A Daily History of Holes, Dots, Lines, Science, History, Math, the Unintentional Absurd & Nothing |1.6 million words, 7000 images, 3.6 million hits| Press & appearances in The Times, The Paris Review, Le Figaro, MENSA, The Economist, The Guardian, Discovery News, Slate, Le Monde, Sci American Blogs, Le Point, and many other places... 3,000+ total posts
"Walker Evans climbed to the roof of the Fisk Building on Central Park South to photograph the web of steel struts and electric signs that were rapidly filling the skies over Manhattan. The electric signs in this photograph alternately flashed the company's name and the names of its two principal products. As there were approximately a hundred million wheels rolling over America's roads in 1928, the sale of tires quickly overtook that of rubber galoshes. The image expresses Evans' conviction that modern art could be timeless yet topical when perfectly wrought of vernacular materials."--Metropolitan Museum of Art
This is one in a series of posts made on found geometries--here are a few others:
This is an image of an engineered redemption, found in the mist of Placquemines Parish, Louisiana, in 1939. There is no doubt in my mind that the author, Mr. E. Riche, was done with running from whatever it was that was chasing him--printing his truth would no doubt cut it down. "I am wrong arrested" Mr. Riche says, and wants "help from the public eye".
Oh my g_d. If this isn't a Mr. Cash song, I don't know what is.
This is a photograph of fantastic humanity, of a person witnessing for themselves, stating their beleift, defending their honor, exploring the present, and staking a very visual land claim in reality. And then--with all that said, all of this person's dignity and belief displayed for everyone to see--the author lives in the sign he or she created. It is as though someone has engineered a three-dimensional public-philosophical house in which to live, and then actually lives there.
As a testament to a simple call to fairness and justice, this image is an extraordinary and powerful reminder to the power of spirit. For some reason I can feel this person's letter down to the cellular level.
I was very happy to find a full-text and nicely-navigable copy of this classic work online. Giorlamo Francini's Le Cose maravigliose dell'alma citta di Roma, anfiteatro del mondo : con le chiese, et antichita rapresentate in disegno / da Girolamo Francino ; con l'aggiunta del dottor Prospero Parisio (In Roma : Ad instanza di Gio. Antonio Franzini, & herede di Girolamo Franzini) was printed in 1600 and is considered an iconic work on travel writing, as well as one of the first sophisticated/modern "guide books" to the city of Rome. It was pocket-sized, and contained all manner of information about buildings and artists--useful info, if you had never been to the city before. It was also a distinct difference from books intended to the pilgrim; this book was definitely looking for a popular, general readership, looking to benefit in their stay in Rome by having a literary, artistic, and architectural key to the city.
The illustrations are charming and lovely--even though small (less than two inches square), they provide just enough detail for you to unmistakeably identify the principle structures. The full text (with illustrations) is located here.
Theodore Andrea Cook wrote a lovely book called The Curves of Life, published by the admirable firm of Constable and Company in London in 1914, a book which is filled with all manner of marvels of insight in finding curves in natural and created situation. (I wrote a little about the book in an earlier post about stairs, here.) The beauty of spirals found in fero-concrete, geometries of Minoan clay seals, the beauty of the human laminae of cochlea of interval, the colon of the Dogfish, Maori war canoes, and so on, were all subject matter ripe for the discriminant picking of Mr. Cook as he explored the depths of curves.
One thing that perhaps escaped his grasp--at least in this book--was the curve in the costume of Baroque women oif semi-high (or at least non-ordinary) standing. As I've seen a number of times in some illustrated books, the trend towards the curvilinear is absoutely outstanding. The example that I came across tonight is an excellent example. Of course there was no great need to supply interesting bits of social life in these engravings of famous architectural achievenents outside of supplying a human scale to the structures, but as if often the case the artist (or engraver) went a little further than was really demanded by the artistic "needs" of the image and provided some interesting and at times very unexpected glimpes into somewhat-common street life
This image comes from Regles des cinq ordres d'architecture de Jacques Barozzio de Vignolle, which was originally written by Vignolla (1507-1573) in 1560. and published in 1680 or so. The engraving of our interest here is "Elevation du Portail de la Cathedrale de St. Paul de Londres", and the main part of that is the 1% in the bottom quarter, showing a very roundish dress.
An outstanding curve of high fashion, not seen in the Cook book.
This also reminds me a little of bombing fashinistas in an earlier post I wrote (here), showing parachuting (though they look a little like bombs) on this 1904 image.
There is, buried deep within this engraving, a small but penetrating snapshot of working life in very early 19th century England. Very working life. We'll get to that in a moment, after introductions are made to the brilliant composer of these images.
J.G. Heck wrote and compiled a fascinating and complex work entitled The Iconographic Encyclopedia of Science, Literature and Art, and was published in America for the first time in 1851 following Spencer Baird’s translation from its original German.
The key to his work is the amount of data displayed on each of the 500 engraved plates illustrating this work and the way in which it is arranged. The design and layout of the 30,000 items on these 500 plates was a work of genius, and for my money it is easily the best-presented complex means of the display of data and objects that was published in the 19th century.
Take for example this illustration in the technology section (a subdivision of the applied arts which is a sub division of the plastic arts) and, continuing in this complicated scheme, was Plate 1 from Section X Number A1 with a description found in the text on a dozen pages in Section 2 of Volume 2 on section pages 134-150 and overall page numbers 835-851 (!). The plate contains 35 figures, very finely executed and rendered (many of the other of the 500 plates have 100 or more figures), and is in general related to the construction of roads and tunnels (and further, part of the “communications” section).
This of course would be a perfect Hypertext candidate.
The illustration itself contains an enormous amount of information. The row along the top third or so is dedicated to street construction and paving stone, showing stones in plan and profile, as well as a cross section and ground plan of a “typical” street (including sidewalks). It is interesting to note the detail of the cross section and the stonework that is placed beneath the horse and wagon section of the street. There are some other beauties here as well--details of wooden paving blocks, the plan for a Laves of Hanover road, different ways of cutting stone blocks—but we won’t deal with those right now, except to point out that there are several renderings of street cleaners and road rollers (of Shettenmann and another of Schaefer) used to border the street section from the tunnel section.
The middle section of the engraving is of course a cross section of the Thames tunnel of the beautifully-named Isambard Kingdom Brunel (begun in 1825 and completed 1843, the tunnel 35 feet wide (11 m), 20 feet (6 m) high and 1,300 feet (396 m) long, running between Wapping and Rotherhithe at a depth of 75 feet (23 m)). The representation here is only one inch high and ten inches long but is loaded with just fabulous detail, no the least of which are the (less than) 1mm tall workmen that can still be seen in the tunnel. The enlarged detail shows a section of the tunnel being built according to Brunel’s new specifications: a larger, shielded tunnel being constructed around the interior construction of 12 individual tunnels (each about tall enough to allow a (short) man to stand erect.
It is unneccessary to say how difficult this work must have been. Cramped, dirty, dark, stale-aired, and dangerous, this was the very definition of a compromised working environment.
In short, the engraving is a superb example of *correct* design of great artistic ability, all accomplished while displayed heaps and gobs of interconnected, complex information.
[I've written earlier on a related and very bad idea, Atomurbia, for atom-bomb-proofing American cities, here.]
Reading Nicholson Baker's Human SmokeI found a set of very unflattering and semi-unbelievable quotes from the unpretty Frank Lloyd Wright. Present at a MoMA exhibition he was sharing with D.W. Griffith (detailed in the publication Two Great Americans published by the museum in 1940), Wright chose the background of the Battle of Britain, in which German bombs were falling on English cities killing thousands, to promote his city design idea of Broadacre (among other things).
In development since 1932 (appearing in his book The Disappearing City) and kept on until his death in 1959, Wright's idea for city /suburban development spread a "city" ti its limits, nearly stripping it of its citiness and expanding it towards the horizon in a wide and low wave of a complete suburbia. With this, Wright must have reasoned, Broadacre City must have seemed "bomb-proof" compared to the normal concept of the city, and decided to make the best of a horrible situation to promote his idea.
And with this, he was quoted in November 1940 in the New York Times, saying:
"I would not say that the bombing of Europe is not a blessing, because at least it will give the architects there a chance to start all over again"
To say that this was an idea best left to the imagination rather than in the pages of the Paper of Record goes without saying.
And what of the architects whose buildings were lost during the Blitz? Say, like Christopher Wren?
"I don't think that anyone will miss Wren's work very much" (This, and the quote above, found in Baker, page 248.)
I've had a problem with Wright for a long time, but had never bumped into this part of his thinking before.
[Wright's wrongs on the Bombing of Britain are also recorded in Peter Shedd Reed (ed), The Show to End All Shows: Frank Lloyd Wright and The Museum of Modern Art, 1940 (MoMA 2004, here), and here, in the Milwaukee Journal for 22 June 1941, and also in the News Chronicle of London in"How I would Rebuild London"]
Auguste Perret, a modern master in the use and adaptation of reinforced concrete, drew this fantastic skeleton representation of his "Theatre des Champs Elysees" (1913)--it was the great stuff that held the building together, minus the walls and everything else that makes a building a building, and a revolutionary approach in modern construction. It reminds me strongly of this image
which is a remarkable illustration of the strength of the new approach to materials in architecture--cast iron--from a 16-page pamphlet by the inventor, architect and cast iron pioneer James Bogardus (1800-1874, Cast Iron Buildings, their Construction and Advantages, 1856 and 1858 second edition).
The history of concrete in itself is pretty interesting and of tremendous antiquity, dating as a very useful and extraordinarily sound material at least to the Roman times. The Peter Greenaway love affair (in his film "The Belly of an Architect") with Agrippa's Pantheon is one of concrete--the building stands today still of course, made of concrete, its dome still the largest un-reinforced concrete dome in the world.
These images "Traffic on Three Levels; Solving Street Congestion" from the Illustrated London News (15 August 1925) struck me as something much more--or much less?--than their appeal to urban design. I think that it is very difficult to look at these images and not see them from the top, down. Even by the time you get to the fourth image at bottom right, the design still pulls attracts your eye to the top of the image and away from the traffic scene below.
They seem to have that sense of abstract art, achieving a type of geometry and disorientation, both at the same time, pulling you into the work and de-arranging it at teh same time. And that to me makes it highly artful, if unintentional. They are sort of hallucinating--I know that is a bit of a stretch--but their confusion of the expected with this sort of misty, unknown atmosphere, has a sense of Rene Magritte to them had he worked his magic in geometrical blocks.
Its easy to assume a modern prejudice regarding the interior decoration of 1910-1940 school rooms, allowing a certain conceit and picturing them in shades of gray, the images formed being "colored" by the images of those things that we have seen, almost all of which have turned up in black-and-white photographs or movies. But of course we know that this can't be true, and that Humphrey Bogart didn't always wear a gray worsted in his movies, and didn't move that gray suit through gray rooms. Its just that the image-formation is influenced by what we've seen, and since what we've seen of these rooms is mostly without color, then our images are difficult to assemble outside black-and-white. This applies to just about everything from that era, which explains why it is such a glorious shock to see motion pictures or photographs of (say) New York City street scenes from 1944. (And why is it such a jolt to the visual system to learn that police cars in Chicago during the 1933 World's Fair were orange?)
This is an interesting and somewhat reserve view of the future of Manhattan, as seen from the pre-Centenniel eye of 1875, showing Trinity Church bookended by high-rise structures:
[Source: Harper's Weekly, via the New York Public Library Digital Collection, here.]
It would have been difficult to imagine structures of any greater height here in pre-elevator (and pre-elevator/Westinghouse brakes) and early post-iron-structure days than the spire of Trinity Church. This Trinity (the third and current occupiers of an old spot at 79 Broadway, the first of the Trinitys going up in 1698 with the help of he block and tackle of Capt. William Kidd, privateer/probably-not-pirate) was the tallest building in Manhattan when it was built in 1846 (at 281' to the tip of the spire), and remained so the tallest until the construction of the New York World Building (305') in 1890. (The World building was torn down in 1955 to make room for another on-ramp for the Brooklyn Bridge.) So when this image was published it was still another 15 years away from anything being taller than the Trinity tower, which meant it was a pretty fair leap of faith to assume department stores crowding out the church's airspace back in 1875.
It is a pretty good approximation of what actually happened, though the canyonesque feel for development is more on Wall Street than it was here contiguous to the church grounds, though almost no one could imagine the dense high-rise growth that is there today:
There are many more colorful approximations of what might happen in Manhattan, one of which I've included below, showing the full and complete development of downtown, with trains leading away from the city right through the Statue of Liberty. This peep into a possible future appeared in Harper's Weekly on 18 May 1887. It is the work of artist W.A. Rogers and depicts a filling-up lower Manhattan, complete with broad avenues lined by elevated trains whose reach evidently knows no bounds. The new elevated subway winds its way across the harbor to Liberty Island, where it wraps itself around the feet and up the body of the newly--dedicated Statue of Liberty (opened in October of the previous year). In the foreground is the cupola of a transit station with a fluttering flag advertising "Coney Island via Broadway"--I'm not sure what this is all about, as the placement of the island has nothing to do with anything except making a point in the cartoon.
It is interesting to see though that the Trinity spire is still very visible.
In the History of Holes there exits a subcategory among many others that addresses holes in buildings and their filling-up. The "holes" of course must be openings for windows, and the filled-in bit are the windows themselves.
The great American architect Louis Sullivan designed a number of bank buildings large-on-the-small--really, quite small for banks--but outfitted them with some spectacular detail, some of which were the windows, and some of which worked. The size and scope of his (1914) Merchants National Bank, in Grinnell, Iowa, building is wonderful, though I've got to say that the enormous window in the facade and the crenulated baroque cartouche is really quite too much. I don't know where it all came from, but it seems as though it is from some other--much larger--building. The idea seems to work though on some of he other buildings in this "series" of small-but-involved bank buildings--his "Jewel Boxes"--and particularly with larger, half-circular windows, but not I think with his pinhole camera ocular god effort here.
(There's plenty of time to discuss windows and holes and such outside of the work of Louis Sullivan's (1856-1924) "jewel boxes", and I can hardly wait to have a look at Edward Lutyen's (1869-1944) proposal for the massive neo-gothic Liverpool Anglican Cathedral, above, where the windows are most uncompromising, but that will keep for later. Don't look now, but that would have been the world's largest dome).
And some of the other Sullivan minor miracles, his "Jewel Boxes", can be seen below as they exist today. This first example, The Peoples Savings Bank in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, was built in 1911. If you squint your eyes a bit you can see what this building was meant to be, though today it lives in a case of urban bits of blight and a massive block of a building that seems to be pushing the poor Sullivan building into the street.
The rolling house of the future (offered in the September, 1934 issue of Everyday Science and Mechanics) promised at least one thing--the ability to be towed by a tractor. (And seeing that the thing is being pulled along by chains, let's make sure that there's no downhill towing, yes?)
The spherical houses seemed to come with their own railroad tracks for easier motion--a continuously self-laying track, which would make the new American suburbs a Suburbia Mobilia. Cheap cars, cheap houses, and a Great Depression might have made for a picture of the future that was very self-sustaining. On the other hand, the one thing that would not have been in the gunsights of the American manufacturing center is the size of the houses, which seem to me to be on the order of 500 square feet or so, which does not make for a lot of room to store all of the consumables that were waiting just around the next decade or so, waiting for the first real generation with a large amount of disposable income to loosen on all manner of never-to-be-purchased-before-by-the-working-classes consumers. In this respect I am sure that these small buckets for human life would seem unacceptable, leaving little room for purchases.
It does remind me of wholesale town-moving, but from the past--real-life stuff, things that happened. Like here, for example, in Ochiltree, Texas, 20 October 1920. This was a rare occurrence--to move a town--though it is hardly unique, particularly if moving the town closer to a railroad line that had decided to pass it by meant the difference between life and death of the town, then, well I guess you moved the town if you could. Cemeteries included, sometimes; and sometimes not.
A memory of another image of a futuristic future house of the future pulled my recent memory to a volume of Popular Mechanics for 1931, the August issue, featuring a "Home of the Future" speculation--this one was also small, but far less mobile, being constructed of metal and glass; and from what I can see, the common home's exterior walls were mostly glass.
It looks like a small place--I'm not sure that the car would actually fit in the glass garage. And it doesn't look all that comfortable, either, especially in regard to having no walls for bookcases. (A wall of shelving for a collection of Kindles?) There *is* a "skylight over the"library", but it looks like the library isn't more than a half case of books. But perhaps in the future we are all entering a world where something is whatever we call it. Oh, yes, I think that part of the future has already arrived in 2012, and I doubt seriously that the folks writing this article for a popular audience had anything more than a droll popularity in mind in their authorship. In any event, this future house wasn't mobile, was small, and looked pretty uncomfortable. And I also bet that the roof gave them problems up there in Futurlandia.
Frederick Kiesler (Director of the Laboratory of Design-Correlation, Columbia (University) School of Architecture) has been called one of America's most influential non-building architects of the 20th century for his influence on a generation of modern thinkers and builders. In a rare pamphlet--an offprint, actually-- called "Architecture as Biotechnique", which was a separate printing of an article Kiesler wrote for the Architectural Record in 1939 (and printed in 1940, and appearing under the interior title of "Design Trends"), there is a very enticing peep into the future. Kiesler was looking at ways of making his architecture more "organic", more in touch with the people who would live inside the building, a radical thinker on the design of living space, and wrote about these ideas in a longer piece called Endless House in which he explained his "design-correlations" in 1937. [The original i salso available for purchase via our blog bookstore, here.]
[The cover of the Architectural Record article, which I find to be, well, highly unusual.]
His descriptions of his work escape me some, making me feel as though I've started the article in the middle, when in fact I'm just starting--mainly because of some unfamiliar usages of common words that have been redesigned by the author to mean something else or more...plus the deeply theoretically architectural stuff. But the article starts with his study of the genetics of architecture and building design, and finishes with eight pages or so on the design for a differently-functioning piece of everyday house interaction--the bookshelves of a library.
It is in the section on the library that Kiesler includes a "Metabolism-Chart of Mobile-Home-Library" (and by this he's talking about a movable library within the home and not a library for a mobile home), the bottom part of which shows the evolution of the way in which information is presented in the library. The "cultural nucleus" or the way in which the data is presented and the way the presented obecjt is stored, and starts with the scroll in 2000 BC (with pigeon-hole storing), then the bound volume (stored on shelves, 1445 AD), then the the microfilm (stored by "filing", in 1937-1950 AD), all of which are leading up to "opto-phonetics", stored in photo-cell-unit(s), in 2000 AD. The evolutionary part in all of this is the increase in concentration/direction, an ease in visual and manual efforts, as well as easing "torsal" ("bending, leaning, rising, turning") and "pedal" efforts (walking, moving, standing), making the acquisition and control of the data in the library over time.
Now Kieser doesn't actually decribe (here, anyway) what he means by photocell-driven opto-electronic information device, but in 1939/40, when this piece was written,, most of what this machien might be was left to the creative imagination--but the fact that Kiesler has come to this at all with the year 2000 as a probable time for its arrival is fairly remarkable.
It is also interesting to see Kiesler's forensic analysis of the range of human motion regarding the selection of books from shelves (and using a Vesalius image for his 5'6" person):
"The term "biotechnique" appeared first in my treaties on "Town Planning" as "Vitalbau", in De Stijl, No. 10/11, Paris 1925 and in America first in Hound and Horn, May 1934."--Kiesler, from his introduction.
"Introjection and Projection, Frederick Kiesler and his Dream Machine", an interesting read, by Stephen Phillips, in Architecture and Surrealism, by Thomas Mical.
The "working poor" of England may have been half of that--working, that is, and hard at work, though not being paid even enough to be considered poor. Their story has been told in many ways, of course, the backbone of the Industrial Revolution succeeding on their bones, observed and recorded and shared by Charles Dickens and others, and on and on, told elsewhere in brevity and quick detail better than I can do so here.
I did want to make a quick comment about a very small detail in the state of those poor people, found in Charles Kingsley's Cheap Clothes and Nasty, printed in 1850. It is quite a documentarian's tour of the plight of the poor, written by a very able observer. (Kingsley is a very interesting person--an historian, priest in the Church of England, social commentator, and novelist. As a matter of fact he was exceptionally prolific, producing during his lifetime (1819-1875) a fine long list of accomplishment, three of which have survived to this day as sorts of minor classics. But what he did with great regularity was publish books--34 of them in 25 years between 1850 and 1875, including 15 during the decade of the 1850's, 11 in the 1860's, and 8 in the 1870's to his death in 1875. Perhaps as important as all of that was the role he played in the arrival of C. Darwin's On the Origin of Species..., as Kingsley wrote one of the earliest reviews of the book and defended it strongly.)
But getting back to the poor, Kingsley made a very strong case for the poor being less so than that, as we see here:
"Folks are getting somewhat tired of the old rodomontade that a slave is free the moment he sets foot on British soil! Stuff! - are these tailors free? Put any conceivable sense you will on the word, and then say - are they free? We have, thank God, emancipated the black slaves; it would seem a not inconsistent sequel to that act to set about emancipating these white ones.Oh! we forgot; there is an infinite difference between the two cases - the black slaves worked for our colonies; the white slaves work for us. But, indeed, if, as some preach, self interest is the mainspring of all human action, it is difficult to see who will step forward to emancipate the said white slaves; for all classes seem to consider it equally their interest to keep them as they are; all classes, though by their own confession they are ashamed, are yet not afraid to profit by the system which keeps them down..."--Charles Kingsley, Clothes, Cheap and Nasty, 1850
Kingsley continues on with the stuff of research, uncommonly sharing the lot of what a vast section of English society experienced daily though mostly in silence.
Another excruciating and interesting report was made by George Godwin in his London Shadows, a glance at the "homes" of the thousands of 1854 (the whole work found on the wonderful Victorian London blog, here and about which I posted about here).
Godwin--an influential architect and editor of the very influential The Builder as well as a social reformer, who lived from 1813-1888) wrote an expose of how so many Londoners lived at the middle of the century. It is also illustrated with woodcuts of the places in which people lives--artwork in wood and ink that have a very definite quality of the unforgiving cameras of Life magazine a century later. The images are awakening and abrupt--all the bitter observation of George Orwell, only told much more quickly, like a person trying to describe a raging house fire before the thing burned itself out. Its a powerful work, and I can't help but think that those reading it in 1854 must have been appalled not only by the deep visualization of the state of the working poor, but also by its scope, and the possible revelation of England's basic bedrock.
Here is an example of Godwin's work, which includes observations on not only housing the poor, but clothing them as well, and published in the editorial pages of journal The Builder. He presents one aspect of their lot by discussing their clothing and its purchasing, bought for what the polite reading circles who would find The Builder to be almost for no money at all, though the few pennies spent on a pair of shoes or shirt were a major factor in the weekly ration of the working poor., particularly if they were making 5 or 10 pounds per year. It was an interesting way for Godwin to present to the non-poor what the other-half really had to live like, and perhaps by reaching out to the population that did the building-of-London he probably hoped to affect some sort of reform in the way in which the poor had to live and work. An example of the Godwin work:
"One of the London missionaries (a body whose valuable services can only be properly appreciated by those who understand the nature and extent of the evil to which we are directing attention) says:- "Persons who are accustomed to run up heavy bills at fashionable tailors' and milliners', will scarcely believe the sums for which the classes we are describing are able to purchase the same articles for their own rank in life." A missionary who recently explored Rag-fair, reported that a man and his wife might be clothed from head to foot for from 10s. to 15s. Another missionary stated that 8s. would buy every article of clothing required by either a man or a woman, singly. In Pennant's time it was less. He says (speaking of the other Rag-fair), that the dealer pointed out a man to him, and said: "Look at him. I have clothed him for fourteen-pence. A third missionary reported : "There is as great a variety of articles in pattern, and shape, and size, as I think could be found in any draper's shop in London." The mother may go to "Rag-fair" with the whole of her family, both boys and girls,- yes, and her husband, too, and for a very few shillings deck them out from top to toe. I have no doubt that for a man and his wife, and five or six children, £1 at their disposal, judiciously laid out, would purchase them all an entire change. This may appear to some an exaggeration: but I actually overheard a conversation in which two women were trying to bargain for a child's frock; the sum asked for it was 1½d. and the sum offered was a penny, and they parted on the difference..."
Welcome to Monopolis! "City of the future...imaginative immensity...disturbingly dynamic beauty..."
The moment I look at it Monopolis suggests another word: Multiopolis. Although the originators of the Mono- word weren't really suggesting plain vanilla wrappings for a one-size-fits-all existence, the more diversified-sounding Multi- at least sounds a little more enchanting and not so Orwellian. It is also a little odd that I can find nothing on "Multiopolis", not even in a popular Google search--and of course, having been printed in 1931, "Monopolis "can't be "Orwellian" since Mr. Blair had not yet written any books, least of all 1984, which wouldn't appear until the man was almost completely out of life. (Blair/Orwell wrote nine books in fifteen years, 1934-1949, and would die in January 1950.)
"Monopolis" certainly suggests a gritty sameness, a suffocating city of similarity with no central decency.
In this image (above), published in the Illustrated London News on 18 April 1931, Monopolis seems to live up to its promise in all aspects except for its name, which is actually pretty creative. The great building on the hill, the skyline in the mountain, all bauhaused-up with perhaps nowhere to go into the near-future, with really not that much, not too terribly much, to distinguish itself from a first-year architectural student's semi-dreamed-upon work, though for some reason an aqueduct does makes an appearance to spice things up.
In the end, though, Monopolis was a simple title for a continuing series of new-house/design shows in London--it hasn't much to do with anything, and was simply an interestingly-named bit for a bad advertising campaign.
I wonder about a collection of "Opoluses", like the Christianopolis of the Lutheran Christian Utopia, published by Johann Valentin Andreae, in Reipublicae Christianopolitanae descriptio... published in Strasburg by the heirs of Lazarus Zetzner, 1619. This is certainly among the most elegant of things ending with "-opolis", even though it does look like a prison. Or hospital. And no one would want to be in either in 1619.
There is a small town in Kansas called Opolis, a place of 54 houses and 117 people or so. It sounds like a perfectly nice bookend to places like Indianapolis and Minneapolis (and yes they're both "apolis" and not "opolis"), not to mention Hotdogopolis, Bike-opolis, Planned-opolis, and the fantastically-named Possible-opolis.