Constant Nieuwenhuys , born in 1920 was a famous Dutch painter and innovator. His works largely revolved around religious subjects in the early years of his career but moved towards the forward thinking art of Cubism and German expressionism.  


Constant was deeply troubled by the Second World War and craved to change the way people perceive the world. The War left the Dutch people devastated with infrastructure severely damaged, tens of thousands dead with vivid memories of executions and feelings of guilt. 


His ‘Manifesto’ written in 1948 shows a deep anger across the text whilst providing forward, positive thinking; written as an artist insurgent. 


It is obvious Constant was haunted by the war as the manifesto itself talks of a world where modern art is bruised, beaten and stationary. The language used is poetic at times and hostile at others and his outlook appears one of distaste for the ‘then current’ form of art in relation to society and cultural meaning. 


Constant writes about the representation of art history in the past half a century as a struggle to create, with a lack of adaptations of the aesthetic and the social environment as a whole.

Constant writes, “ Modern Art, suffering from a permanent tendency to the constructive, an obsession with objectivity (brought on by disease that has destroyed our speculative-idealizing culture), stands isolated and powerless in a society which seems bent on its own destruction.”


Here he demonstrates his social standing with a brief overview on the thoughts of the post-war, conservative nation, the Netherlands. The consistency of the countries population and values were motionless and lacking creativity, something Constant believed is the source to all future accomplishments.




Constant perceived art of the people to be one of expression that was nurtured simply by instinct and the necessity to express. 


He states, “Instead of solving problems posed by some preconceived aesthetic ideal, this art recognizes only the norms of expressivity, spontaneously directed by its own intuition”.


Constant portrays that art will now be one of the revolutionists, forward thinkers and motivated expressionists interested in the interactions and the creativity of the people. A modern artistic attitude to replace the static form of art as it was then.


He was intrigued in the materialistic properties of art and the suggestive connotations spurred by the forms. Constant believed “matter stimulates creative activity” whereas the resolved art restricted creative interaction for the audience.


The same year Constant’s ‘Manifesto’ was published, Constant Nieuwenhuys and Asger Jorn, a renowned Danish painter, sculptor and author, founded the avant-garde movement – COBRA, joining forces with Cornelius Beverloo and Karel Appel, two similarly minded young artists from the Netherlands.


COBRA endeavored to spark controversy and acted as a method of liberation from western traditions in art. They all had creativity at the forefront of there ambitions and wished to see the burdening end of the current art status underneath them. 


Karel Appel described their intentions in the unconventional film titled ‘Cobra’ was:


“To wake society up, which had actually gone to sleep, that’s what it was about; that was the revolt that kindled tremendous enthusiasm … Being awake meant having clarity. Your antennae had to be constantly on the alert”


COBRA was a romantic movement fuelled by the ambitions to share multicultural works to spur creativity, however for Constant the Cobra period was to be the instigator into his much larger ambitions for future movements and expressionism. 




Through the late 50’s Constant started to develop a fast growing obsession with the idea of a Utopia. Working alongside movements he was involved in, he started conjuring ideas and formulating imagery with various architects and artists to develop his conceptual thinking.


In 1957 Constant Nieuwenhuys founded the explicitly political group, ‘Situationist International’ alongside a number of others including Guy Debord, a French writer, Marxist theorist and film maker. The Situationists observed society and perceived it as a compilation of events, captured moments that removed the previous points of personal interaction and experience of real time culture. 


The group’s evaluations on the estranged capitalist society have been discussed ever since and Guy Debord, a fundamental theoretical driving force behind the organization strived to mature the combination of drastic movements in both art and politics, in harmony.


Constant and Debord, worked together, aspiring to learn from the predispositions of the structuralists through the development and intellectual approach to a ‘Unitary Urbanism’. Constant sort to address the quality of the spaces such as the atmosphere combined with the integration of shared connections formed by the ‘Situationist City’. The new wave of forward thinking improved on simple diagramatic responses and also delved into the structural quality and buildability of these forms, creating reality from the virtual.


Guy Debord’s ‘Situationist Manifesto’, written in 1960, is in essence a Marxist based development that encompasses the belief that production automation and technological advancements should provide an opportunity to liberate the individual as opposed to numbing society.


This was viewed as a revolutionary positioning and in principle a game in which there was guaranteed equality and non-exploitation of man by man.




The principles of the manifesto are to use these basic philosophies as the core of their intentions and to produce a society of total collaboration and remove individual art through total and complete communication.


There was an underlying belief in the liberation of energy through the dissatisfaction with technology and mass media, whilst a pseudo development of Marxism, it demonstrates a much greater belief in liberation and the need to fight for structural and political change.


A good illustration is the stated desire to take over UNESCO.


“From the moment when this organization leaves the initial experimental stage for its first public campaign, the most urgent objective we have ascribed to is the seizure of UNESCO”

(The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization)


They believed that the existing capitalist societies of the 60’s had resulted in people being passive subjects in the ‘spectacle’ of a mass media dominated consumer culture, and that art was determined to a degree by commodity purchases and consumption. 


They believed the ‘spectacle’ was a threat to the quality of life. 


This belief was also manifested in their desire to be independent of political and union groups. They believed that such entities simply managed matters and had no real creative capability.




Another of their general views was that in the past, artists were individuals and separated from one another and indeed society and culture and that their new approach of collaboration and total communication would produce a new form of art and capability not driven by competition.


In principle it is a manifesto of revolution, in that they believed that advanced capitalist successes in technology, automation and financial improvement was detrimental to social well-being and everyday life and wished to develop the fusing of art and politics into everyday life and the freedom of all.


Debord and Constant were revolutionists, thriving on the importance to look forward and adapt to create new eras, sculpted by the needs of man. 


Constant also writes about modern technologies throughout his publications and it is fascinating to see how progressions were made from such a positive, radical realist. 


Constant spent most of his life developing and theorizing the idea and manifesto of the New Babylon, written in 1960. The new Babylon is an idea that serves to give humans the right to live a nomadic life, a playful, moving life that facilitates a utopia for everyone.


He believed that people of the future should not be bound to physical labour or work, but instead should be free from all negative aspects currently in the world. 


Throughout Constants investigation and hypothesis of the ‘NEW WORLD’, he created hundreds of models, drawings and paintings to visualize the idea and created stunning visualizations to prove his ambitions.


The basis of the idea was seen to adopt and reshape the ‘then current’ technological advances in almost all areas ranging from the full integration of automated farming through to the implementation of new energy sources. Constant did not wish to simply improve the society he lived in but instead aimed to remodel it, to start from the beginning and to remove aggression, stress, work and all aspects of life binding humans to individual tasks. 


Constant states, 

“The modern city is dead; it has fallen victim to utility. New Babylon is a project for a city in which it is possible to live. And to live means to be creative.” 




The Utopia he sort to design and realize is one of a new culture, a new society, a free, moving, ever adapting society that enabled individuals and groups to gain the freedom they want. It consists of communal ownership, systemized agricultural techniques and implementation, and aimed to allow creativity to drive every aspect opposed to rationalization and conformity. 


The manifesto revolves around a theme that the,

 “New Babylon is the object of mass creativity; it reckons with the activation of the enormous creative potential which, now unused, is present in the masses.” (Conrads Programs and Manifestoes)


Constants ideas of a real Utopia are seen to develop through his methods of thinking and the New Babylon Manifesto written in 1960 seems to capture a still frame of his thought process that changed over the course of 1948 to 2005. 




An interesting concept of Constants was to create spatial reality from a social hypothesis.  He designed an evolving space covering the earth, morphing and adapting to individuals and groups needs and desires, where the “Playing Man”, or the ‘Homo Luden’ as it is referred to in many writings on Utopia, is the sole importance and the very essence of the model. All elements were adjustable, nothing fixed, suspended areas lay just above the earths surface, endless shapes, floors, walls, access points, transport types exist as one. 


“The function of the New Babylon, Is to Exist” - Rob Cleary


The construction of the New Babylon was mainly horizontal, consisting of a basic concrete and steel structure positioned on monstrously sized columns. Specifics show a basic model spanning twenty hectares, divided into separate sections with units, pods and ramps connected at varying junctions. His technical approach fulfilled all human needs and desires and was constantly evolving with new additions to the ‘criteria’ needed.


Furthermore the Quality of the spaces was key and to allow moods to change the visuals of the form. The ability to change aesthetics was prominent but also the air, humidity, ambiance, temperature, sound and lighting. Flexibility was fundamental and temporary was the residing theme through all systems.


The progression from his Manifesto in 1948 to the New Babylon publication in 1960 shows great development of ideas and vast, extensive research and dedication to numerous areas to devise such methods/opinions.  Constant Wanted to design a game of creativity for the New Babylon, home to a virtual environment. All aspects of the forms would evolve and mold to individual consumer needs.


The loose and fluid environment combined with social and economical concepts depict beautiful yet abstract imagery, however Constant’s New Babylon was designed as an incitement opposed to a city that elucidates the imagery.


In ‘Unitair Urbanisme’ 1960, Constant explained, “Nothing will be fixed [in New Babylon]. The new urbanism exists in time, it is the activation of the temporary, the emergent and transitory, the changeable, the volatile, the variable, the immediately fulfilling and satisfying.”




Constant throughout his career as an artist and architect, author and theorist had a fascination with nature. Through various aspects of different movements and hypotheses you can observe agricultural integration, however in New Babylon he perceived it to have a closed system with no external qualities other than artificial imitations.


Constant was overwhelmed by nature, deeming night and day to be obstacles, holding him down to conformity. A true Utopia for him is portrayed as one with no relevance to the world we live in today other than coordinates. 


He stated, “in the enormous sectors of New Babylon I have eliminated daylight altogether, because people are breaking free more and more anyhow, especially from the rhythms of nature. Man wants to follow his own rhythm.”


The rhythms Constant mentions are unknown but it enhances the principles he had in disrupting all norms and conformity to create a NEW era opposed to an improved one. Throughout Cobra, the Situationists and the numerous other organizations and movements he and Guy Debord were involved with, this idea developed exponentially, starting at the post second world war despair. For Constant and the other radical Utopic Realists, even evolution was a concept to be reformed.


“When struggle for existence is no more than a memory, the man will be able, for the first time in history, in complete freedom, to give his existence the form of his desires.”


Essay:                                                                                                            “Critically assess the value of ‘Utopianism’ and ‘Utopian’ theories for architectural design and architecture theories. Refer to your own or other case-studies of utopian, dystopian and heterotopian designs from the 21st century and earlier. “



As a society we continuously seek to better our surroundings, striving for a new ideal. This paper examines the progression of utopianism and utopia through architectural design and theory with regards to the history, motivation, examples and direct influences in theory and design. A utopia is a hypothetical ideal that serves numerous purposes in all aspects of society, driving intentions and innovations towards a more superlative living. The controversial ideas and imagery of utopian realms spur conversation and argument that dictates the influences and inspirations of design and infrastructure capabilities within our urban framework.


Through the history of the terminology, the progression of the usage of the idea, hypothetical and realized utopias, media portrayal and specific architectural implementation this paper depicts a method behind utopian thinking. If culture is architecture and the opposite applies, then design must be a prospect to allow the implementation of bold, new changes, opposed to sitting in the typical. Specific designers have fore fronted courageous architectural movements through the twentieth century and we must not lose our progressive streak in developing ideas and ideals that drive the essence of design and all that follows into the future. 



ARCT 1064

March 1st Year 2014-2015


“Critically assess the value of ‘Utopianism’ and ‘Utopian’ theories for architectural design and architecture theories. Refer to your own or other case-studies of utopian, dystopian and heterotopian designs from the 21st century and earlier. “





To speculate on the progressive ambition of Utopianism, we must first assess its place and significance in architecture through broad, social terms and the results that filter from such ideals. It is important to reconsider the resuscitation of a utopian mode of thinking. This is a challenge in today’s architecture, and whilst frequently considered to be out dated, it is clearly worthy of reconsideration when given the current uncertainty in a fast changing world.


At present, many have a questionable attitude to these earlier advances if only to reevaluate the critical social and political environment that spawned its development. For example, the expressionist architecture of the first decades of the 20th century was driven by many who had fought in the First World War and their experiences combined with the political and social upheaval that followed.


The 1960s saw a second wave of utopian architectural thought, focused on emerging cultural changes in mobility and flexibility, and frequently saw these utopias as instruments of society change. Currently, many believe that the utopian ambition embodied in modern architecture was harmful and allied with totalitarian attitudes, and hence has been discredited.


Paul Scheerbart, a renowned German author and illustrator, formed the opinion that culture can be seen as a direct product of architecture and that the improvement and the development of architecture consequently dictates the progression of culture. This has since been deemed as being naive, however in today’s world with global climate change, rising sea levels, environmental destruction and the widening of social differences and human rights positioning, it is easy to dream of a world where all society’s  ills are helped solved with cities that function to improve the daily lives of their citizens (Pinder 2002).


There are good and valid reasons to reassess this negative assessment of utopian thinking, not to reinstall the architectural resolution of the utopian thinking of Scheerbart and his followers, but to reconsider some aspects such as the critical capacity bases of David Harvey’s ‘Spaces of Hope’. With a free mind, revitalized utopian thought processes will aid architects to act as creators of our combined futures and not behave simply as followers of the inevitable consequences of current institutions.


There is a growing belief that today’s world with global capital availability, new and powerful economic drivers, western urban decay and the emergence of new and powerful economies with the support by vested interested parties, is the only organizational way forward. To break this status quo, new vibrant thought is required and this leads inexorably to the reconsideration and revitalization of utopianism. This is a real precursor to the exploration of new imagination and creativity and this paper will address the influences, progression of thought, failures and practice of such intentions through architecture at social, regional, urban, and particular design scales.


To fully understand the nature of the term utopia it is essential to look at its origin, but also to fully realize its progressive nature and how to appreciate its value in architectural design and theories of the present day.


Sir Thomas More, a Sixteenth Century lawyer, author, philosopher and councilor to Henry VIII, wrote the book ‘Utopia’ in 1516, one of the most influential texts on the subject, both socially and politically. The descriptions within the book can be seen to be ideas held cordially in a communist society that history has proven are destined for failure. However the details are of the time and should be read with an understanding of his situation and the problems of the period and culture presented. More, speaks of a system with no class divisions with the exception of a hand full of individual ambassadors that have extra privileges. It is a critique on an era of renovation and exploitation and throughout the book, More exploits his personal opinion on the society around him through political, religious and economical changes, where crime and all dispositions are removed with all people living the same identical lifestyle. Families live every day as the last with identical dress codes, houses are designed in the same style and materials, and strict working schedules are implemented. More states, “Whatever you may think of their doctrines, you won’t find a more prosperous country or a more splendid lot of people anywhere on earth”. (More 2003, p.26)


All of these concepts were not realized in Mores time but we have subsequently learnt of the negative associations with such a mundane, regulated lifestyle. It is clear that a Utopian society is a progression of the times and must be addressed to better life of the present, not the past. To utilize the potential of Utopianism in architecture and cultural standing, we must look at more contemporary visions where by technology and social advancements do not lack in basic improvements of the society we currently live in, visions that question the very framework of our lives.


“All Utopias ask questions. They ask whether or not the way we live could be improved and answers that it could.” (Sargant 2010, p.4)


It is apparent that the way utopias and utopian theories have been critically assessed through the ages, is principally through the differences of the then and now. This method implies the necessity to change, and what is wrong with a current society. However a utopian proposal can be seen as an ideal but in fact to achieve a faultless society we must take in to consideration individuality. Austere inconsistencies would crumble the foundations of a world built on a generic. A true utopia must address everything for everyone in the most effective manner.


With the lack of a comprehensive understanding of the human thought process, and the ability to control them, we as humans cannot achieve a true Utopia. At present people can be within a ‘perfect environment’ but the presence of negative manifestations will still be rife. Therefor the concept of a Utopia is not just a place but a state of being.


“A perfect environment will not provide a perfect existence for an imperfect being.” (NYU 2008, p.1)


The last century saw recognition by modernist architects of the political dimension of architectural beliefs. As an illustration, David Harvey considered two types of utopianism, spatial form and social process. He developed the dichotomy present in the issue that the development of a spatial utopia will by definition frequently fail due to the practical processes necessary for its completion being capable of destroying the realization of the utopian promise (Harvey 2000). In other words the contradiction present in the idea of utopia becoming a concrete reality. In this manner the freedom of action and life, that it sets out to promulgate, is halted by the very physical presence of the entity itself.


Of course there is a major issue here and one that will stretch thought and capability. However, through utopian thought we open the opportunity for architects to develop their skills and imagination, and create a different and better architectural result that will correspond with, and potentially drive, a better and more cohesive world. Such a personal development is difficult and provocative, but crucial in the exploration of potential new opportunities to the augmentation of life. The Modern Movement has to criticize the status quo, and drive imagination for a better world. The utopian thought process and critical attitude was a genuine driver to the belief and intention to change the world. (Harvey 2000) This aspect is clear and should be embraced, not condemned, but rather revived and developed to provide a new and wide ranging capacity for a dimensional change and betterment.


Within many examples of a utopian world or an ideal that stems from utopianism, the distinction between the definitions seems to lose its prominence. Utopianism refers to the visions of the people that are concerned with how people order their lives, commonly forming a drastically different society from the current. Utopianism focuses on social, political and economic aspects of a society and the manner in which they are applied. Leszek Kolakowski, a polish philosopher, describes the broad diversity of the word Utopianism as a development. Kolakowski calls it a process in which a word that,


“…emerged as an artificially concocted proper name has acquired, in the last two centuries, a sense so extended that it refers not only to literary genre but to a new way of thinking, to a mentality, to a philosophical attitude, is being employed in depicting cultural phenomena going back to antiquity.”  (Sargant 2010, p.21)


Utopia, as a term, promotes an ideal and therefore can be deemed as an unachievable society. The ambition of utopianism and the ‘ideal’ is a progression that could be seen as necessary in order to further aims, expectations and realizations of what is possible in architecture and therefore society as a whole.

Architecture is seen to drive culture as stated before by Scheerbart, and this is a key factor in the discussion of utopianism in architectural theory and design. Numerous aspects of culture and society drive other forces but fundamentally architecture is to design for the future and to sustain and enhance standards of the spaces and emotions with regards to the trends of society. An issue lies with the current state of architectural drive. Sir Richard Rogers, a renowned British architect known for his functionalist and modernist architecture states that within his generation, the drive of architecture was to build for the future. This has not however depleted but there seems to be a lack of society interest within architectural design. When discussing society and design, Rogers states,


“This has gone. It’s much more an age of greed. It’s much more about dog eat dog and the acceptance that it doesn’t matter what you earn, you have no duty to society.” (Fairs 2014, p.188)


The value of Utopianism in current architectural practice can be seen as vital due to its relationship between design and society. Utopianism encompasses the two and creates an ideal world that works efficiently. Stemming down from such concepts are the realized projects that in turn provide ground breaking results and push design forward, bettering society. This reiterates the necessity for progressive movements and theories in architecture of which utopianism can be seen as one. The evident understanding that utopianism is a form of ambition for advancement is seen through every age and a profound illustration is where Oscar Wilde states,


“A map of the world that does not include Utopia is not even worth glancing at, for it leaves out the one country at which humanity is always landing. And when humanity lands there, it looks out, and seeing a better country, sets sail. Progress is the realization of Utopias.” (Levitas 2014, p210)


In addition, it is of significance to introduce the term Heterotopia, a notion presented in 1966 by Michael Foucault, a French philosopher, theorist and critic.  This concept of a seamlessly openly definable space has since sparked numerous interesting responses on its role and relationship with Utopias and other theories. A heterotopia can be defined as a space or a place that functions in non-homogenous circumstances. It is the study of a space of an ‘otherness’, it is not here and it is not there. A heterotopia is both physical and mental, such as the moment of a phone call or observing your reflection (Foucault 1967).


A Heterotopia can be described as representation, in the physical form, of a Utopia. It is an approximation or indeed a comparable space that contains attributes that can be seen as undesirable, making the place plausible. Foucault writes of how a ship, a moving space, exists on its own and moves freely between other spaces.


“…from port to port, from tack to tack, from brothel to brothel, it goes as far as the colonies in search of the most precious treasures they conceal in their gardens, you will understand why the boat has not only been for our civilization…the great instrument of economic development, but has been simultaneously the greatest reserve of imagination. The ship is the heterotopia par excellence. In civilizations without boats, dreams dry up, espionage takes the place of adventure, and the police take place of pirates.” (Foucault, 1967 p9)


When discussing utopianism and the role of a utopia, we must be clear on the examples used and how they refer to the time they were hypothesized or even realized. At present, Utopian practice consists of ‘intentional communities’ or communes as realized efforts toward achieving a new idealist life. Possibly one of the most realized Utopia’s to date is the United States of America. This is not necessarily an obvious example but stems numerous points about the integration of a new idea to a new place that is a progression from an existing. America is deemed by many as the universal symbol of freedom. It could be suggested that it was at one point in history, but is no longer. When America was first discovered and colonized, it was somewhat defined by freedom, a promised new land and a hopeful new start, an advancement towards a new model of society. As time proceeded, America started to set the example and define freedom, changing the very meaning to fit in with its new surroundings, whilst protecting the key ideas of their founding fathers. For some, America is still partly described as heterotopia, a place of otherness, an example of a physical utopia resembling an attempted vision met with reality.


As America grew substantially in the Nineteenth Century, it became wealthier and more diverse, allowing the occupants to strive to achieve a new form of culture differing from any currently in Europe.  Most of the original ‘Utopias’ were based around religious views and created isolated communes to focus on the objectives and desires of the individuals as a collective. The abundance of small ‘Utopias’, communities, sparked numerous experiments over the years that began to look closer at the fundamentals of a larger society with regards to economics, politics and social aspects, thus proving society is driven by such ideas (Hicks 2001). Other peculiar trial based ‘Utopias’ saw the implementation of radical new social agendas such as group marriage, communal child rearing, group discipline and many integrated their freedom without government. Robert Hine, author of California's Utopian Colonies reiterates this by stating the definition of a utopia, seen as a ‘Utopian Colony’,


 "…consists of a group of people who are attempting to establish a new social pattern based upon a vision of the ideal society and who have withdrawn themselves from the community at large to embody that vision in experimental form." (Hicks 2001, p.140)


It is important to understand the relevance of this example as the American ‘Utopian trials’ show the base of an experiment of progression and motivation to commit to finding a transformed version of society and a way of life. The hundreds of communes in search for this dreamlike community simply required the ambition and commitment of people who saw nothing as impossible and this is why we must endeavor to consistently develop our modes of utopian thinking and design to better our surroundings, lifestyle and approaches to architecture.


It is imperative to add how a Utopia can become a Dystopia. A Dystopia can be described as a deteriorating, weak or failed society, a community that is unattractive in aesthetical, cultural or moral terms and even fear provoking. Dystopias can be seen as a tool for authors, designers, illustrators and importantly Architects to express their concerns about the current state of a society. It can serve to warn individuals to be more aware of the possible transition to the devastating result of a Dystopia and aid the prevention (Jameson 2004). It is apparent that with all Utopian, Dystopian and even Heterotopian theories that there is a faint path through society starting with the instigation at a literary level, through to the arts and media portrayal that feed into architectural design, that in turn creates an implemented change within society.


When reflecting on the effect and outcome of Utopianism in society and architecture, configured with the impact of dystopian and utopian influences, implausible or realized, it is of great importance to discuss media based examples due to the prominence and consequence it has on the public and movements in nearly all aspects of life (Jameson 2003).


Examples of Dystopian fiction dates back to the 18th century but to look specifically at the more recent, prominent examples, such from the 20th century, would include the 1932 Brave New World by Aldous Huxley, George Orwell’s Animal Farm in 1944 and Nineteen Eighty-Four in 1949, and Ray Bradbury’s Farenheight 451 in 1953.


A key Modernist film to note would be Frits Lang’s Metropolis, 1926, although it can be seen as dated it shows the negotiations of a dystopian and utopian city. The city is organized vertically and consists of many aspects we see in today’s utopian visions of architecture and society.


The late 20th century to present day has seen an increasing number of Dystopian films, plays, books and even games arise that craft visions of a world left to ruins, humanity seen to flee earth, and the start of new civilizations. The overriding themes allow an insight into the ever growing, progressive nature of the human mind in which we seek to bring awareness to what can be and what should be prevented.  


Utopian and Dystopian films, books, plays and games seem to focus primarily on the struggle between subjectivity and virtual reality. When the future cannot be placed through material and physical development or the environment it sits in, then the city is no longer signifying the future. The post-modern, contemporary and science-fiction genres narrate the difficulty of outlining the difference of authenticity and depiction.


Utopia portrays a superlative state, such a place is depicted in the book and film ‘The Giver’, written originally by Lois Lowry in 1993 as a novel and produced as a film in 2014 by Phillip Noyce. Within the film, the community believes in a system where personal items, privileges, unique characteristics and relationships are removed. The peaceful city is seen to be perfect with the removal of pain and suffering. This serene and tranquil community appears contradictory of ours today, consisting of layers of war and animosity, and yet the availability of real freedom and the opportunity of distinguishable characteristics.


The purpose of The Giver’s society is equality, however we must question the very meaning of equality with regards to individuals and a society. Should architecture be homogenous? With a lack of individuality and expression, architecture, society and people lose the framework of their being (Scott 2010). Utopian scenes are portrayed, generally, as a whitewashed, bland and standardized community with little to no emotion and the individuality that makes us unique, removed.  As presented, a Utopia can easily become a Dystopia through regulation and control. However these concepts are developing a new thought process within architects, one that allows individuality at a Utopian level.  There are a rising number of architects pushing the boundaries with innovative ideas on social integration and adaptation, met with design to inhabit and create new forms of living, sustainability and technologically ground breaking ideas that drive the architectural progression.


As we move forward with our technological advancements and methods for a cleaner, more desirable and sufficient living, so do the speculative Utopia models and theories. The value of Utopianism in current design and architectural theory is to spur development with the availability to ignore current and past trends, to set a new method of being and design, whilst reviewing the assumed problems of society at present. Fredric Jameson, an American Critic and Marxist theorist at the forefront of the analysis of contemporary cultural movements, grounds the argument of utopianism and society application when he states that a,


“Utopia would seem to offer the spectacle of one of those rare phenomena whose concept is indistinguishable from its reality, whose ontology coincides with its representation. Does this peculiar entity still have a social function? If it no longer does so, then perhaps the explanation lies in that extraordinary historical dissociation into two distinct worlds which characterizes globalization today. “ (Jameson 2004)


Evidently Utopianism and Utopian theory is well presented through theory and practice on a social, urban and practical scale with regards to the examples shown. However it is important to discuss and question the implementation of a Utopian design in practice. When attempting to locate an accurate example it lends itself to a certain group of architects, the Deconstructivists (Jameson 2005). Deconstructivism is a recent movement in architecture, a progression of postmodernism that started in the 1980’s. It allows semiotic analysis, presented through drawings, models and structural forms, which together accentuate the complexity of both space and form together.


A pioneer of this movement is Zaha Hadid, an Iraqi-born architect. Hadid has sort to push the limits of architecture in the built form and forge an architectonic language adopted by her alone. Hadid is an individualist with powerful, dynamic and intensely thoughtful proposed and built architectural forms. The works of Hadid’s enhance their environmental stance in which they are designed by morphing and merging with the existing. Hadid seeks to address the site and create an extension that combined with ultramodern design elements arguably instigates discussion about the feasibility of the creations in present day design.


Utopia is a term that evidently can be expressed as impractical, implausible but also inspiring, and this is possibly the most profound way to describe Hadid’s works. Utopian Architecture is a term given to design at present that lacks buildability, however Hadid has broken through many of these barriers through extensive research and she has broken away from the Vitruvian pre-positions that rule over the customary.


The Vitra Fire Station in Germany was Hadid’s first built project, a small proposal in which unusual angles and geometry were used, leading on from her progressive and striking drawings through the 1980’s. The site was within an industrial landscape and the design sort to formulate a direct response, creating a building that embodies its placement. Other examples of Hadid’s Utopian method of design include the BMW Plant Leipzig where office strata is redefined in a transparent and flexible manner bringing a new form of productions structure. Others extend to the Heydar Aliyev Center in Baku and the Performing Arts Centre in Abu Dhabi.


Hadid’s works seem to differ in size, shape and form whilst retaining an overall style that drives the form into the future. An underlying theme is the way the architecture does not obstruct he flow, but seeks to improve it. So many of Hadid’s designs sprout from the ground growing and immersing with other entities as a continuous form. The Vitra Fire station is one of numerous examples that attains a level of Utopia through expression from its specific and beautifully designed interior and exterior, becoming an extension to the surroundings. Hadid’s architecture does not simply occupy a place, it defines and augments it.


When evaluating the importance and significance of Utopianism and Utopia in architecture and thus society, it is important to reflect on the impact of such thought and design through history whilst considering the time and place that the ideal or realized scope was assumed. Having observed the experiments in America and the outcome of such trials, it is clear that it spurs change and an exciting opportunity to advance through new social, architectural and even economical agendas. Architects, designers and authors must seek to use their manner of infiltrating society as a reason for change, a prospect for experimentation, playing with and applying creativity in all areas of life to further the advancements of culture and design.


A Utopia is a progression from the now, a new, hypothetical ideal and it is this form of architectural approach that strives to set future standards and motives. The media is seen to increasingly portray the future as a dystopia and architects must use this as a drive to reevaluate what can be done to incorporate society within design. If culture is architecture and the opposite applies, then design must be an opportunity to implement bold, new changes, opposed to sitting in the typical. Specific designers have fore fronted courageous architectural movements through the twentieth century and we must not lose our progressive streak in developing ideas and ideals that drive the essence of design and all that follows into the future.


The value of Utopianism and the ideals of differing Utopias within architectural theory and design, is the continuation of a pursuit to improve our civilization, and perfect the present day agendas whilst experimenting and instigating new and innovative ideas, regarding all aspects of culture.







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Image credit:


-          The Giver -

-          The Vitra Fire Station -