased the Smart House concept and the company’s future mobility strategy – to give a glimpse to the future city. But first, let’s take a look at the history between the architecture and automobiles.
The Architects who put cars and cities together
In the preface of ‘Towards A New Architecture’ published in 1923 by Le Corbusier, a legendary architect and a city planner, he said the vehicles will become our everyday machine. And he expounded his views on the architecture of the future, showing pictures of the Parthenon and a car together. He also pointed out that airplanes, vessels, and cars will become an essential element of the new era.
Influenced by the linear city ideas of Arturo Soria y Mata released in 1882, he formulated a new vision of the ideal city. It represented a utopian dream to reunite man within a well-ordered environment, a town planning proposal for Algiers. This new linear city was based upon the abstract shape. The design maintained the idea of high-rise housing blocks and free circulation – the pavillions had freeways on their roofs. Though unrealized because of wars and other major issues, he, later on, undertook the design and construction of the Unité d’Habitation in Marseilles.
Architects were not the only ones who dared to design a new city comprising of transportation. In the old sci-fi movie ‘Metropolis’ released in 1927, the New Babel Tower is the huge centerpiece of the gigantic metropolis and the countless number of vehicles and aircraft are flowing in the air like fireflies. This was the city in 2026 the director Fritz Lang imagined back then.
‘Broadacre City: A New Community Plan’ was an urban or suburban development concept proposed by Frank Lloyd Wright in 1935. Broadacre City was the newly born suburbia – the antithesis of a city, shaped through Wright’s particular vision. He questioned the domination of megacities and tried to picture what the new cities would look like.
In a sense, Broadacre City is the exact opposite of a concentrated city. Using the power of automobiles and communication technologies, it minimizes the amount of residential and business space. It also shares scientific breakthroughs for ‘the greater good’.
There are a train station and a few office and apartment buildings in Broadacre City, but the apartment dwellers are expected to be a small minority.
What is notable is that all important transport is done by a few layers of highways where monorails, trucks, and cars run at high speed, and the pedestrian can exist safely only within the confines of the one-acre plots where most of the population dwells. Wright thought automobiles could bring such a revolutionary city into life.
“No person will walk where automobiles move, and no car can encroach on the area sacred to the pedestrian,” is how British architect Geoffrey Alan Jellicoe described when he pointed out we should separate pedestrians from the traffic in his town of the future.
About 17 miles west of London, Motopia was a bold plan for a city announced back in 1960 with an estimated cost of about $170 million. It is a compound word of ‘Motor Car’ and ‘Utopia’. The town was supposed to house 30,000 residents, all living in a grid-pattern of buildings with rooftop freeways. There would be schools, shops, restaurants, churches, and theaters all resting in a small city.
Transportation: Closer together
Japanese architect Kiyonori Kikutake proposed Stratiform Structure Module in 1972. The module featured individual houses with a terrace that can be plugged into a giant A-frame structure. Inside the module lies infrastructure for public transportation such as freeways, railroads, and commercial districts. Though unrealized, the Japanese government, willing to sponsor potential solutions to Japan’s shortage of land and housing, sponsored the idea.
The idea of having mobility within our reach changed the way we use our cars – they now have become artworks, symbolizing various social or artistic values. Hyundai Motorstudio Seoul at Dosan Park intersection is a good example. The building adds a nice touch for the more enjoyable city, featuring cars hanging from the ceiling.
1111 Lincoln Road is a parking garage in the South Beach section of Miami Beach, Florida, designed by the internationally known Swiss architectural firm of Herzog & de Meuron. It is an open-air structure with no exterior walls constructed around buttresses. The parking garage features retail space right next to the parking space at each level, and visitors can enjoy the view anywhere in the building. This building successfully tackled the stereotype that ‘parking garages are lowly and grim’.
Cars change; and so do cities
In the future where artificial intelligence and autonomous driving technologies are so common, our lives will change. So far we were surrounded by the spatial limits that vehicles and buildings had. We could not just move a building that is stuck on the ground, and we could not move a car unless we drive it. The fourth revolution, however, will smash all the limits and enable us to do so many things.
Hyundai aims to connect the dots. It will become a bridge not only between mobilities but also between buildings and mobilities. Your study can be connected to mobility to make a small library, and each portable clinic can be combined to make a general hospital. And that would be when we become the future nomad free from space constraints.
Thanks to the development of the automobile industry and vehicle infrastructures, our cities became bigger more complex than ever. And with the help of future vehicles and mobilities, cities will soon be nowhere to be found, still making our lives convenient – just like the Broadacre City that Wright dreamed in 1935.
Words. Jo Jinman, Architect
Public architect of the Seoul Metropolitan Government; Adjunct professor at Hanyang University in Seoul. National Young Architect Award 2015 from Ministry of Culture, South Korea; Kim Swoogeun Prize 2015 from Kim Swoogeun Cultural Foundation; Korea Public Building Prize 2016 from Ministry of Land and Infrastructure; Korea Progressive Architect Awards 2017 from Ministry of Land and Infrastructure; Seoul Architecture Award 2018 from Seoul Metropolitan Government; World Architecture Award 2019 from World Architecture Community; Design Vanguard Award 2019 from Architectural Record, U.S.