Auckland in Fifty Years

(or, Predicting the Future: Part 1)

Here is a way to predict what the future is going to look like:

  • start with things as they are today, then dream up sleeker and more advanced versions of what we already have.

This is the city of Auckland, New Zealand, fifty years into the future….as imagined in 1956 by Bernard Roundhill (image from Idealogue magazine October 2006/Te Papa Museum of New Zealand):

Fifty years on, lets see how Bernard’s predictions for Auckland panned out.

(1) Tall buildings and jet planes: CHECK (although passenger planes don’t have canard wings – not even the enormous double-decker Airbus A380)

(2) Milk trucks: CHECK (but the Dairy Board is but a distant memory)

(3) Pedestrians, flanked by cars, buses, and trucks speeding along motorways: CHECK

(4) a subway (or is it a rail loop under Queen Street?), and the quaintly named ‘Aerial Tramways’ (or monorails, as we’d call them today): NEITHER

But observe what is missing from this vision of the future:

  • there are no bicycles, no motorcycles and no self-balancing, non-tandem two-wheeled transporters that carry one person (or Segway Personal Transporters, as we call them today). Not one.

As Idealogue observes, apart from the company Winsone (who commissioned the work), the Auckland of the future “looks regulated….the Milk Board, the Passenger Transport Service, the Aerial Tramways. Branding is absent and there’s not a billboard in sight. Good luck finding a decent coffee.”

Such visions of the future are often all the more extraordinary for what they fail to predict than for what they get right. In Part 2 and Part 3 of this series we’ll consider more recent predictions about the future of people-moving, particularly as how they may relate to New Zealand.


The New Zealand Herald published the following obituary about Bernard Roundhill (1911-2005):

Bernard Roundhill, commercial artist, air-brushing pioneer. Died age 94.

Bernard Roundhill, prolific New Zealand commercial artist whose most celebrated design was the Air New Zealand koru, has died aged 94.

His career spanned seven decades, with creations ranging from chocolate boxes to album covers and the koru motif, which first appeared on the airline’s DC-10s in 1973.

Roundhill was the New Zealand pioneer of air-brushing, which took him seven years to perfect.

His career began in Fairlie, South Canterbury, painting demons and heroes on velvet during the Depression. After moving to Timaru he designed shop window signs, price tags and jewellers’ cards.

During World War II he drew maps for the Army and illustrated instruction manuals for the Royal New Zealand Air Force. After the war Roundhill began illustrating magazine covers and calendars.

A major contract was for the redesign of the entire range of Yates seed packets.


Come the year 2100, perhaps life in Auckland will look a bit like this illustration:

IMG_5529 (1)

A home-made wall clock that counted down the days, minutes and seconds until midnight 1999 (or midnight 2000, if you prefer) featuring the cover art from Al Stewart’s ‘Last Days of the Century’ album (1988).


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