How do you design a city of the future?

At the start of Universe Gun, I’d set myself this task, in fact I had to design three distinct future cities. I started off enlisting Ms. Amazing’s help – specifically I Googled “Amazing Architecture”. Try it – you’ll find something like this.

New Mumbai

I’d had the idea for this neo-Indian Martian colony in my head for some time, and needed to bring it to life. I’d imagined starting with a perspective shot of Princess Amtora playing tennis with herself in an equivalent to the real sky-court in Dubai. This establishing image would include a foreground of the first main character, illustrate that there are two of her, and provide a great way to show the city in the background. It ended up a little bit less dizzying than I’d first intended for the sake of clarity. Roger Dean was another influence – this city should look the most alien out of the three. Low gravity, advanced materials and a super-intelligent populace make a very vertical city of mushroom like towers quite plausible.

I also wanted to capture the fussiness of Indian architecture and art, the decorative borders and curlicues. I ended up with this equation here.


This is the first of two Earth cities, which exist to demonstrate a North-South divide of wealth inequality. Imagine them as the North of England and London if you want, but they’re intentionally vague enough that they could be placed anywhere on Earth. Bradchester’s a bit of a dump – everything should look a bit old and crappy, as part of the visual tradition established in Bladerunner. I’d originally been tormented in my mind’s eye by images of huge piles of cube habitats, inspired by Seth Fisher’s insanely detailed comic work. These ended up once more a lot less dizzying and more grounded to be able to use them as a space to tell the story. I’d always liked Mike McMahon’s vision of Mega City in Judge Dredd – dumpy, concrete, but with hints of plant life.

The backgrounds during the daytime shots were inspired in part by the Melbourne skyline along the Yarra river. Melbourne is Adelaide’s bigger more urban neighbour, and when I go there I spend a fair amount of time just checking out the buildings and thinking “Yep, that’s a real city!” The building with the gold boxy frame around its second layer is definitely inspired by memories of some Melbournian edifice. The building inside a bell jar was inspired by some vague memory of a comic strip with Big ben in a bell jar in the future. It sounds like the sort of thing you’d see in 2000AD, but I really can’t place it.

Anyway, Bradchester’s meant to look alright, but not great. It’s not a terrible place to live, even in a metre cube tesseract box, but really not all that the 37th C could be. The world of Universe Gun isn’t dystopian, just a bit diminished by QMAC’s repressive regime.

Paradise City

As the name implies, this is a bit nicer, and ended up as the target for most of the images from the “Amazing Architecture” Google search. I thought it should look like a clean utopian future city – rounded corners, plastic and glass, with elegant solar and wind power structures. I came across Milan’s designs for the Boscoe Verticale – a “vertical forest” skyscraper with its own ecosystem and plant life, and snapped it up. I even took a few photos of Adelaide, the beautiful clean city I call home.

The rounded corner rectangle beloved by Apple is perfect in so many ways, its clean and futuristic, but also a strong part of the 70’s sci-fi aesthetic as seen in Logan’s Run. The visual difference between Bradchester and Paradise City can be summed up with the main character’s in Pixar’s Wall-E. Bradchester is Wall-E (old clunky and fucntional), Paradise City is Eve (sleek and modern).

That’s enough about my fictional cities for now. Go and have a look at these pictures of Turkmenistan from IO9, and try to tell me that they aren’t crying out to be used as the template for a future city!

See you in seven, citizens of strange skyscrapers! Dr Mike 2000, 15 Jun 2014