Monday, March 5, 2012

The Amazing World of Ukronium 1828

I've always had a fondness for the stories of Jules Verne, H. G. Wells, and the early pulps. When the initial wave of retro-futuristic "steampunk" artifacts arrived last decade I almost instantly fell in love. Artists were creating beautiful rayguns, flickering laboratory gear, and infernal devices that brought those worlds to life in a unique new way. It was a combination of the "worn future" aesthetic of the original "Star Wars" with an attention to craftsmanship that harkened back to the Victorian era. It was glorious.

And, like all wonderful things, it wouldn't last.

Today the world of "steampunk" art is an embarrassing ghetto. With a few notable exceptions the "artists", and I use that term very loosely, are incompetent hacks. Most of the work infesting the genre consists of thrift store finds covered in brass gears slapped on with a big sloppy dollop of epoxy. It's ugly, shoddy stuff without any real creativity, craftsmanship, or artistic merit, well deserving of the "steamjunk" epithet.

But now and again something pops up that makes me forget all my bitterness over what happened to steampunk and reignites my love for what it can be. A genre that plays with the past's dreams of the future and our present perceptions of the possibilities of the past. Something beautiful and filled with wonder, brought to life with flair and attention to detail.

ToNToN CoPT of Cré’à’Vapeur collaborated with Cristophe of Petites-Curiosités to create a variety of interactive steampunk displays for Ukronium 1828, a new gaming shop in Lyon, France. All of the displays are fantastic, and you really should head over to ToNToN's blog to view the full gallery. What makes this project so likeable is the whole-hearted commitment to total theming by both the artists and the store. It's very reminiscent of the design work done by Disney's Imagineers at their best, blending traditional prop creation with interactive electronics.

Of all the projects the Time Machine is my favorite. The design work and craftsmanship that went into it are outstanding on their own...

...but it's also animated, triggering a realignment of the rings every fifteen minutes.

You can see videos of all the interactive displays in action over on Vimeo.


CoastConFan said...

Propnomicon, you have echoed what a lot of fans are saying about the state of Steampunk today. In fact, I said it on my blog as well. You can’t be retro Victorian without understanding the original era itself via scholarship, because steampunk is basically a post-modern interpretation of a pre-modern era: a type of meta-history.

I’m very glad you brought this blog and these great props to my attention. Besides if you go one step further than steampunk you get such rich worlds as Le Garage Hermétique de Jerry Cornelius. In fact, on a few occasions, I attended a few conventions costumed as Major Grubert (not that many got the reference). I really appreciate your efforts in finding great props of all types for your blog.

George said...

That is EXACTLY what I have seen in my mind's eye as a game prop for years! Curse them for making it before I did!

Anonymous said...

I am so grateful to read such views on the whole Steampunk thing. It's really rare to see anything that's not just glued crap.

This post shows an amazing history that wasn't style that is just awe inspiring.

Keep up the good work.

Christophe said...


Markus said...

It´s nearly always the same, if you want to get something what looks good and works good, you have to invest a lot of time for research, ideas and for the actual work of course. It´s quite rare that something what doesn´t need much time looks really good at the end. Sometimes the research alone needs incredibly much time, or if you want to produce something which is moveable in any way, the construction time on the paper needs also sometimes quite a ot of time. It´s always nice to see that at least some people really take this time to create really great things.

Tutos Toshop said...

And many thanks to for this very care post!

Anonymous said...

What is the full title of the music in the short video? I can't get it out of my head. I'd like to find it.