Homo Ludens at GEM den Haag

Constant New Babylon 01

This is New Babylon, or at least some models and paintings of  it, made by Dutch artist Constant Nieuwenhuys (1920 – 2005). It is no city of sin, but a utopian urban planning project meant to house Homo Ludens – playing man. I’m interested in ‘ playing man‘ myself, and happening upon Constant’s work at the Gemeentemuseun in the Hague the other day was a pleasant surprise.

So this is how Homo Ludens, freed from work by increasing automation, will live and recreate, travel and play. Constant spent 20 years of his life on the project,, made drawings, painted, built scale models, wrote and lectured about the great social changes he envisaged. I wonder if he ever read Asimov? The cityscape Constant created reminds me forcibly of Asimov’s  ‘holes of steel’.

Constant had vision – but looked the wrong way. Increased automation can produce more free time -but doesn’t. What it does do: it causes an unparallelled increase in our standard of living. Homo Ludens did not take over – Homo Faber and Homo Economicus decided to stay on a little longer and work a little harder. As my experiments prove, to be adult and to feel free to play in public – it  is a rare combination. Adults are dull, rather.

Constant New Babylon 02Constant New Babylon 03

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