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At the beginning of the 20th century the enormous economic, technological, and scientific progress caused great changes in the way in which human being produced their vision of the world. The Avant-Garde movement became one of those changes, as a reaction to the continuing instability and negativity produced during the first middle of the 20th century. The driving vision of this movement has changed the way society understands the realities of the past and present as well as the future.

According to Luque (2015), the origin of Futurism within the Avant-Garde movement was derived from the Italian artist and writer Filippo Tommaso Marinetti, who published the ‘Manifesto of Futurism” in the newspaper ‘Le Figaro ́ in 1909. This Manifesto proclaimed the celebration of advances in technology and science, exalting the construction of a new era. In addition, the Futurist Movement found itself in a deep discontent with the past and its tradition, eventually leading them to the attempt of starting the creation of an ideal future. The idea of Retro-Futurism could be defined as the movements that originated during the decade of the 1970s that focused their attention on the past, due to pessimistic views and expectations about the future. As a result, these movements tried to recover those futuristic concepts imagined previously. However, it is important to comprehend that the creation of Retro-Futurism does not praise or idealize these past futuristic ideas. The conception of Retro-Futurism assimilates these new interpretations of the future through the understanding of both the positive and negative features of the past concepts, which brings us to the present (Roselló, 2013). In contrast, with the popularization of science fiction during the early 20th century and its growing expansion over the subsequent decades, these types of concepts began to be used in very diverse areas, including architecture. The constant growth of this type of genre within literature, cinematography, or art and design had an enormous impact on how architecture exemplified the vision of the future recreated in the literary works and films of the past time. The space design of the 1950s and 1960s or the futuristic costumes from the cinematography after the decade of the 1970s are some of the examples of how during the last century, Retro-Futurism has become an indispensable tool for the understanding of the past vision of the future and its influence in the present.

The Meaning of Retro-Futurism

The concept of Retro-Futurism was formed through the union between two words, “retro” and “futuristic”, both directly related to the conception of time. As Roselló (2013) explains, in the first case, the word “retro” comes from Latin and, it refers to the act of imitate or reproduce objects from past times. On the other hand, even “futuristic” refers to a future context, due to the disappointment with present time, the idea of future is understood and created from a past perspective. Due to the influence of avant-garde magazines from the 1980s and 1990s, the American publisher Lloyd Dunn first introduced the term “Retro-Futurism” in 1983. Later, during the exhibition titled “Yesterday’s Tomorrows: Past Visions of an American Future” performed by the Smithsonian Institute in 1984, the concept of Retro-Futurism was further explained through a collection of popular images of the future. Although several decades have passed since the creation of this concept, there are still some difficulties in finding articles, books, or any other type of academic content that provide in-depth insights into the meaning and concept of Retro-Futurism. After analyzing the historical background of this concept and examining all its components, it will be easy to understand that the idea of futurism began as a way of breaking with the past and starting a new beginning. Futurism caused great changes in the way art is conceived and any other expression of it. This idea of futurism could remind of the concepts in the historical background, as a way to imagine or draw that perfect future.

Historical Background Theory of Retro-Futurism

Shamanism : During the start of humankind, the hostile environment generated a necessity for human beings, which were in a constant fight for survival. Due to this, shamanism became a part or tool that provide a vision of the future and new methods to survive. As Ochoa (2002) explains, this provided humans with the security to survive and gave them dreams and fantasies from which the first myths and legends were created. Through them, nature, their environment, their community, their past, or their future could be interpreted, idealized, and understood. Movements such as the Hippie Movement from the ’60s could be re-interpreted as a retro-futuristic view from shamanism, as Mora (2018) explains, through this movement young people sought pacifist and idealized vision of the world, where they reconnected with nature and, connect with the whole.

Primitivism : The idea of Primitivism in the Retro-Futuristic framework is highly related to movements from the Avant-Gardes as the Primitivism Movement from Russian Futurism. As Jared (2002) explains, Primitivism arises from the interest of modern artists for expressions related to the tribal or the primitive, expressions related to the wildness, commonly related to the outside frame of Western civilization. Primitivism in Russia encompassed the realization of local objects of primitive forms and a futuristic dynamism but based on tradition, in which simple and colorful forms stood out. Nevertheless, this futuristic movement could be also considered as Retro- Futurism, since primitive artists used the elements from archaic times to construct a new vision of the future.

Paradism : In contrast, the subsequent development of great civilizations and cultures during ancient history (Egyptians, Romans, Greeks, etc.) would bring great advances to humanity and above all, great development of the concept of time and space, developing more deeply all those ideas generated in the tradition of prehistoric cultures. Most of these cultures developed stories of life and death along with the paradise idealized by human beings since ancient times, which is closely related to our conception of time and space (Ochoa, 2002). In turn, through it, a futuristic image and aesthetic related to the passage to the next life is developed. In a way, we could consider that the eternal mystical idea of paradise and the idealized life of the beyond becomes a retro-futuristic conception since much of these idealizations of life after death contain that utopia based on nostalgia that is projected cyclically through the ages.

Utopism : Related to this, it is interesting to point out how the later futuristic visions that were created and promoted by the development of science during history, are constantly based on that paradism and ideal perception of the future, which are strongly related to the most spiritual part of the human being. As an example, the connection between science and spirituality from the Renaissance served as a base for the development of future interpretations and retro-futuristic forms, like those from space travel, moon landing, technological and military race during the ’50s. Besides, as Quesada (2001) states, throughout the last century the utopian visions within politics attempted to bring their visions of the future to reality, as in the case of Nazism and the Soviet Union, which incoherently created utopic visions of society from different times and spaces (nostalgia and nostalgia of the future) instead of from building it from present reality. Davidson (2019) explains that retro-futuristic ideas are also known as hopeful retro-futurism, and they could be considered as dangerous due to their relation with the creation of those utopias connected with issues as sexism, racism, lack of democracy, etc.

Besides, as Roselló (2013) states, the generation of new retro-futuristic ideas did extend the concept to new futuristic worlds and imaginary that persist until today. For example, during the ‘80s, new worlds were generated through negativist and apocalyptic images that led to cyberpunk, steampunk, and other similar concepts. Therefore, through the study of retro-futuristic aspects as images of the future related to the essence of human beings, nostalgia, their fantasies or dreams, utopic vision, believes, etc. it is possible to comprehend its essence and development during history. Moreover, the progressive development and connection of similar retro-futuristic ideas during the different historical visions of the future, show a great comprehension of the idealization of times and spaces that result in the generation of retro-futurism.


Retro Futuristic Architecture


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