Indexing the World of Tomorrow


I wrote a new piece for Places on the aesthetics of administration and the urban imaginary. “Indexing the World of Tomorrow” focuses on the design of administration at the 1939 World’s Fair in New York, arguing that filing — efficient urban administration — was a central part of the Fair’s modernist, rational, efficient World of Tomorrow.

The World of Tomorrow, Leonard Wallock writes, “was the city’s perfected dream of itself.” It manifested desires for “scientific rationality, technological progress, modernist aesthetics, industrial design … consumer prosperity, and … corporate capitalism” in spatial form, via rational urban planning and progressive civil engineering, modernist architecture and sterilized suburbs. Just as important — though much less discussed — was the dream of efficient urban administration.

I’m deeply indebted to the archivists and curators at the New York Public Library and the Hagley Museum and Archive — particularly Thomas Lannon and Lucas Clawson.

I delivered an early version of this paper at ArtCenter College of Design in November (thanks to Anne Burdick for making this possible!); here are my voluminous slides.

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