Nathaniel Coleman

Introduction: Architecture and Utopia

No Architecture Without Utopia?
There is no Utopia without architecture, at least where bodies are present, but can there also be no architecture without Utopia. Perhaps it is easier to verify the former rather than the latter. For example, it does not matter whether the Utopia being considered is of a literary sort, an intentional community, or a more generalized project for social renewal. Utopias including bodies are always situated; they must take place somewhere. To be achievable and sustainable, any Utopia that shelters corporeal beings requires a setting attuned to its specific objectives. From walled gardens to new towns and ecovillages, such utopias are always architectural problems, no less than projects for ideal cities – or physical manifestations of enlightened institutions – are utopian ones. The proposition – equation even – introduced above obviously raises some questions. For example, if there can be no architecture without Utopia, this would seem to implicate Utopia in the overriding failure of  Modern Architecture to provide individuals and groups with appropriate settings for private and civic life, especially during the twentieth century (and even into the present). Moreover, if Utopia, in turn, is impossible without architecture, does that suggest that Utopia must remain unrealizable – not to say unimaginable – so long as most of what is built (some of it in the name of architecture) is extensively limited by the dystopic conditions of  the present epoch? In consideration of the themes introduced above, the aim of this introduction and the chapters that follow is to interrogate the relation between architecture and Utopia, in particular with an eye toward recuperating a utopian mindset as being at least as important for architecture as design,

or utopian. At least one of the foci of the work must be such a description. although Lyman Tower Sargent argues “that a Utopia must contain a fairly detailed description of a social system that is nonexistent but is located in time and space. Sargent writes: [t]oday dreaming of or imagining better societies is usually called “utopianism. but there are other means of expressing utopianism.” he remains primarily concerned with utopian literature above all else. Nevertheless. more recently Sargent has refined his definition by making a distinction between “Utopia” more generally and “Eutopia or positive utopia” more specifically as “a non-existent society described in considerable detail and normally located in time and space that the author intended a contemporary reader to view as considerably better than the society in which that reader lived” (“Defense” 15). formerly called utopian experiments. the creation of intentional communities or communes. on how individuals and groups appropriate space. precisely because both Utopia and architecture are problems of  form that turn. Utopian literature. . In a later and more inclusive definition of utopianism. And in so doing.” and utopianism can be expressed in a variety of ways. a further objective of this collection of essays is to argue that the real possibilities of  Utopia always require an architectural frame. such as the design of ideal cities (“Utopia”).2 Nathaniel Coleman engineering. and developers are. Important here is “reader” because it suggests that although Sargent now includes “the design of ideal cities” in his “Defense. in large part. […] It eliminates many of the works that clutter up the bibliographies of  Utopias. Defining Utopia within Utopian Studies: Prolegomenon to the Problem of  Architecture and Utopia Within Utopian studies there are multiple divergences as to what might be called a Utopia. and utopian social theory are the most commonly noted forms in which utopianism is expressed. And of course virtually all city plans and the like would be excluded” (“Definition” 143). Very few reform tracts present more than a limited view of society.

utopian visions are absolutely essential. The crucial dif ference then between Sargent’s definition and Levitas’s is the issue of categorization with the boundaries this suggests. a process which disrupts the closure of  the present (“For Utopia” 39). even if only partially so. In this sense. no matter how provisionally (Sargent. opting for a much broader definition of utopia: expression of desire for a better way of living.Introduction: Architecture and Utopia 3 On the other hand. […] [W]hat is most important […] is less what is imagined than the act of imagination itself. not the imposition of a plan for the future.” Levitas is also keen to encounter the fruits of  those visions. Levitas says that she follows Bloch.” so central to Sargent’s definition “ceases” in her view. an issue which he emphasizes. It provides a way of addressing the utopian aspects of a variety of cultural forms and expressions. almost any activity. The utopian function is estrangement and defamiliarisation. essentially. “to be a problem” (Concept 198). Where Levitas and Sargent appear to intersect is “that while utopia can be dangerous. an analytic definition rather than a descriptive one.” valuable because “the issues of boundaries. according to Levitas. In his description of what he calls “critical utopia. Levitas elaborates on this by suggesting that for Moylan (and Fredric Jameson): [t]he function of utopian fiction is no longer to be seen as providing an outline of a social system to be interrogated literally in terms of its structural properties. rather than demanding fully-f ledged utopias in the form of imagined societies (“Imaginary” 54–5). and calling into question the existing state of af fairs. Thus. and treated as a goal. concretely. including the city plans Sargent would leave out. or program may be utopian. […] It is.” emphasizes that the “one function of utopia is the education of desire […] in the context of an analytic rather than descriptive definition” (“RE: modernism and utopia”). . For him. so that these texts reject utopia as blueprint while preserving it as dream” (Demand 10). a “central concern of  the critical utopia is the awareness of  the limitations of the utopian tradition.” Tom Moylan of fers something of a corrective (or response) to the totality generally associated with Utopia. but which she puts to the side. In this way. rendering the taken-for-granted world problematic. “Defense” 11). in the external world.” rather than “definition. Ruth Levitas proposes “a broad analytic definition of utopia. Levitas’s utopian “theoretic. cultural artifact.

and a utopian hermeneutic (encompassing also the body. Although I am . reform.” while simultaneously accommodating political theory. I would argue that a caveat is required. However. is that it can accommodate utopian texts. time and collectivity) as topics within the subfield of  Utopia as “impulse” ( Jameson 4). Utopias 56–62. precisely the first steps toward the realization of  transformed conditions: before the “structural closure of  the present” can be disrupted. estrangement and demailiarization are (as Paul Ricoeur observed). “For Utopia” 40). Jameson’s conceptualization makes a space for Sargent’s. Fredric Jameson sees “SPACE” and “THE CITY” as lying along a line of Utopia as “PROGRAM.” and “The Individual Building” as lying along a line of Utopia as “IMPULSE. The apparent value of this conceptualization of  Utopia as a broad field. Interestingly. its “ideological closure” needs be disrupted (N.” enough so to adequately explain how the individuals or groups imagined as inhabiting either might actually do so “in time and space.” Likewise. as described by Levitas. revolutionary praxis. a city plan or an architectural design may be a form of utopian imagination (or spring from it) but only insofar as the as of yet “non-existent” plan or design describes the new condition it proposes “in considerable detail. is that it provides an alibi for what otherwise might be seen as the weaknesses. and Moylan’s divergent definitions of  Utopia. and intentional communities (along with space and the city) as topics falling within the subfield of  Utopia as “program. Levitas does not approve of  this: “One of  the consequences of  this reading of utopia as heuristic rather than systematic.4 Nathaniel Coleman Ultimately. however. Levitas. Moreover. Coleman. While this illuminates the potential value of  both city plans and architectural designs as forms of utopian imagination (that might also represent the first steps toward overcoming the closure of  the present). with dual subfields encompassing a number of  topics within each but with a shared origin. Levitas’s.” with the origin of both to be found in More’s Utopia. exploratory rather than prescriptive. According to him. and failures of  the iconic register of  the utopian text” (“For Utopia” 39). such as Sargent’s definition provides. such schemes must delineate how what is proposed could become the setting for a society “considerably better than the society in which” we presently live (“Defense” 15). 237–8.

or place. I am less comfortable with their separation into one of each of his sub-subfields. because I see city plans and architecture as being parts of a comprehensive whole (although this reconciliation may arguably already reveal an idealized view of planning and architecture out of step with present conditions of education. Lyman Tower Sargent asserts: “Finally.Introduction: Architecture and Utopia 5 pleased Jameson includes both city plans and individual buildings.1 Architecture and Utopia: Images and Objects Any attempt to make a claim for the relative “utopianness” of architecture must begin by dealing with three issues.” how could it be possible to construe something as real and concrete as a building as a Utopia? 2 A short answer might begin with directing attention away from any realized building toward the original plans for one to determine if it evidences a “utopian impulse. Topos implies that the Utopia must be located spatially and temporally. is an important part of  the terminology. This is.” In this sense. the mindset (or “mental tuning”) giving rise to the building could be utopian. even though nowhere. it must have some place. it should be remembered that in addition to the various prefixes. if  Utopia may be defined as “a non-existent place located somewhere.’ – the word topos. even the constructed building could be “utopian” (rather than a “Utopia”). Perhaps Harvey’s conception of a “dialectical utopianism” comes closest to reconciling city plans and architecture with Utopia and the lived reality of social life (his emphasis on time and place rather than the social notwithstanding). . making it seem possible rather than impossible” (“Definition” 138). a device for imparting reality. of course. practice. and procurement). Moving away from architecture as 1 2 Levitas has observed that “[t]he space/time or geography/history dyad [in Harvey’s Spaces of Hope] gives too little space to social structure and to sociology.’ ‘eu. and the sociological into the geographical – ref lecting the recent intellectual relationship between those disciplines” (“Dialectical” 142).’ and ‘dys. First. tending to collapse the social into the spatial. ‘u.

Accordingly. The dystopian condition of the modern city is so serious that architecture critic and historian Kenneth Frampton asks: Is there some fatal inescapable paralysis that prevails. Coleman. even if  they exist. could sustain a singular vision of an alternative improved reality through inhabitation. In fact.) Although I have dealt with this conundrum elsewhere. no matter how unlikely it is that such a construction. one need only consider Alice Coleman’s 1985 book Utopia on Trial. a product of  thought or a philosophical position on Utopia (the Good Life). it is worth reiterating that I am not convinced that Modern Architecture – especially mass high-rise housing – was ever as utopian in intent as it is commonplace to presume. “Dystopias”). People always use buildings and cities in ways architects and planners have never anticipated. while it is doubtful that a single building or a collection of  them in the form of a city could ever be Utopia realized in a final form. any construction has the potential to of fer a prospect on to another reality. . separating the increasingly smart. (Coleman’s dubious project is the subject of my contribution to this collection. the city of  the twentieth and twentyfirst centuries is far more dystopian (or anti-utopian) than utopian. or constructions. It is a dystopia from which we are usually shielded by the kaleidoscopic blur of  the average taxi window. To get a sense of  this. Le Corbusier and Utopia altogether as if they were seamlessly interchangeable and thus responsible for the notorious failures of postwar mass housing in Britain. technological extravagance of our armaments from the widespread dumbness and meanness of our environment? […] A more unaesthetic and strangely repetitive urban fabric – apart from the monumental tranquility of the occasional cemetery – would be hard to imagine. which more often than not is only partially transparent (“Brief  Ref lections” 13).6 Nathaniel Coleman “Utopia” to architecture as “utopian” should make it easier to imagine how a work of architecture could convincingly be utopian. The second issue confronting any discussion on Utopia and architecture is the degree to which the apparent failures of  twentieth-century modern architecture (of the sort identified with the Congrès Internationaux d’Architecture Moderne (CIAM) and Le Corbusier) are blamed on its supposed attempts to make Utopia take f lesh in cities throughout the world. not so much in the “presentation” of bad places as in the “realization” of them (N. rather than an attempt to construct a Utopia. which seeks to dispose of  high Modern Architecture.

The Architecture of  Modern Italy. Malcolm Miles. Sargent’s statement.3 However. is especially provocative considering the large number of publications associating the words “City” or “Architecture” with Utopia (albeit. Kennedy) International Airport. cities and landscapes.” Equally intriguing is why such pairings are so often made in an attempt to explain architectural and urban failures by implicating Utopia. Architecture or Techno-Utopia. especially if one considers Sargent’s observation that “[v]ery few reform tracts present more than a very limited view of society. And of course virtually all city plans and the like would be excluded” (“Definition”. Jean-Francois Lejeune (ed. is generally applicable to modern cities everywhere. often enough with little ref lection on defining the utopian aspect of either). criticism and practice of architecture. Terry Kirk. Felicity Scott. No Place Like Utopia. In most instances. made as part of his project to define the literary genre of Utopia. from the New York City borough of Queens to Manhattan. assuming the pairing of  “architecture. Marie-Ange Brayer and Larry Busbea. which refers to the taxi ride from JFK ( John F. Urban Utopias.. theory. Stefan Muthesius.Introduction: Architecture and Utopia 7 Arguably. it is questionable whether or not Utopia of fers an alternative solution to the failures and limitations of the city of modern architecture. Alastair Gordon. Frampton’s description above. Weekend Utopia. it is worth clarifying what the relation could be and. Cruelty and Utopia. perhaps more importantly. Nathaniel Coleman. Topologies. extravagant images of visionary cities (that may or may not be ideal) are deployed as evidence for asserting a connection between Utopia and architecture 3 Some notable recent examples of  the identification of architecture and cities with utopia – especially in the modern period – include: Jane Alison et al.” “urbanism.” and “city” with Utopia reveals something more significant than simply an attempt to sell books. Hubert-Jan Henket and Hilde Heynen (eds). Back from Utopia. Utopias and Architecture. The Postwar University. Peter Blake. in particular coming from within the history. the third issue confronting architecture and Utopia worth touching upon has to do with the emphasis on “representation” over “praxis” common to considerations of architecture and Utopia.). 143). Before returning to how a utopian mentality can contribute to the realization of  better buildings. If so. how that relationship might contribute to the construction of “better places. Future City. .

Architecture and Utopia. it remains to suggest why such association might reasonably make sense. In point of  fact. Frequently. Utopia – a non-existent society described in considerable detail and normally located in time and space. Sargent defines Utopianism. architecture has increasingly become either more “banal” or more “spectacular. very few of which would survive even a cursory test against definitions of  Utopia coming from within the field of  Utopian Studies. Eutopia or positive utopia – a non-existent society described in considerable detail and normally located in time and space that the author intended a contemporaneous reader to view as considerably better than the society in which that reader lived (“Defense” 15). A striking example of  this is a small book by Franco Borsi. or reveal that the major part of architecture and city plans defined as representing a Utopia must not be. In standard usage utopia is used both as defined here and as an equivalent for eutopia (below).8 Nathaniel Coleman and the city. or as intended for an “isotropic” condition). as my objective in this introduction is to demonstrate the relevance of collocating architecture and Utopia. which is bursting with visionary images of architecture and the city from the tenth century to the near present. the connection between such projects and a specific “time and place” is also extremely tenuous. the characteristics of  Utopia defined by Sargent are either not applicable to architecture. Focusing on Sargent’s definition of  Utopia. it is a rare thing indeed for visionary architecture or city projects to describe the “non-existent society” for which the project is proposed “in considerable [enough] detail” to qualify as a Utopia.” While “banality” and “spectacle” might seem diametrically opposed with regard to architecture and the city. much modern architecture could be described as “a-topic” (as a manifestation of abstract space. and Eutopia as follows: Utopianism – social dreaming. both actually reveal the same tendency: a renunciation of architecture as a world-making art by recasting it as either a technical . Since the seventeenth century. and more so why it might be beneficial. Utopia. For example. Nevertheless. Thus.

or resistant.4 In point of  fact. even though just the opposite is necessary to reveal Utopia’s potential contribution to reimagining architecture and the city (and the individual and social life they shelter). and an architectural or constructive mode” (“Imaginary” 47). though destined to expire soon after. the two are normally combined in the commodification of architecture: the quantitative technicality of structure is masked by increasingly spectacular images. The First Moderns. Wegner’s contributions to this volume. settings that when provided constitute the utopian dimension of architecture and the city. Kenneth Frampton. More to the point. Utopia communicated as image always emphasizes representation over praxis. leaving only dullness as a residue. which may fascinate vision for a time. each of which treats representation in often surprising ways. now mostly some variant of neoliberal.Introduction: Architecture and Utopia 9 problem or a problem of image or representation alone. architecture and the city as technical or spectacle reproduces what “is” so far as it duplicates settings suited to continued smooth operation of  the prevailing cultural dominant. Levitas provides some support for how architecture might be rethought through Utopia in this way. Jonathan Powers’s. radically free market capitalism. see Nathaniel Coleman. Modern Architecture. moment necessary for reimagining how we might live better. and thus are unable to provide settings for the potential emergence of  these new habits. Tom Moylan is particularly helpful in developing this idea: 4 For more on this trajectory of architecture in the modern period. “Utopia is about the imaginary reconstitution of society: the construction or constitution of society […] It has both an archaeological or analytical mode. and Phillip E. it is worth considering further the conventional split between “representation” and “praxis” with regard to the expression of architectural Utopias in the form of images. and Joseph Rykwert. Alberto Pérez-Gómez. With Levitas’s “architectural or constructive mode of utopia” in mind. a topic dealt with especially in Greg Kerr’s. . According to her. Architecture and cities in the image of what “is” (in an extreme form) lack the critical. Ellen Sullivan’s.

In considering Jameson’s ideas on Utopia. Moylan echoes Levitas’s conception that Utopia holds out an “archaeological” as well as an “architectural” method for rethinking what “is” (that is nascent in the everyday). in the sense that completion and fixity are neither the aim nor the substance of  Utopia. […] The task of the Utopia is not the unmediated production of the realm of freedom (which the text nevertheless names) but rather the production of  the conditions for such historical change. Moylan brings the discussion about as close as the field of utopian studies normally gets to architecture: What utopian practice can deliver.” as much as a “reconstitution” of what is given. Thus. Moreover.10 Nathaniel Coleman [Utopia] must hold that what is already being done is never enough. or to having surrendered all resistance to mindlessly repetitive productivity. Moylan’s own ef fort in defining “Utopia as process” is quite helpful. by emphasizing process over representation.” which would bring the discussion much closer to the actual activities of designing and constructing buildings and cities. and what it most importantly delivers is the grave acknowledgment that only through the complex process of struggle will more emancipatory possibilities than those imagined actually be achieved. it remains to get at Utopia as “process. To do so. He argues that Utopia is “an ongoing human activity that takes up various forms but also exceeds the limits of any one of  them” (Scraps 88). Here again. I believe that what Moylan suggests in the quote above is that to be satisfied with the status quo is tantamount to having given up. 107). however. but as a “reconstruction. during. In the above. it must re-imagine forms of conduct as much as forms of individual and group appropriations of space. although Utopia is concerned with the future. and after whatever counts as a revolutionary moment) (Scraps 88). is a set of provocative but dispensable new ways of  living and possible ways toward them. Utopia thus calls attention to the implicit limits of its own vision and turns us back to the task of building the future. […] Utopia’s promise will rise out of  the conditions in which we live and not in some idealized past or future (Scraps 94. digging up origins is at least as important as new building. . that what needs to be done must always keep the fullness of  human experience on the agenda as an asymptotic reality that constantly pulls the political struggle forward (before. However. to formulate an alternative. it emerges out of  the present.

Utopia’s significance resides not in the degree to which this project or that one approximates some familiar utopian image or form (or visionary project or ideal city plan) but rather in the degree to which every step of the way – from first sketch. through design development and construction to the moment “ownership” of the project is relinquished to those who will inhabit it – is a utopian process. As an example. of fering perspectives on to the unknown and windows into an augmented reality in the same . how could it be possible for a functioning structure to be both no place (utopia) and simultaneously a good place (eutopia)? Perhaps the answer lies in the degree to which some architecture (or even urban plans or urban designs) are credibly works of art. as a building to evidence a utopian impulse. how could a work of architecture ever be convincingly shown to be a utopia (or utopian).Introduction: Architecture and Utopia 11 Moylan facilitates a rethinking of the value of Utopia for architecture and the city. if  they even exist. especially because it seems doubtful that a building or even a collection of  them in the form of a city could convincingly of fer a prospect on to another reality. or constructions. rather it is to imagine superior forms (or frameworks) for human inhabitation that emerge out of the critical moment Utopia shelters and which conventional practice obscures. I posed the question as to how it might be possible for something so real.” such as Jerusalem. sustainable through inhabitation. More extravagantly still. The object is not to construct a Utopia. Less likely still is the possibility that such a construction. which Powers develops in his chapter in this volume on Italian Renaissance architect and theorist Filarete. Architecture and Utopia: Images and Objects Earlier. could uphold a vision of an alternative improved reality. Diane E. so concrete. Accordingly. More precisely. Davis and Tali Hatuka’s contribution to this book develops on the potentialities of a decidedly utopian method for practice in what they call “conf lict cities.

But somehow architecture. music. realized by way of the working upon this in and through the imagination. For example. a literary utopia or a contribution to Utopian studies will both begin as an idea. as Powers observes in his chapter. the gaps between planned occupation of a structure and its actual day-to-day functioning are usually even wider than the break between those revealed by the translation from drawings to buildings. Both a book and a building generally begin with a sketch. In the same way. or at least need not be. it must be printed. Needless to say. is credible enough. especially in our times. when . this is an invaluable provisionality that lends any project a vitality. and so dependent on politics and the marketplace for its existence. the result of mechanical production and reproduction. as Bloch has shown. in the form of a published book for example. The steps between idea and availability entail multiple layers of interpretation. If a building can be built. a building only becomes “real” through its occupation by inhabitants. or the potential of art as utopian construct. seems. painting and sculpture can. a manuscript is something like an architectural drawing. In this way. The utopian potential of art. it is worth ref lecting on the degree to which the imagination and realization of architecture are ultimately not so wildly dif ferent from making in the other arts.12 Nathaniel Coleman way that literature. in much the same way that constructing a building is. Or. in the sense of  being available to others. contract documents) never coincide exactly with a building as built. architectural drawings and even blueprints (or construction documents. for the work to be made. burdened as it is by use. in its own way. Very rarely is a published book exactly like even the final draft. However. or even more restrictively. to be of necessity ever the province of practicality. And if a book only finally becomes “real” in the imagination of readers through reading. a desire. dance. which is. Everything involved in bringing a text from evident completion to publication is also an interpretation of it. or other form of representation. Only in an epoch of persuasive practical realism. how could it convincingly be a Utopia (or utopian)? In an attempt to show how this might be possible. or at least once did but has now been mostly lost to our obsessive pursuit of  fidelity between drawing and building (of which use of computers in design and representation can be both cause and symptom).

The same individual will also experience any given work dif ferently during each subsequent encounter with it. at least potentially. it is made anew by each viewer and through each subsequent performance. if it is one. each time it is experienced. even unexpected or unanticipated. or music is experienced. All works of creative expression have their sketches and some even their blueprints. and Wegner’s chapters also examine intersections between architecture and literature in the invention and representation of utopias. sculpture or a film (though static) will be experienced in another way with each first encounter of it. a utopian function. perhaps it has no claim to art). respectively. a work of art. Theatre. will ever reveal something fresh. dance. . Valérie Narayana’s. could the fictive quality of  buildings have receded so far into the background of  the psyches of architect. or choreographer could ever re-play the same piece exactly as its composer imagined. Even a painting. observer. insights into realty that neither the natural sciences nor the social sciences could ever hope to disclose.Introduction: Architecture and Utopia 13 architecture seems little more than a product of the building industry and architects are mostly little more than technicians. in the same way any other artistic expression can. director. conductor. but will not always have. and thus refreshing. no matter how rigorously notated or exhaustively rehearsed. Kerr’s. It is precisely the fictive and illuminating potential of architecture (in an intersection with literature) that Ufuk Ersoy’s chapter in this collection examines through architect Bruno Taut’s collaboration with novelist Paul Scheerbart early in the twentieth century. in either case. Once a work of architecture can be construed as a work of art. each time a work of art is encountered it will reveal something new (and if it does not. Every time a work of  theatre. Kerr and Narayana ref lect on this by considering the figure of the temple and the engineer in nineteenth-century French literature. Equally. it may be argued to have. and dance could be said to have an inbuilt promise of interpretation. which is – at least in principle – its utopian potential. client. and this is simply because no performer. music. Nevertheless. and occupant alike. Such perpetual newness applies equally to motionless works of art like painting as to mobile ones like dance. whereas Wegner considers this by way of  Rem Koolhaas’s explorations of  “the void” as utopian potential. works of architecture that lay claim to the status of works of art will inevitably share with other works of art the capacity for permitting unexpected.

14 Nathaniel Coleman A utopian text is no less utopian for having been committed to the page. In short. no matter the variations of invention. which is more like a form of visionary projection than a Utopia. examines how an alternative community’s concrete manifestation – the forms it takes as well as shapes – can (at least begin to) bridge the gap between social processes and architectural form in Utopia. the appearance and subsequent disappearance of an intentional community reveals less about the certain failure of  Utopia than it does about its possibility. as many architects. planners. and then read and re-read by untold numbers of readers. the supposed utopian frame was fixed long before any nuanced perspective on its ultimate social organization and operations was ever even ventured. the social dimension of  the former – its intentionality. if any. It is here also that architecture is at its most potentially utopian but also its least: how can any claim to the organic relationship between the intentions of a community and the character of its physical setting be verified? Or. in the form of let us say a housing project. almost completely. for example. what role. critics and historians claim it was. vice versa. And when consideration turns to intentional communities. and governmental authorities rather than by the intended inhabitants. developers. For example. Neither consumption nor criticism promises to exhaust a robust work’s potential for renewal. when Utopia is considered in tandem with architecture. to an aesthetics of utopian imagery. gives way. is that all of the intentionality in the latter is imposed from above by architects. it is no wonder that whatever project for social reform it might have had failed so miserably: in most instances. published. could the built environment play in inaugurating a Utopia? David H. it ought to turn also to the built environment of  that community. In most instances. . the most significant dif ference between an intentional community of consensus (as much for its inhabitants as for the built environment that shelters them) and a hypothetically utopian example of modern architecture. Haney’s chapter in this volume. When nominating architecture as utopian it often seems as though Utopia must always and everywhere have a fixed character. Perhaps similarly. content and context. if  twentieth-century modern architecture was ever utopian.

Yet. Davis and Hatuka also deal with this in their chapter by elaborating on ways of envisioning utopian proposals in the present that can include multiple narratives without losing their transformative potential.Introduction: Architecture and Utopia 15 Because the imagined utopian potential of most social housing projects is dictated rather than arrived at through agreement. the architectural and social result will. If  the likelihood of achieving a utopian moment in architecture that is sustainable through time and occupation appears so unpromising. architectural drawings for construction have for a long time now been primarily technical documents far more than rhetorical devices: rather . especially when what is constructed is intended for strangers who have had little or no involvement in any stage of  the process (and sometimes even when they do). by returning the discussion to the utopian potential of works of art on the one hand. social reality. Sullivan also considers this in her investigation of  Patrick Geddes’s attempts to bridge the gaps between representation. It is the rare architect who is able to navigate all of the pitfalls and restrictions that come with building in a bureaucratic situation. rarer still is the architect who after all of  this is nevertheless able to actually achieve a potentially utopian framework. there might still be some way to rescue the proposition that architecture can be utopian even today. and utopian transformation of  both space and society. Perhaps even with the hope of arriving at a more precise definition than one that accepts architecture as utopian simply because the drawings that precede it articulate a “not-yet” condition and that to build. resemble something far more despotic than utopian (which I discuss in my chapter). while keeping intentional communities nearby on the other. Haney’s chapter explores alternatives to this apparent inevitability. in most instances. to construct. what possible claim could any building outside of the confines of an intentional community (or fiction) possibly have on Utopia? It is on this dilemma more than any other that so many attempted pairings of architecture and Utopia (except in the most negative sense) break. or even that public housing inevitably includes social imagining. Malcolm Miles examines just this dilemma in his chapter on Cerdà’s plan for the extension of Barcelona at the end of the nineteenth century. For the first. to be revealed as bogus. The limitations of both generalities are too obvious to ignore. “must” always entail some degree of optimism.

conformity with the blueprint in the built result. in which he no longer grouped architecture with painting and sculpture as a plastic art. dance. as far as possible. With the advent of computer aided drafting and representations. the apparently static quality of painting and sculpture determined the incapacity of both for acting on reality. reveal building to be. which Powers explores in his chapter through a consideration of Filarete’s Renaissance treatise on architecture. or divergences from. More to the point. interpreting setting as much 5 As architecture historian Kenneth Frampton observes. they are generally intended to assure. the nineteenth-century German architect and theorist Gottfried Semper’s argument that.5 For Semper. As for the second. as often as not. as an ontological world-making rather than as representational form. drawings through construction have only become more limited. far more than a credible attempt at realizing genuinely improved conditions (despite often extravagant claims that they are). Architecture and Utopia: World-Making Arts If a work of architecture can be argued for as being in some way analogous to literature on the one hand and visual and performing art on the other (perhaps all are like dreams). “In tracing this thought retrospectively. not to mention the vanity of architects and clients alike. one may cite Semper’s ‘Theory of  Formal Beauty’ of 1856.16 Nathaniel Coleman than opening up perspectives on to a possible world. akin to music and dance. and architecture supposedly could. dance. real estate investment and development. to string a necklace. . Semper regarded such arts as paramount not only because they were symbolic but also because they embodied man’s underlying erotic urge to strike a beat. interpretations of. and architecture as “world-making” inasmuch as they are profoundly environmental. architecture is a “world-making art” becomes quite revealing. an instrument of capital accumulation. Semper understood music. or for revealing alternatives to it in the way that music. and thus to decorate according to a rhythmic law” (“Rappel à l’ordre” 523). or an object of spectacle. but with music and dance as a cosmic art. to weave a pattern.

nevertheless opens up perspectives onto alternative realities. at least until the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. in much the way that utopias do. Along these lines. Ersoy’s. Kerr’s. all three open doorways onto alternative realities. The instinct underlying tectonic creation is man’s primordial urge to strike a beat.Introduction: Architecture and Utopia 17 as giving rise to it. the work of Michelangelo comes to mind. architecture was paradoxically generally more abstract though also more capable of construing figurative meaning than it is today (in much the way that music and dance are). Narayana’s. there was always something “architectural” about Michelangelo’s painting and sculpture (his Sistine Chapel frescoes for example. However. by operating through reference or analogy rather than representation. it is obvious that there is much pre-twentiethcentury painting and sculpture that. to string a necklace to decorate “lawfully” (Semper 33). music and dance can transcend whatever limitations distance might place on them between their original invention and performance in the present. or at the very least parallel ones. . and Wegner’s essays each articulates an intersection between architecture and other artistic expression in the formulation of anticipated transformation. decorative in the very manipulation of their basic elements. It is in this way that art can be anticipatory – utopian – as Bloch imagined it could be. as helpful as this conception of art might be for identifying a coincidence between Utopia and architecture. which often either augmented an architectural or urban framework or were set within one or the other. although representational. individual and social. as well as artistic. before its utilitarian turn during the nineteenth century essentially deprived modern architecture of its earlier transaction with cosmology and myths. Yet. His gradual move away from painting and sculpture to architecture is quite suggestive. In this sense. What is more. Semper’s conception of architecture as a “world-making art” is helpful to developing an understanding of its utopian potential as much as its utopian vocation: Architecture (now called tectonics) is no longer grouped with painting and sculpture as a plastic art but with dance and music as a “cosmic art” – cosmic because their laws of spatial harmony are immanently form giving. or his Moses sculpture). Actually. The more strictly representational quality of  traditional painting and sculpture limited the “world-making” capacities of  both. Nonetheless.

Leaving this qualitative problem aside for the moment.” the reality is that establishing welcoming environments that also allay not only the tensions introduced above. it is just this compensatory. According to architectural historian and theorist Joseph Rykwert: The work of art he [Semper] says succinctly in the Prolegomena [to Style in the Technical and Tectonic Arts or Practical Aesthetics. the built environment – our home – is re-inscribed with alienation. encouraging yet again dispossession of  the city and civic life alike. not all architecture reveals a utopian dimension (as Bloch and others have noted). while all architecture – no matter how impoverished – establishes some kind of setting and as such perhaps installs a world writ small. which today seems spent. whose laws man thinks he might understand but whose riddle he never resolves. The unattained completeness he conjures with play – and by building a miniature universe for himself. In this the cosmic law can be observed within the smallest dimensions of a self-contained object (“Semper” 127).” But it is precisely this latent potential of architecture. emphasizes the cosmological character of  both. gentled to some degree by both play and art. However. the utopian moment of architecture that requires Utopia to recuperate it. but mortal anxiety as well. In many ways. and ultimately emancipatory potential of architecture that Ersoy attempts to recuperate in his chapter on Scheerbart and Taut’s “Glass Utopia. seem all but beyond the capacity of  the present culture. . I believe. or at the very least parallel ones. No matter how much architects and others pay lip-service to ideas of “place making. in much the way that utopias do. How strange it is now to think of architecture (or almost anything else human-made in the present) as a “miniature universe” that assuages anxiety by making incompleteness more bearable.18 Nathaniel Coleman The value of  Semper’s observation for the discussion here resides in the degree to which Utopia too engages in the making of worlds. so that he remains forever in unsatisfied tension. that is. anticipatory. Over and over again. Semper’s assertion that architecture is “world-making” suggests that along with music and dance it does indeed open doorways onto alternative augmented realities. The reference to “unsatisfied tension” as a permanent condition of  being human. 1860–2] is man’s response to the world which is full of wonder and mysterious powers.

Haney’s chapter on “Concrete Utopia” proposes how this has been realized. it will need to embody social imagination. As a corollary. Rather. Powers’s chapter on Filarete. to lay claim in any way to Utopia. in both technical and emotional senses. which will go far in assuring their continuing usefulness into the future. . it is worth considering that the founding charter of an intentional community must be specific enough to distinguish it as intentional but open enough to withstand conf lict. no matter how much s/he works as a member of a team. In this way. and evolution. The architect. works of architecture will come closest to being utopian when they are equally specific “and” open. negotiation. a work of architecture must be as purposeful as both fictional utopias and intentional communities are. at least (provisionally and) partially. so will a work of architecture. Sullivan’s on Geddes.Introduction: Architecture and Utopia 19 In much the way an intentional community will have a founder. what begins to distinguish a remarkable work of architecture from unremarkable ones is what the architect makes of the brief. it must do more than simply look like some familiar utopian image. However. envisions a response to the problems set for him or her by the client. especially regarding how it structures and negotiates relationships of individuals to each other. in much the way literary utopias and intentional communities envision the same. as Powers touches on in his chapter and I do in mine. and to nature. Another part of  this distinguishing process is the degree to which the architect is able to imagine a result that responds to the failures of past projects by attempting to surpass them with more successful future ones (N. or as an exemplar of utopian imagination. and Davis and Hatuka’s on “Visioning” each considers the ways architects and planners have worked to draw Utopia out of necessity. Utopias). Miles’s on Cerdà. or imagine ways that they might do so. to the world. Coleman. the degree to which s/he is able to draw poetry from what might well be an extremely arid technocratic series of requirements for how to respond to the program. to society. Returning for a moment to the connection between literary and social utopias and architecture. For a building to have any claim to the status of a Utopia.

Perhaps. Infusing form. with Utopia might be accomplishable by a force of will alone. Such architecture would at least be honest in having completely turned away from what Tafuri called “false hopes in design” (182).) As described by Tafuri. such as I have attempted to outline here. and thus architecture and the city. If  Tafuri’s description of  the limit of contemporary architecture (and the city) as form without Utopia is accurate. .20 Nathaniel Coleman Architecture Emptied Italian architectural historian Manfredo Tafuri (1935–94) believed that the traditional liberal profession of architecture was at its end. is very close to Bloch’s. some more worked-out sense of artistic invention with regards to architecture is necessary. then the problem of a renewed architecture persists as a problem of  Utopia (no matter how uncomfortable Tafuri would have been with this proposition) (Tafuri ix). ix). which could draw it back from the precipice of fanciful novelty or dour technicality that empty building of its more substantial qualities. all that could be hoped for was a silent – sublimely useless – architecture free of any agenda. which emphasizes its spectacle and technical aspects above all else (Tafuri. that is. foreclosed on by the logic of capitalist production. especially the architectural frame to house it. all that is left for architecture (and the city) is “form without utopia”. which I believe it is. the special capacity of Utopia for instilling purpose to design requires illumination. Beyond that. (Tafuri’s reading of  the situation. For him. Stripped of ideology. But for “will” to have a force. current conditions emptied architecture of ideology. architecture of  the sort considered worthwhile in this introduction and the chapters that follow must be impossible to produce in the present. Only after capitalism is overcome by a superior condition will it again be possible to imagine and construct a renewed culture. According to him. architecture free of any purposefulness apart from its status as aesthetic or economic object or commodity fetish. but it is also ideology that infuses architecture (among other human activities) with meaning and purpose. quickly being replaced by “technicians in the building industry” (x). it is worth noting. precisely because “Ideology is useless to capitalist development” (x).

any more than works of architecture or cities do. whether literary fictions or intentional communities. tradition – in the sense of inheritances that are handed “down” as well as “over” through time. In each. have a history sheds light on the otherwise dead end of originality as ahistorical novum. by way of habit as much as evolution – is the ground of radical (re)invention (of society.Introduction: Architecture and Utopia 21 Although many writers on art and architecture could aid in the achievement of this. On the one hand. Thinking for a moment of  More’s Utopia and Morris’s News from Nowhere. The value of  the preceding quote for the present discussion is multiple. just as nature has her history of development within which old motives are discernable in every formation – in the same way art is also based on a few standard forms and types that stem from the most ancient traditions and that always reappear yet of fer an infinite variety and like nature’s types have their history. On the other hand. Semper’s conviction that all living things. In this sense. Not just by “educating desire” but also by making . city. developing parts which are only alluded to in others. do not exist in either historical or formal isolation from one another. no matter how far-reaching. and architecture). all innovation (or design). including objects and forms of  human expression. repeating continually the same basic forms by modifying them a thousand fold according to the formative shape reached by living beings and their dif ferent conditions of existence. everything is conditioned by circumstances and relations (183). In precisely the way Semper describes it in the passage above. Therefore nothing is arbitrary. it suggests that there is no such thing as a volume zero original without a past: utopias. the comprehensiveness of Semper’s thinking on such matters is especially worth considering: Just as nature with her infinite abundance is very sparse in her motives. has a past. shortening some parts and lengthening others. it is possible to argue that the idea of the good or superior places both texts describe are critical of the bad consequences of modernity without being either enervating or conformist. for the moment. A chiliastic total break from history is impossible. Utopia can bring meaning to history as much as to art (architecture and the city here) by granting both a sense of purpose in improving the lot of individuals and groups.

Ethics: “eqos [ethos] Greek word for custom or habit. Thus. precisely because the ways individuals and groups appropriate objects and spaces through habit can be attended to in a way that neither conservatism nor exaggerated progressivism can manage. instead subjecting all of us who inhabit it to a framework that images and supports all too well the limitations of the present. Hence. and the Stoics held that all behavior – for good or evil – arises from the eqos of the individual” (Kemerling. both of which privilege conformity and novelty in equal measure over and above transformation. ethics is the study of human conduct. Overemphasis on technical skill in the training and practice of architects tends to deprive architecture and thus the built environment generally from becoming an enriched and resonant “counterform” to life. perhaps ref lecting on architecture and Utopia holds out the hope that not only might Utopia be revealed again (and again) as the “tacit coef ficient of architectural invention” but that by (re)visiting Utopia’s 6 “Ethics is not merely a theoretical study for Aristotle.22 Nathaniel Coleman possible the kind of social dreaming “licensed” to imagine better conditions. “eqos [ethos]”). Utopianism is restless but. virtues of character are dispositions to act in certain ways in response to similar situations. the habits of  behaving in a certain way. good conduct arises from habits that in turn can only be acquired by repeated action and correction. as the chapters that follow attest. drawn out of experience of what exists in the present. If Utopia can also be construed as the “education of desire” (as a number of writers suggest it is). and thus envision and begin constructing the first steps toward their realization. the most promising examples of which propose betterment but not necessarily at the expense of  habit.6 Both Utopia and architecture are world-making endeavors. Utopia accomplishes this competence by proposing alternatives to the narrow confines of  the marketplace and modernity (as technological progress). . beginning with Aristotle. it is always caught up with the social and with imagining alternatives to the status quo. “Aristotle: Ethics”). making ethics an intensely practical discipline” (Kemerling. the characteristic conduct of an individual human life. which in turn is the source of both ethics and tradition. Unlike any intellectual capacity. each plays with reality by inventing new worlds and both imagine worlds within worlds.

Bloch. Cambridge. Massachusetts: MIT Press. and in turn demand it.Introduction: Architecture and Utopia 23 verdurous of ferings. Jane. but also territory and social space in one direction and texts in the other (including both literature and designs). and Ersoy. 1960– 1970. and Wegner’s chapters are particularly strong in this regard. Ernst. Sullivan. Throughout the chapters that follow. Kerr’s. is seen as a means – the first steps – to overcoming the closure of the apparently “real” by the genuinely “possible. Trans. Cambridge. 1997. No Place Like Utopia: Modern Architecture and the Company We Kept. London: Thames and Hudson. Architecture and Utopia. The Utopian Function of  Art and Literature. Blake. Frédéric Migayrou. my own contribution to this collection focuses on a specific instance where Utopia is used as a sweeping pejorative that is patently fallacious. Jack Zipes and Frank Mecklenburg. Trans. 2007. The fictional space suggested by the architecture of a given text (or design). Massachusetts: MIT Press. Each of  these contributions articulates the slippage between fiction and reality. Peter. W. Selected Essays. Paris: Éditions Hazan.” the degree to which the fictive is also a making (Coleman. On the other hand. widening its scope to include both obvious “auteur” buildings. so that the inhabitants of  the built environment (us) might feel empowered to also expect more. the idea of architecture is developed in intriguing ways that expand conventional understandings of it. New York: W. . but so are the chapters by Miles. are concerned with what I’ve argued elsewhere are “real fictions. Haney’s. 1988. Future City: Experiment and Utopia in Architecture. Norton: 1993. Brayer. Utopias 46–62).” Powers’s. Marie-Ange and Larry Busbea. Topologies: The Urban Utopia in France. and Neil Spiller. Davis and Hatuka’s. although forever imaginary. Franco. or. Borsi. Narayana’s. Works Cited Alison. architects might have their consciousnesses raised to demand more of  themselves and their clients. 2007. Deke Dusinberre.

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