Since the start of time, we humans have been captivated by the mystical nature of other celestial bodies surrounding our Planet Earth. This fascination has been translated to works of astronomy, astrology, architecture and many other studies from making a simple telescope to humankind’s first steps on the Moon. This unending drive for exploration has today led us to understanding our neighboring solar systems and galaxies, thousands of light years away.
While Moshe Safdie may be more well known for the bold forms defining his portfolio of built projects—ranging from the National Gallery of Canada and the horizontal Raffles City Chongqing to the iconic Habitat 67—the architect considers his unbuilt works as important, if not more. Safdie ponders the role of these projects and more in PLANE-SITE’s latest addition to the series Time-Space-Existence.
How can we plan a better city? The answer has confounded architects and urban planners since the birth of the industrial city. One attempt at answering came in the form of a spectacular modernist proposal outside of Amsterdam called the Bijlmermeer. And, as a new two-part episode by 99% Invisible reveals, it failed miserably. But, like all histories, the story is not as simple as it first appears.
The topic for this year’s symposium is Artificial Natures, ranging from classical ones, such as parks and ideal cities, to garden cities, to new “natural “ environments like social media spaces as new public place. The symposium will take place as a combination of short panels and workgroups.
Ideasforward wants to give young creative people from around the world the opportunity to express their views on the future of societies through their innovative and visionary proposals. We are an experimental platform seeking progressive ideas that reflect on emerging themes. The eco-design, sustainable architecture, new materials, concepts, and technologies are compelling issues in the societies of the future and the involvement of the whole community is imperative.
The Minnesota Experimental City (MXC)—a utopian plan for the city of the future that was decades ahead of its time, and yet is surprisingly little-known—was the brainchild of the urban planner and technocrat Athelstan Spilhaus. Spilhaus was a man who saw science as the solution to the problems of the world, and became a public figure presenting his ideas of utopia in everyday life through his comic strip "Our New Age." During the mid-1960s, he conceived an ambitious plan to condense his ideas into a prototype for future cities that would be both noiseless and fumeless, accommodating America's growing population and their by-products.
A new documentary, The Experimental City, explores the development, and ultimately, failure of the MXC's vision for future settlements. Using retro film clips, it takes us back in time to a period where Spilhaus' predictions of computers that can fit into your home and remote banking appeared more of a fantasy than reality. The film is directed by Chad Freidrichs (known also for his 2011 film The Pruitt-Igoe Myth) and was premiered at the Chicago Film Festival, in conjunction with the Chicago Architecture Biennial. Several further screenings will be taking place across the country, including at DOC NYC on November 16th.
Striking Easily Assembled Cabins Will become Symbols for Shelter and Safety Along Remote Trekking Paths
Stockholm-based architecture firm Utopia Arkitekter has designed Skýli, they are bright blue cabins that are popping up in one of the world's most beautiful landscape. The idea came from a desire to develop a structure which could be easily placed along some of the most famous trekking trails in Iceland. Not only are the lodges striking and beautiful in itself, they can be easily constructed and are built to withstand the harshest weather conditions.
Since 2007, American photographer Jade Doskow has been documenting the remains of World’s Fair sites, once iconic global attractions that have often been repurposed for less noble aspirations or neglected and fallen into decay. Lost Utopias brings together the substantial body of work that Doskow has completed over the past decade, including iconic monuments such as the Seattle Space Needle, the Eiffel Tower, Brussels’ Palais des Expositions and New York’s Unisphere.
Near Pondicherry in Southern Indian is Auroville, an experimental township devoted to the teachings of mystic philosopher Sri Aurobindo. The 20 square kilometer site was founded in 1968 by Aurobindo’s spiritual collaborator, Mirra Alfassa. Otherwise known as “The Mother,” she saw Auroville as a place “where men of all countries would be at home”.
“Utopia”: the word was coined by Sir Thomas More in 1516 when he started questioning the possibility of a perfect world where society would suffer no wars or insecurities, a place where everyone would prosper and fulfill both individual and collective ambitions. Yet such a perfect society can only exist with the creation of perfect built infrastructure, which possibly explains why architects have often fantasized on megastructures and how to “order” this dreamed society.
Megastructures, as imagined after World War 2 by the CIAM international congress and Team 10, are now regularly revived with the intent to solve social issues on a mass scale. Notably, architecture students have shown a renewed interest for walking cities as first conceived by Ron Herron of Archigram in the 1960s, assuming that megastructures could solve major crises in remote areas. Just as ETSA Madrid student Manuel Dominguez developed a nomadic city to encourage reforestation in Spain for his 2013 thesis project, Woodbury University graduate Rana Ahmadi has recently designed a walking city that would destroy land mines on its way. But these utopian projects also involve a considerable amount of technology, raising the question of how megastructures and technology can work together to give societies a new beginning.
Alfred Sauvy published in the French magazine L’Observateur the article “Trois Mondes, Une Planete” (August 1952) talking about the World geopolitical context. It concludes with a sentence based on a famous quotation by E.S. Sieyès expressed during the French Revolution: “Car enfine ce Tiers Monde ignoré, exploité, méprisé come le Tiers Etat, veut, lui aussi, être quelque chose.”
For the past quarter century, China’s rapidly expanding economy provided architects with an almost endless supply of building opportunities. Easy lending allowed for an exponential rise in infrastructure projects – China used more concrete in three years than the United States used in the entire twentieth century. But in a country where the number of cities with over a million inhabitants jumped from 16 in 1970 to 106 in 2015, the speed of development enabled high profile, but flawed, experiments alongside the many necessary building projects. There is perhaps no better example of this phenomenon than the city of Ordos. The Inner Mongolian metropolis – home to 100,000 – which sprang from the northern desert in the mid-2000s was designed for over a million inhabitants. The reality of the city came to public attention in 2009 when Al Jazeera wrote about an early uncertainty in the Chinese real estate market.
After living in China for a number of years, photographer Raphael Olivier finally gave in to the nagging urge to see Ordos for himself. Visiting last year, he found a well-maintained city that is still largely uninhabited. I interviewed Olivier about the project, his views on Ordos, Chinese prosperity, and what it means to photograph architecture.
The Pre-Fabricated Skyscraper & The Clean-Tech Utopia: Two Game-Changing, Sustainable Proposals in China
How can the city be reinvented to save the world? Chinese business magnate Zhang Yue and Finnish professor Eero Paloheimo are two men with very contrasting answers to this loaded question. Zhang Yue's answer puts trust in pre-fabricated, high-density vertical development, whereas Paloheimo envisions a built-from-scratch, clean-tech sprawling utopia. Their grand ideas, met with both skepticism and excitement, are documented in a new film by Anna-Karin Grönroos. To watch the trailer and learn more about the bold proposals, continue after the break.
From 1927's Metropolis to 2002's Minority Report, this article on the Guardian Cities explores film's futuristic cities - utopias, dystopias, and those somewhere in-between - and asks: which of these cities would be safest? Most suited to under-30s? The best to live in? You can find out by reading the article here.
In the following interview, which originally appeared in Zawia#01:Utopia (published December 2013), Sir Peter Cook, one of the brilliant minds behind Archigram, sits down with the editors of Zawia to discuss his thoughts on utopia - including why he felt the work of Archigram wasn’t particularly utopian (or even revolutionary) at all.
ZAWIA: It is perhaps difficult to discuss our next volume's theme - “utopia" - without first starting with archigram and the visions that came out of that period. How do you view the utopian visions of archigram during that specific moment of history in relation to the current realities of our cities and the recent political and social waves of change ?
PETER COOK: Actually... at the time I was probably naive enough to not regard it as Utopian.