Movie: The Transcendent City by Richard Hardy


The Transcendent City by Richard Hardy

Bartlett School of Architecture graduate Richard Hardy has shared with us his short film imagining an autonomous, artificially intelligent, sustainable city 

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The city would adapt to its natural environment and derive energy from available renewable resources.

The Transcendent City by Richard Hardy

In The Transcendent City, Hardy envisions a machine developed in response to society's inability to tackle environmental dangers.

The Transcendent City by Richard Hardy

The film's aim was to explore the idea that artificial intelligence is a necessity for the future of human evolution and supports his 10,000 word Masters thesis.

The Transcendent City by Richard Hardy

The animation was hand-drawn then digitally rendered, before being animated using techniques often found in Japanese anime.

The Transcendent City by Richard Hardy

Hardy is one-third of the We Are Om film collective.

The Transcendent City by Richard Hardy

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Here are more details from Hardy:

The concept of a future sustainable city is developed for a society that is currently not responding effectively to environmental dangers. "Transcendence" in this case referring to a point when artificial intelligence has reached or surpassed that of the human.

The Transcendent City by Richard Hardy

The Transcendent City is an autonomous artificial machine that extends across the earth adapting to the natural eco-systems it encounters while deriving its energy from the renewable resources available at each particular site. The systems desire is to maintain homeostasis within itself whilst maintaining homeostasis within the greater system, Gaia. Its processes are engineered on the molecular scale by nano technologies controlled by molecular computers that monitor and analyse the environment.

The Transcendent City by Richard Hardy

The film produced for my final year Masters in Architecture questions whether the conception of artificial intelligence has been a necessity in human evolution and if we therefore should embrace emergent technologies to engage with problems of sustainability and the city.

Music by Sonically Yours

See also:


Movie: Theoretical Block
by Áron Lõrincz
Movie: UK Pavilion by
Thomas Heatherwick
Movie: Marquise do Parque do Ibirapuera by Oscar Niemeyer

Posted on Saturday August 14th 2010 at 12:41 am by Brad Turner. Copyright policy | Comments policy

  • Stylish and visually intense. No doubt Mr. Hardy is a gifted person. Thank you. Great and imaginative presentation indeed.
    (Personally, for some reason I still prefer Lebbeus Woods graphics. Maybe it's an "old school", but some of his graphics were so amazing that back then I was literally affected physically by his nightmarish vision…)

  • RLKC

    I can only see the "artificial intelligence" but where is the "mankind" in this drawings? It is very beautiful, but will probably need the thesis to support.

    • soundagmata

      that's the thing! the absence of humans is a core here, i think
      humans are just inventors of artificial lifeform, which tends to a natural balance having no ego, temptation, power, etc.
      it's Utopia (taking in to consideration depicted harmony) and Anti-Utopia at the same time (we simply don't fit the system!)

  • grey goo

    Yeaaaah. This looks like a great city for single-celled bacteria, but having second thoughts on relocating since I don't see any people (perhaps they're being utilized as a renewable resource).

    I don't think it's really appropriate to invoke Gaia theory here, because what this resembles is something akin to a nanotechnology disaster scenario a la "grey goo".

    I mean, is the Bartlett an architecture school or an art school?

  • Andrew

    This concept is missing the fundamental element of cities – people! The images just seem like concept art for a video game or manga rather than any serious design excercise.

  • mvb

    Technic and hand-drawings are great, but he does not say HOW the city is sustainable. All the efforts were focused on visual and graphic skills, but it is not a proposal about HOW to design a sustainable city.
    Philosophers say WHAT
    Architects say HOW

  • fasp

    Very nice and abstract work! But where are the people :/ ?

  • diplo

    As with so many projects as the Bartlett, it looks very impressive, but you read the blurb that accompanies it and you've never heard such a meaningless platitude! Why not just say 'here's an impressive animation of an Isaac Asimov book cover from the seventies, I'm looking for a way out of architecture, can you offer me a job in a film studio?' That's all you need to say!

    • wpgmb

      agreed. pretty pictures are not architecture. simply another bartlett ego-fantasy.

  • Felix

    pretty, but i'm not sure how the video presents anything about artificial intelligence. it would have been nice to see how these buildings would be created and adapt themselves, and to see some people

  • duplo

    diplo is right on the money!
    i wonder if this guy realises this or ever will…

  • Ayham

    awful! I dont like the idea, you better use your skills in cartoon drawings, your whole concept is a nightmare.

  • ztef

    I’m agreeing with all off you. I looked at it and all i can think off as being a designer is, how does all of these things function? Why are the things shaped as they are and what does the city get out off it. Just like some off you say it’s unclear how it grows. These are just pretty pictures to a story for me. Okay i do get that its more about the question he is asking, but still, designing stuff in the end is a visual result.

  • adil

    yes, the visuals may be impressive but the claims and implications are very unclear…
    also, i fail to understand the 'aesthetic' of what so many people see as 'futuristic'

  • Richie

    I love the style of the images and he's clearly a very talented artist but I don't see much of an architectural idea there or how this relates to human life in any real way, to be honest. This guy certainly has a career though in illustrating science fiction novels and albums covers, if the building slump continues!

  • Felix

    So every criticism has been voted down by someone and is on -1 or -2.
    Why not express your disagreement with these comments in a comment of your own, anonymous downvoter(s)?

    • Mazlow

      …"supports his 10,000 word Masters thesis."

      Until you've read his thesis why don't you just enjoy it for what it is?

  • Man

    We are looking at his imagination.

    Sometimes people dream of things that are unfeasable, but who is to say that this won't inspire someone else?

    Trying to limit what architecture can be is a narrow minded approach to the subject.

  • General Grievous

    I love it! Inventive, exciting and well developed unique aesthetic. Good to see an architect flexing their futuristic design muscles once in a while – nay sayers be damned! Who cares if it doesn't contain people? Surely the lack of people is a witty aside about the general unsustainability of man and the wider failed project of multi-cellular non slime mold like life? Roll on the grey goo ;)

    ps. the majority of architectural representations are just a collections of largely meaningless ciphers anyway – who cares if it's inhabited by random google image cut out ghost people that the part 1 either fancied or was explicitly told to shoe horn in?

  • Rosca

    With the very vague description, but ornate (not quite detailed) graphics, I like my own reading of this concept.

    The lack of humanity, (not just humans, but easily recognizable form for typical city construction: places to live, work, play, etc) seems quite accurate for a futuristic vision.

    Cities are becoming more general and "global" as they become larger, duh. And that train probably won't stop at anytime in the future. So, it seems natural that the most defining factor for future cities will not be from human culture, but from geography and climate: deriving energy based on local circumstances.

    Now put some diagrams and maps to describe this Transcendent City, Transcendent World and you're a lot better off.

  • Martin

    Clearly this chap wants to make retro style computer games rather than buildings. And why not?

  • archandy

    I can appreciate the personal vision and amazing creativity here. Thing is this project is a typical product of the upper echelon architecture schools, it is incredibly naive. There is very little emphasis on how one would make this. Without the obssessive need to know how things are made and work together, the creative vision is useless. Architecture is more than vision. It is execution. Its no wonder the role of the architect is diminishing with this inability to bridge the gap between dreamer and maker.

  • nnn

    fantastic planet?

    • Richie

      I got a Fantastic Planet vibe from it too, there must be a classic 70s sci-fi art influence there.

  • Charles Lee

    Maybe the architecture ate all the humans and thus did solve the worlds sustainability issues. But the city buildings live on. It’s like the mad scientist creation that consumes him only with architects!

  • Great work, i love it! Does anyone know what soundtrack he used?? … sounds like CocoRosie or something like that …

    • Shazam

      "Music by Sonically Yours"