This is the way the world ends: not with a bang but a bronchial spasm. That is, at least, according to William Delisle Hay’s 1880 novella The Doom of the Great City. It imagines the entire population of London choked to death under a soot-filled fog. The story is told by the event’s lone survivor sixty years later as he recalls “the greatest calamity that perhaps this earth has ever witnessed” at what was, for Hay’s first readers, the distant future date of 1942. -- Brett Beasley in the Public Domain review on one of the first modern urban apocalypse stories.
Lets Swim To Work! "Centuries of boat traffic, heavy industry, sewage runoff and toxic dumping have ingrained in us the idea that urban waterways are not places for people. Even as cities have rushed to the water’s edge over the past couple of decades, building elaborate waterfront parks and esplanades, few have taken the next logical step: encouraging residents to dive in." [more inside]
"Thanks largely to smartphones, this is probably the best time ever to live in a packed city... Steve Jobs was a lifelong suburbanite, but it turns out he perfected the city." [google cache for those getting a log-in page.]
In the frantic pace of modern life, it is often easy to forget what life was once like for those who built the world we now live in. More from Bishopsgate library here and the Institute itself is worth a poke around
Urban explorers surreptitiously gain access to the Post Office Railway underneath London, take lots of photos.
Uneven Terrain is a series of short documentaries about urban exploration, about 10-15 minutes long each. There are six so far, about monumental ruins in New York, Centralia, the Pennsylvania town where an underground coalseam has been on fire since the 1960s, abandoned missile silos in the US and how they're being turned into homes, oil drilling in Los Angeles, the Teufelberg listening station and the abandoned bunkers under Tempelhof Airport in Berlin and pirate radio in London and on the old Redsand sea forts. Each short doc has a different presenter. All have accompanying photo galleries. [These are produced for the bootmaker Palladium, but it's pretty low-key]
Abandoned London is a Flickr set by photographer IanVisits of London on Christmas morning when the city is (almost) denuded of people. Very disorienting if you've been to London (or any major city, really). I got this via William Gibson's blog and I'll let him describe it in his inimitable way: "Christmas, particularly in the early morning, has always seemed so much more liminal to me than New Year's eve. Spectral, deeply in-between [...] something about the way in which traffic, pedestrian and vehicular, controls one's depth of field, fragmenting and animating the experience."
One minute and four seconds in London, 1904. Birkbeck College professor Ian Christie rediscovered this footage in an archive in Canberra, shot for a travelogue by film pioneer Charles Urban.