Since 1889, the Westport Historical Society has focused on our town’s past.
From now through the end of 2017, it’s looking ahead.
Specifically, to 2067.
“06880 + 50: Visions of Westport” is not as outlandish as it seems. The Historical Society’s exhibit — local architects’ ideas about this place, half a century from now — includes intriguing aspects, like what we’ll do with parking lots once we move around in driverless cars.
But there are some back-to-the-future elements too. One contribution, for example, envisions neighborhoods filled with clustered housing, walking paths, open space and farms providing much of the food — a way of life that Westporters centuries ago might recognize.
The intriguing exhibit had its genesis last year. Andrew Bentley — a member of the WHS advisory board, and a man committed as much to the future as the past — wondered what would happen if the organization cast its eye beyond old houses, toward new ones.
The WHS asked 40 architects who live or work in Westport to submit ideas about what this place will look like 50 years from now.
Bentley chose 50 years because it is the Goldlilocks of futurism. Ten years from now, we’ll still have single family Colonial homes. A hundred years may bring Jetsons-style stuff.
Five decades, Bentley says, is “the sweet spot. Architects can release their inhibitions, without being crazy.”
More than a dozen responded. The request was open-ended — and so are the concepts.
Mounted on the WHS walls, they range from a full town plan, to a school design, to new street lamps.
They include a beautiful S-shaped pavilion and park behind Main Street, in space freed up by new modes of transportation. There’s a high-speed ferry terminal, linking the Saugatuck River with New York.
Homes may be made of innovative materials. One way to avoid teardowns is building houses using modular pieces, like Legos. Instead of demolishing entire structures, they could be modernized by replacing outmoded parts.
Some projections are practical. Others are fanciful. All are worth seeing.
Each contributor has been invited to present an hour-long “brown bag talk” about their visions, with Q-and-As to follow. They’ll be scheduled weekly, throughout the fall.
Bentley hopes that the exhibit spurs attendees into thinking about what Westport can be.
At the same time, he says, it will help us appreciate the talents and visions of the architects currently living and working here.
This is a very intriguing and enterprising project.
And perhaps — say, 50 years from now — the Westport Historical Society can revisit it, with a retrospective of what the town thought 2067 might look like, way back in that crazy year of 2017.
(The “06880 + 50: Visions of Westport” opening reception is this Friday, September 22, 6 to 8 p.m. The exhibit runs through December 31. For more information, click here.)