Using the tragic forecast of Mary Shelley's 'Frankenstein' story and The Fantasy Method of Urban Design, the Frankencities Project details the worst-case scenarios of the futures of real world cities worldwide. This month, we highlight the future of the French city of Arles.
Within the Frankenstein story, after Dr. Frankenstein finds his new wife laying murdered in their honeymoon suite on the shores of Lake Como, he becomes overwrought by grief and ravaged by anger.
Dr Frankenstein then ends up on a protracted quest for restitution -- believing that he must exterminate the monster not only for the good of his family but for the entire civilized world.
Dr. Frankenstein pursues the creature from Lake Como back to Lake Geneva and then along down the river Rhone from Switzerland into southern France. Shelley, herself, had travelled a number of times along this route on her way from Switzerland to Italy.
One of the cities that Frankenstein and his monster would have passed through is Arles. Arles is a city of Roman roots built upon a spot of raised dry land at the point where the Rhone forks into two parts as it ﬂows from the Alps to the Mediterranean Sea. In between these two branches is Europe’s largest wetlands, the Camargue.
In Shelley’s time, the Rhone and the Camargue were pristine natural areas — yet to be sullied by the smokestacks and pollution of industrialized France. Here in the Arles of the future, the impacts of industrialization, now fueled by the electronics industry and by shipping on the Rhone, have worked together to create an unhealthy Franken-Arles plopped within an unhealthy Frankenscape. Dead birds and dead ﬁsh wash upon the shores of a river contaminated with oil residues, agricultural chemicals, and radioactive rare Earth metals.
Arles is well-known these days as the city where Vincent van Gogh drew many of his most famous paintings. In a crazy-active few years he churned out more than 300 paintings here.
But his creative output was shadowed by a strained psyche. One evening, he mutilated himself by cutting oﬀ an ear and presenting it to the girl he loved. It was a prescient warning since his health deteriorated so much that he soon took a pistol to himself to commit suicide
Alas, Franken-Arles is bound for the same fate as van Gogh. After eating the ﬁsh and drinking the water, great numbers of Franken-Arles’ citizens end up either depressed or psychotic as the pollution disrupts their metabolism in unpredictable ways. Some feel the need to enliven themselves by enjoying the natural beauty of the Camargue, but all they see there are the remains of poisoned animals and degenerated swampland.