Beyond the restrictions of the factual

If you’re in Berlin this evening, Thursday, 12 May, Gestalten will be hosting a release party for Utopia Forever: Visions of Architecture and Urbanism, edited by Lukas Feireiss.

The book includes essays by Dan Wood & Amale Andraos of WORKac, Darryl Chen of Tomorrow’s Thoughts Today, Matthias Böttger & Ludwig Engel of raumtaktik, Ulf Hackauf from The Why Factory, and Lukas Feireiss himself; I also contributed a short “Utopia Generator” game that readers can play (bring your own six-sided die).

[Images: From Utopia Forever].

From the book:

Utopia Forever is a collection of current projects and concepts from architecture, city planning, urbanism, and art that point beyond the restrictions of the factual to unleash the potential of creative visions. In contrast to the largely ideal-theoretic approaches of the past, today’s utopias take the necessity for societal changes into account. The projects in this book explore how current challenges for architecture, mobility, and energy as well as the logistics of food consumption and waste removal can be met.

The book is more or less an apotheosis of the well-rendered and the unbuilt, not a sustained exploration of what constitutes social change, but its selection of projects—including concept art, student models, artificial mountains, flooded cities, houses on stilts, supergrids, verticalized landfills, private islands, living clocks, robotic agriculture, and more—is strong.

There are also many projects that you might have seen here on BLDGBLOG, including Taylor Medlin’s extraordinary thesis project from UC-Berkeley, Protocol Architecture’s counterfeit maps from Columbia’s GSAPP, David Benqué’s “Fabulous Fabbers,” Anthony Lau’s “Flooded London,” Magnus Larsson’s “Dune,” and several more. It’s nice to see those reproduced outside the amnesiac world of the web, where anything featured more than two years ago is ancient history.

[Images: From Utopia Forever].

Of course, there are also a handful of projects in the book that fall squarely into the camp of random squiggles that look like Venus fly traps—or like the towering vertebrae of impossible animals, or like unusable clumps of pink kudzu—for no apparent programmatic reason, showing that images that could pass for rave flyers from the 1990s can still be taken as formally advanced architectural utopias, divorced from questions of political critique. As if a nightmare of leafy metallic squid drifting through New York streets would somehow solve questions of human rights or civic participation.

But perhaps utopia won’t arrive, money-shot in hand; perhaps utopia will be the same flawed and imperfect city you already live in, but simply governed by a more equitable constitution. Perhaps we need more collaborations between architecture and political science departments, even if to work out nothing more basic than where the design of urban space ends and humanist activism begins—and how these can be more effectively made into one, utopian pursuit.

These latter examples don’t weigh the book down, on the other hand; they are perhaps just necessary counter-examples, showing where utopian spatiality can go wrong: lens-flared images implying falsely that, if only our roofs could grow green peppers or if our houses looked like trees, we’d also achieve gender equality and political free-expression.

In any case, all of this would be interesting to discuss at greater length with the featured architects, artists, and writers in this visually compelling book, and tonight’s party in Berlin seems like as good an occasion as any to start the discussion; check out Gestalten’s website for more details.

5 thoughts on “Beyond the restrictions of the factual”

  1. The Idea of Utopia in the Urban environment needs to be rooted to a sense of Place, environment, People's local flavors and customs. It seems that the current trends in utopia are like alien beings which land and dissapear with a lack of connection to the real elements of spatial and people's needs. This de-tachment of feeling is alienating, cold and distant rather than being connected composed and inspiring!

  2. We want the blue sky ideas (Boullee, Sant'Elia) – but I'm tired of these glistening, reflective computer generated images. Perhaps architects should pick up a pen…

  3. Richmonde said it! Also it looks very messy and destroys the sight. The buildings look like modern art – without to say anything about it's fine or not. Better hope this new architects make their buildings efficient.

  4. Urban sky gardens: the layering of urban fabric with solar, wind power/heat generators and aeroponics. Essentially, we have all the power we need right at our doorsteps 24 hours year round but we aren't doing much about it. lets talk more on this. these may be space frames built over urban areas over their roofs. solar panels, wind generators or turbines will be the main elements with greenery being the secondary element. skywalks will link building blocks

  5. Geoff, for a meeting of the topic of urban space and politics (and economics), one might want to check out David Harvey's book The Urban Experience.

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