Baconfest – It’s not what you think

Monday March 9 

John Nash and the Transformation of London

This is one of the cities profiled by Bacon, highlighting the transformation of three great world cities into the places we all know today. Bacon takes us through the major physical changes of London brought about by the vision of John Nash in the early 1800s.  From public buildings to spaces and streets, few cities today could undergo such radical change. Bacon applies fundamentals of design and space, profiled in his 1967 book “Designing Cities”, to help explain concepts which we may not realize as we walk these same streets.

Rome under Pope Sixtus

While the Pope recently retired, none had the impact on what Rome is today like Pope Sixtus V.  As Bacon walks from the hills to the centre city, he applies theory, design and drawings to highlight how this once great city fell into massive decline, to be reborn again through the vision of one man, into the vibrant streets we can walk today.  The intent and design of the transformation of the city becomes clear as Bacon explains all, using historic drawings to show how perspective, building form and nodes are carefully planned to connect what had become unconnected parts of a large city.

Baron Haussmann and Paris

Paris underwent 1800s urban renewal, resulting in the city so loved today.  Perhaps the most interesting of the three cities series, Bacon shocks all as he walks from the Louvre to the Champs Elyse on a warm summer afternoon, never missing a beat as he describes the transformation from a vision of one person, and the will to bring about change to an intense urban area.  None of the urban regeneration projects, on the scale applied to the three cities profiled, could ever happen today.  Yet similar scale efforts of the 1960s certainly resulted in nothing anyone thinks was a positive change, from Robert Moses to the public housing reflected in Pruitt-Igoe in St. Louis or Cabrini Green in Chicago.

Tuesday March 10

Radiant City

As a bonus film we include Radiant City! In this documentary, director Gary Burns explores the advent of post-World War II suburbia to its present state. As professors and writers offer commentary on the effects of the suburban landscape on society, the film follows the exploits of the Moss family as they join in the urban sprawl. Despite long work commutes, dependence on cars, artificial environments, and isolation, suburban living has become the norm for most families in North America.

Wednesday March 11

City of the Future

This is the concluding film of the Urban Land Institute series of Bacon films. Again, remember this is 1982, as it starts off with Edmund working with young students designing their city of the future. There are some fascinating references to things we hold close today.  Environmentalism, the end of oil, sprawl, cities designed for cars not people.  There is even an interview with an investment banker about cities providing for themselves by working with nature.  Could this be the first reference to “biomimicry”? And the film clips from the 1930’s film Metropolis are really gloomy.  Were Mr. Bacon’s predictions right?

Contested Streets

As an added bonus feature!  While not a Bacon film, Contested Streets is a real ‘thinker’ about how streets in NYC changed over time and how the City can learn from other great cities around the world. In fact, NYC has implemented changes since this film was made that are transforming roads into people corridors.  There are some real radicals in this film, one guy in particular had nothing to do with anything but made the film.  Oh well, it is great fun and lays some interesting ground work we can see changing the NYC landscape today and who knows, we think this could happen elsewhere?

Get tickets (free) here.


About the author


BuiltHalifax delves into architectural history and theory with a local slant. Produced by Peter Ziobrowski, it is the sister project to