Another entry imagines repurposing redundant office space to house the homeless. “It just makes a lot of sense,” says Young. Obviously, landlords, not known for their altruism, are still going to want to make money, but as Young says: “if you’ve got a 1960s office building standing empty, having a charity in there that pays you rent is probably better than nothing.”
But by far the most ambitious project envisages transforming London’s metropolitan area into an ecologically diverse, agricultural landscape, in part as a response to the premise that industrialised food production has made us vulnerable to diseases transmitted from animals to humans. “What is particularly interesting about that is that they had done some mapping which showed that some of those things were happening already like city farms and marshlands,” says Young. “It could change London and make it a much better place to live. That kind of resetting of ideas about us and nature. Not just in terms of health but also our mental health,” she says. And these are ideas that could potentially be adopted by cities everywhere. “If you can apply that to London, you can apply it anywhere, because everywhere else is a lesser problem,” says Young.
It seems like the 2020s could well have some of the hedonism that characterised the “Roaring Twenties,” although we must hope it does not echo the end of that decade, which saw economic depression and the rise of fascism. There is reason for optimism as, alongside that understandable yearning for pleasure, it is clear there will also be the same desire to build a better society that pandemics have always inspired. A growing concern with social justice and the fragility of our environment will be reflected in the culture all around us. The clothes we wear to go clubbing or to the theatre will be vintage or sustainable. Our cities are less likely to roar than murmur as the car is increasingly confined to the outskirts and green spaces proliferate. And artists will, as they always have, offer reflection on our current condition while seeking to inspire their audience to improve the world around them. It would be wonderful if this time they were able to succeed.
The Roaring Twenties is at Guggenheim Bilbao until 19 September 2021.
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