Posts tagged with "Utopias":

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Vermont’s Mormon future city called off after preservationists sound the alarm

Plans for a utopian city based around the Mormon design principles of Joseph Smith have been scuttled by their Salt Lake City-based developer, after the National Trust for Historic Preservation put out a warning about the project. The sprawling sustainable city first made waves in 2016, when it was revealed that Utah millionaire David Hall had already purchased 900 acres in Vermont’s rural White River Valley through his nonprofit NewVistas Foundation. Those 900 acres were part of a larger plan to collect 5,000 acres across the four towns of Royalton, Sharon, Strafford, and Tunbridge, and carve out a walkable, mixed-use urban development for 15,000 to 20,000 people. Hall claims that the project isn’t religious, just an experiment in ecologically sensitive urban design (despite its location near the birthplace of Joseph Smith) and that the LDS isn’t involved in any way. Still, NewVistas' plan for the town hewed closely to Smith’s 1833 City of Zion plan; each square city block would be arranged in a rectangular grid along wide streets with prescribed setbacks on half-acre lots. NewVistas wanted to combine Smith’s 19th century ideas with 21st century technology and New Urbanist principles. The city would have been composed of smaller villages of 160 to 210 people each on 960 half-acre lots, all centered around common areas, with the villages eventually coming together to form an urban conglomeration that could be scaled up to house millions. The trippiest of Hall’s ideas? In a Bloomberg interview, Hall claimed that residents would live in 200-square-foot apartments, with Roomba-like robots that would shuffle furniture around when needed to create more space. Hall had picked up a total of 1,500 acres in Vermont since his purchases first went public. Now, after the nonprofit National Trust for Historic Preservation placed the four towns and surrounding valley under “Watch Status” on their annual list of the 11 most endangered historical sites, Hall has dropped his plans. “The charming village centers and idyllic surrounding farms and forests in four historic towns,” reads the Trust’s statement, “would be permanently altered by a development proposal calling for construction of a new planned community in this rural part of Vermont.” The move was abrupt, coming only one day after the Trust’s designation on June 26. Despite being met with fierce local resistance in the past, Hall directly cited the Trust’s mention and has now placed his land holdings up for sale. All 1,500 acres are reportedly being sold as one parcel to prevent overdevelopment in the future, though the plots are not all contiguous. Fans and aspiring utopians shouldn’t be discouraged. Hall has already dropped $100 million on kickstarting a chain of global NewVistas, and a prototype community in Provo, Utah, close to Brigham Young University, is still on track.
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As the American Dream dies, we must rethink our communities

This article appears in The Architect’s Newspaper’s April 2017 issue, which takes a deep dive into Florida to coincide with the upcoming AIA Conference on Architecture in Orlando (April 27 to 29). We’re publishing the issue online as the Conference approaches—click here to see the latest articles to be uploaded.

Americans define themselves through work; it builds character, or so we believe. The American Dream is premised on individual achievement, with the promise that our labor will be rewarded and measured by the things we collect and consume. For many, the sine qua non of the dream, our greatest collectible, is the single-family house. Of all our products, it is the one we most rely upon to represent our aspirations and achievements.

Throughout the history of our republic, the idea—promoted from the beginning by the likes of Thomas Jefferson, heir to Palladio and father of the American suburban ideal—of living in a freestanding house in the middle of one’s own personal Eden has been the dream of generation after generation of Americans. So while it was possible for Le Corbusier to say, in Paris near the beginning of the last century, that “A house is a machine for living,” from our perspective, on this side of the Atlantic and on this side of the 20th century, it would be better to append that famous maxim: “A house is a machine for living the American Dream.” At this point in history, this statement seems entirely self-evident but still we are reminded by our leaders to get our piece of the dream. In promoting his vision of an “ownership society” in a speech at the St. Paul African Methodist Episcopal Church in Atlanta in 2002, President George W. Bush said, “I do believe in the American Dream… Owning a home is a part of that dream; it just is. Right here in America, if you own your own home, you’re realizing the American Dream.” And during the early years of the new century, the economy soared as millions of wood-framed dreams sprang up across the country, enabled by an elaborate new financial calculus cooked up by Wall Street.

But then the magic formulas—which scripted the construction and consumption of ever-larger houses in ever increasing numbers by bundling our dreams together into tradeable units—began to fail. The dream quickly became a nightmare. As the legitimating environmental, economic, and socio-political narratives that for so long sustained the endless reproduction of suburbia began to collapse, it became clear that the suburban house, rather than the manifesting of our achievements, masked our delusions. According to the historian John Archer, “the romanticized isolation of the individual (or nuclear family unit) in a manufactured Arcadian preserve is an increasingly untenable fiction.”

The myth that we all stand alone, propelled by our own initiative and hard work is part of that fiction. Suburbs, and the detached single-family houses of which they are comprised, reinforce it. They work to isolate and separate us, to dislocate us as individuals, detached from any larger heterogeneous collective body. The common cul-de-sac is, both literally and symbolically, the end of the road, a terminus in a system. Safely sequestered within its four (or eight, or sixteen, or thirty-two) walls, we stand apart from the crowd, reaching out through an array of devices to make contact with those who are, more or less, just like us. Space becomes less a medium in which we mix and more a barrier that insulates us from those unlike ourselves. And as houses balloon in size, this sense of disconnection is amplified within the walls of the house itself, with each inhabitant withdrawing to ever more far-flung and insular domestic realms.

The social and political consequences of this withdrawal are increasingly obvious in the deterioration of a civil society and the erosion of civil discourse. The further we live from each other, the less we are capable of seeing each other as people with shared dreams and struggles and the more likely we are to see an other, unlike us, whom we fear and demonize. The evidence of this is clear in the last election, in which President Donald Trump’s campaign of xenophobia claimed the most votes, according to the Washington Post, in our suburbs, small cities, and rural areas. As our houses spread out—as the distance between us increases—we vote more myopically to protect our own perceived interests (and the interests of those we see as like us) at the expense of what is arguably the greater collective good.

But is the detached house, with its resulting social detachment, a prerequisite of the American Dream? Is it possible to imagine other futures for the dream and, consequently, other futures for dwelling? What would happen if personal happiness were no longer so closely tied to economic success derived from the fruits of one’s labor? These are questions we would do well to consider. Jobs are disappearing. And while presently most of us still need—and may even want—to sell our labor, it is becoming clearer that with each passing day there will only be fewer buyers. Our relationship to work, and therefore to the American Dream, and therefore to our manner of dwelling, and therefore to politics, is changing.

According to the network theorist Geert Lovink and the political activist Franco Berardi, the capitalist promise of “full employment turned out to be a dystopia: there is simply not enough work for everyone…. Zero work is the tendency, and we should get prepared for it, which is not so bad if social expectations change, and if we accept the prospect that we’ll work less and we’ll have time to think about life, art, education, pleasure, love, and what have you rather than solely about profit and growth.” Our current world is built on a foundation of profit and growth. Our urbanism—and the infrastructure and architecture with which it is constructed, including the tens of millions of homes spread thin across the landscape—is the result of a centuries-old economic system. And that system has consistently sought to segregate sites of labor and production from sites of dwelling. The single-family house in a suburban bedroom community along a congested commuter route is the product of a capitalist system in which we head out each day to sell our labor in an indifferent market, returning as night falls to replenish our energies and reclaim our identity.

As the market for labor decreases in an increasingly automated world, we need to begin thinking about the consequences and benefits of a future without work, or, more accurately, with far less wage-earning work. Even now we can see that a shift is occurring. The recent collapse of the distinction between places of work and living is both a symptom of the underlying economic and technological transformations that are reshaping work as we know it and a sign that points toward other ways of dwelling. Out of necessity, and, in many cases, desire, people are beginning to experiment with other ways of living, coming together to form new (or new again) types of shared live-work households. And as the tendency toward zero work increases, we will all need to rethink the way we live. Because if we take the classical definition of work out of the equation, the whole structure of our cities, as well as our manner of living, makes a lot less sense.

Already, this probability is leading economists, technologists, and political scientists—but sadly few politicians on either the left or the right—to speculate on the structure of society in the future. A key question is how people will sustain themselves without jobs. There are renewed calls for a universal basic income by tech leaders like Elon Musk (or a universal basic dividend suggested by Greek economist and politician Yanis Varoufakis); Bill Gates has even suggested that we have an income tax on robots. In any case, a new economic model—which will, necessarily, be accompanied by a new politicalorder—in which we are freed from the obligation to sell our labor in order to survive will require that we consider other conceptions of human productivity, other forms of human association, and of course other ways of living.

In such a future, the American Dream, as it is currently defined, would have no utility. But how would we organize our lives in a world where we work less? What would we do? How would we live? In his essay “Fuck Work,” the historian James Livingston points toward an answer when he asks, “How would human nature change as the aristocratic privilege of leisure becomes the birthright of all? As architects, seeking a way forward, we might ask a different version of Livingston’s question: How would human habitats change, as the privilege of leisure becomes the birthright of all?

Liberated from the idea that our dwellings must be understood as freestanding castles, as isolated retreats from society through which we represent our individualism and secure our market share, we could instead conceive of assemblages of dwellings that collectively define a domain of mutual cooperation, interaction and civil discourse. We have counter-histories of dwelling that offer us guidance in thinking about other possible domestic orders. In 1886, Jean-Baptiste Godin, the French industrialist who built the Social Palace at Guise, wrote that when “constructed with a view to unity of purpose and interests, the homes, like the people, approach each other, stand solidly together, and form a vast pile in which all the resources of the builder’s art contribute to best answer the needs of families and individuals.” And following this, we might allow ourselves to imagine—as a way of shaking off the dust of the 20th century—living in what the social reformer Robert Owen described as a “magnificent palace, containing within itself the advantages of a metropolis, a university, and a country residence, without any of their disadvantages, …placing within the reach of its inhabitants… arrangements far superior to any now known … [nor] yet possessed by the most favored individuals in any age or country.”

Of course, the American Dream can’t be transformed overnight. There are aspects of it that are deeply embedded in our collective consciousness. At its core, the dream is about security, comfort, and familiarity, as much as it is about aspiration, accomplishment, and status. Any new ideas about the way we live, if they are to dislodge us from our long-habituated connection to the single-family detached house, must be accompanied by new architectural models and delivered through compelling new narratives that situate the needs and desires currently manifest in the house within new patterns that make collective life more desirable.

This may seem to be yet another call for a utopia, and therefore criticized as being divorced from the pressing concerns of the real world. It is not. For as Lewis Mumford said, “the prospects of architecture are not divorced from the prospects of the community. If man is created, as the legends say, in the image of the gods, his buildings are done in the image of his own mind and institutions.” The real world is changing rapidly all around us; meanwhile we cling to increasingly outmoded dreams. In the future, if we hope not only to survive but also to thrive, we’ll need to change our minds and rethink our institutions. We’ll have to prioritize community as much as we currently prioritize individuality. We’ll have to decide to live together. We’ll need new dreams.

Keith Krumwiede is the author of Atlas of Another America: An Architectural Fiction (Park Books, 2017).

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What does “radical urbanism” mean today?

The Architect’s Newspaper (AN) has partnered with urbanNext—a multidisciplinary platform for design promoted by Actar Publishers—to share articles on common topics every two weeks. This week, we're pairing the urbanNext article below with AN's "Explore three near-future worlds where technology has changed romance (and cities too) in this GSAPP exhibit." This article was authored by Alexis Kalagas, Alfredo Brillembourg, and Hubert Klumpner.
What does it mean to be a radical architect or designer today? Never before have cities mattered as much to the future of humanity. As David Harvey attests, we have sleepwalked unknowingly into a full-blown “crisis of planetary urbanization,” with acute social, political, and ecological dimensions[1]. Cities are fundamentally places of opportunity—after all, urban migrants continue to be drawn in their millions by the promise of security as well as upward mobility. But cities are too often sites of yawning inequality, where land, housing, infrastructure, and services are transformed into symptoms of exclusionary growth. Faced with contemporary urbanization patterns, we are forced to question how cities and city-making have traditionally operated. More to the point, as architects and designers we are forced to rethink how we can operate within the city, learning from its emerging intelligence and shaping its outcomes to radical and tactical ends. The notion of a radical urbanism draws us unavoidably into the realm of the political. Imagining a more equitable and sustainable future involves an implicit critique of the spatial and societal conditions produced by prevailing urban logics. As such, we are not only reminded of Le Corbusier’s famous ultimatum, “architecture or revolution”, but its generational echo in Buckminster Fuller’s more catastrophic pronouncement, “utopia or oblivion”[2]. Both were zero-sum scenarios born of overt social disjuncture, whether the deprivations and tensions of the interwar period, or the escalating conflicts and ecological anxiety of the late 1960s. While the wave of experimental ‘post‑utopian’ practices that emerged in the early 1970s positioned themselves explicitly in opposition to perceived failures of the modern movement, these disparate groups shared a belief – however disenchanted – with their predecessors in the idea that radical difference was possible, as well as a conviction that a break was necessary[3].
It is precisely this potent mix of idealism and criticality that we wish to explore under the rubric of ‘radical urbanism’—utopian dreams tempered by an unflinching engagement with social reality. We are interested in those who advocate for the exceptional while cloaked in the trappings of routine. Those who infiltrate peripheral disciplines, embed themselves as outside observers, and leverage a proximate vantage point to influence decisions and policies. Those who relinquish direct control in favor of distributed autonomy and instrumental feedback. We are interested in projects that seek distance from disciplinary bounds, and from legal, political, and societal norms. That render complicit the imminently possible and the highly improbable, the absolutely necessary and the prohibitively taboo. A radical project does not necessarily view design as a solution, nor as a means to elucidate a question, but as a fundamental restructuring of assumptions in the way we live, and the environments that are necessary to support that life.[4] The history of architecture and urbanism is littered with individuals, groups, movements, structures, unbuilt work, conceptual projects, research programs, theories, exhibitions, publications, and performances that collectively trace a potent tradition of radical intention. What ties these diverse activities together is not a desire to escape disciplinary boundaries entirely, but instead to redefine the very possibilities of architecture and design as a means to usher in an alternative to the status quo. Though radical urbanism can assume countless forms, one can point to three potential fields of contestation that embody alternative modes of practice, thought, or engagement. The first is by outlining a provocative vision that challenges the normative thinking of the time. The second is by recasting the role of the architect in order to question what is pragmatically possible when intervening in an urban environment. The third is to operate at the vanguard of political change, or, in other words, architecture as revolution. If one accepts the foundational modernist belief that addressing the realities of contemporary life means working in (and through) the city, then architecture and urbanism can represent a radical subversion of established social structures beyond material questions of form and aesthetics[5]. From unrealized visions and plans like Antonio Sant’Elia’s La Città Nuova, Yona Friedman’s Ville Spatiale, Constant Nieuwenhuys’ New Babylon, and Cedric Price’s Potteries Thinkbelt, to the avant-garde provocations of Archigram’s Plug-In City, Superstudio’s The Continuous Monument, and Archizoom’s No-Stop-City, the inclusive humanism of the Smithsons, the animist hybridity of Pancho Guedes, the techno‑utopianism of the Metabolists, and the politically charged agit-prop of groups like Ant Farm, Utopie, and Haus‑Rucker‑Co, we can see a shift from the limited understanding of architecture as the design of discrete structures, to an expanded notion that architecture and urbanism can embody a form of cultural critique, or venture even more decisively into the realm of social and political action. This dovetails with a parallel line of thought that views the role of the architect as extending beyond ‘pure’ design, to support the agency of the individuals and communities whose everyday life shapes the evolving built environment. We see this in the flexible open building concepts of John Habraken, the simple modular housing system of Walter Segal, the self-build and self‑management theories of John Turner, the cooperative strategies and ‘pragmatic anarchism’ of Colin Ward, the tecnica povera of Riccardo Dalisi with children from the Traiano Quartiere in Naples, and the ‘action planning’ of Otto Koenigsberger in India. Besides a common concern with the groups or ‘users’ most often marginalized or excluded by formal processes of authority and control, these projects are linked by a modesty that contrasts starkly with the heroic projections of the modern movement. It is a radical urbanism characterized by sensitivity to scale and time, an appreciation of context, and a shift from author to enabler. The third type of radicality emanates from the inside out, where urbanism is adopted as an institutionalized building block prefiguring a new way of life. Though discredited in its most deterministic guise—the hubristic belief in the ability to “correct society on the drawing board”[6]—this direct alignment of architects and designers with revolutionary governance is perhaps urbanism at its most ‘radical’. While the emblematic case remains the ‘social condensers’ of Mozei Ginsburg and the Russian constructivists, which were consciously designed to induce collectivism, it is echoed in Álvaro Siza’s involvement with the ‘brigades’ of the Serviço de Apoio Ambulatório Local (SAAL) housing program following the Portuguese revolution, the Proyecto Experimental de Vivienda (PREVI) launched in Peru in the brief mid-1960s interlude between military dictatorships, and the peripheral new towns designed by BV Doshi’s Vāstu-Shilpā Consultants in post-independence India. In tune with emancipatory political agendas, these schemes sought to underpin alternative forms of economic and social development. Reyner Banham has described dreams of a better world as the true “ghosts in the machine” of 20th century architecture, while Tahl Kaminer argues the loss of the “utopian horizon” means the idea of progress has been rejected as a myth[7]. Does it make any sense then to speak of a contemporary radical urbanism? In short, we are convinced it does. Cities are complex, hybrid spaces where divergent ways of acting, thinking about, and living urban life collide and transform. And in these spaces, a new generation of architects, designers, advocates, artists, sociologists, anthropologists, economists, and activists are collectively reimagining new tactics to tackle critical urban and social issues. The city today is perhaps more radical than those operating within it. It computes unknown possibilities, conducts high‑risk experimentation, and telegraphs previously unknowable futures more quickly and more completely than the raft of professionals tasked with its stewardship, analysis, or design. A discussion based around concrete and scalable projects is necessary to reframe the term ‘radical’ and its potentials for design in the 21st century. The ‘Radical Urbanism’ exhibition in this Biennale will bring greater visibility to alternative models of housing, mobility, production, and recreation grounded in the pursuit of social and environmental justice, diversity, and equality. It will highlight forms of radical praxis that question the role of the architect and redefine the discipline, claiming new territories, new functions, and new legitimacy for architectural and design thinking. It will give space to projects that are both courageous and provocative—that call attention to game-changing urban agents of tomorrow. It will show how it is possible to develop path-breaking tactics of intervention and engagement while operating legitimately within the blind spots of existing power structures. And it will reaffirm the capacity of architects and designers to articulate empowering, transformative, confronting, and realizable visions of our collective urban future. [Excerpt from Re-Living the City: UABB 2015 Catalogue, 2016]
This article originally appeared as The Evolution of Radical Urbanism in urbanNext. [1] David Harvey, ‘The Crisis of Planetary Urbanization’ in Pedro Gadanho (ed), Uneven Growth: Tactical Urbanisms for Expanding Megacities (2014) 29. [2] See Le Corbusier, Toward an Architecture (1927); R Buckminster Fuller, ‘Invisible Future’ (December 1967) 11 San Francisco Oracle 24. [3] Fredric Jameson, Archaeologies of the Future (2005) 168. [4]This and other portions of this text are excerpted from a curatorial statement authored by UABB curatorial advisors Ersela Kripa and Stephen Mueller from AGENCY. [5] John R Gold, The Experience of Modernism: Modern Architects and the Future City, 1928-53 (2013) 15-16. [6] Meyer Schapiro, ‘Architect’s Utopia: Review of Architecture and Modern Life’ (1938) 4 Partisan Review 46, 89-92. [7] Reyner Banham, Theory and Design in the First Machine Age (2nd ed, 1980) 12; Tahl Kaminer, Architecture, Crisis and Resuscitation: The Reproduction of Post-Fordism in Late-Twentieth-Century Architecture (2011) 19.
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Highlights from London’s first ever Design Biennale

“Utopia by Design” is the theme at this year’s inaugural London Design Biennial. On show at the three-week event are a series of installations from 37 countries, all located inside and around the grounds of Somerset House by the Thames. The show runs until September 27.

The Architect’s Newspaper was in attendance and we've collected some highlights below:

Mexico

The highlight of the Biennal, Border City was designed by Mexican architect Fernando Romero. Drawing on contemporary issues such as immigration, border control, and economic zoning, Romero’s masterplan coalesces employment, trade, and cultural dimensions into the "Border City." Here, the three states of New Mexico and Texas (U.S.) and Chihuahua (Mexico) would join as one singular hub.

Romero makes use of a topographical circular map and projection screens that wrap around the exhibition space. The visually intense installation submerges the audience into a wealth of information including population growth data, demographics, consumption, and resources for the U.S., Mexico, and the world. Phrases like “special economic zones” outline where trade areas would be in Romero’s binational “Border City” as further projections take you through renderings of the fictional city.

Lebanon

Located on the riverside, Lebanon’s installation provides a taste of Beirut for Londoners. While kebab shops are nothing new in the capital, Annabel Karim Kassar’s work immerses audiences into a typical Beirut street scene offering kebabs, Lebanese coffee, and even a wet shave. While the smell of spices waft through the vicinity and local music fills the air, a breeze running off the Thames brings you back home. Lebanon's piece won the London Design Biennale Medal 2016 for the most exceptional design contribution.

Chile

Inside, Chile’s “Counter Culture Room” offers an insight into the utopian dreams the country had under socialist President Allende of the 1970s and how they were very nearly realized. A short film relays how the country enlisted British cybernetics expert Stafford Beer for Project Cybersyn. Beer aimed to use cybernetics as a form of governance, whereby a central control room—one that could be mistaken for belonging to a 1970s sci-fi villain—would oversee the country. It was a cyber management system that would unite workers with the authorities through a flow of information. Though these plans never made it off the ground due to Pinochet's coup, Chilean studio Fab Lab Santiago made four chairs slicing a would-be control room in two. Interesting though the backstory is, visitors can’t feel empowered as the chairs are sadly unavailable for sitting in.

Austria

Austria’s installation symbolizes the fragility of utopias. The kinetic light sculpture comprises a complex arrangement of interconnected earbud-shaped lights. When left still, the whole structure is fully illuminated, however, when moved in any way, lights close to the source of movement dim and turn off. A slight nudge can rupture the delicate ambience that exists, meaning lights out in utopia.

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A new documentary—now being crowdfunded—explores the fate of a British “New Town” utopia

The word "Basildon" does little to conjure  thoughts of paradise. For those who know it as a town in Essex, England, this association could only seem ridiculous. Fifty years ago, however, Basildon—a state-built "new town"—was synonymous with the utopian dreams among planner and architects. "Are we a product of our environment... or is it a product of us?" Christopher Ian Smith asks in a preview of his documentary film. Titled New Town Utopia, his exploration of Basildon's fate—four years in the making—now needs $21,000 for post-production, marketing, and distribution requirements. The feature film aims to examine British social history through the lens of Basildon's architecture, planning, and its creative residents. By way of some background, "New towns" were the product of the U.K. government, which aimed to fix a nationwide housing shortage after WWII. In 1946, the "New towns act" was passed to create ten new towns. Eighth in-line was Basildon, being officially designated as such on January 4th, 1949. "Here is a journey through populated ruins," narrates Smith, who's been filmmaking for some years. "It's the story of the grand dreams of the new town... compared to harsh concrete realities." Smith spoke to The Architect's Newspaper (AN) about his motivations for the film and his experiences while shooting Basildon. Now living in London, Smith said how growing up in the town was an inspiration. "It felt different," he explained. "I enjoyed the art, architecture, sculpture, and especially the high street. I've succumbed to loving the aesthetic of midcentury brutalism and the ambitions behind it. The utopian ideals behind planning and architecture at the time were considered progressive. In the 1950s and 60s, risks were taken. The spirit of '45, with nationalization and the National Health Service, lived on."
However, Smith acknowledged that these radical ideas—when attempted on an architectural and planning scale in Basildon—have wilted significantly over time. "The place has a terrible reputation, both locally and nationally," he said. Local civic pride, according to Smith, appears to be dwindling. With his film, Smith hopes to spark a "debate of the state of our towns" and "not just new towns." When filming parts of the high street and Basil Spence's Brooke House—both architecturally-prominent landmarks within Basildon—Smith recalled being asked: "Why are you filming that? Are you going to knock it down?" No one even goes to Basildon on holiday. In the 1970s, Basildon was dubbed as "little Moscow-on-Thames," Smith described. A decade later, the phrase "Basildon Man" had surfaced. That image was of the well-to-do working-class Conservative voter—a far cry of the leftist ideologies of the past and its architecture. This was cemented when Tory MP David Amess won the Basildon constituency seat in 1983 and was able to hold it for 14 years. In his conversation with AN, Smith concluded that in the end, "top-down planning" was endemic to its failure. In the process of collating more than 400 hours of footage of the town, Smith goes so far as to argue that few—if any—would ever visit Basildon for fun.  His Kickstarter campaign has until September 26 this year to have funding finalized. The film, if realized, will be complete by March 2017.
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A massive utopian city based on Mormon planning principles could be realized in Vermont

  Historically, upstate New York and New England were incubators of utopian settlements: The Oneida Community practiced complex marriage and mutual criticism in a mansion outside Syracuse, and Transcendentalist Fruitlanders ate vegan and took purifying cold showers on a farm in Harvard, Massachusetts. Now, near the birthplace of Mormonism, a Salt Lake City–based entrepreneur is planning a Vermont settlement for up to one million people guided by the divine design vision of Joseph Smith but driven by the ecological anxieties of our times. Yes, that Joseph Smith. In the Plat of the City of Zion, the founder of Mormonism laid out a plan for the ideal community that's a mashup between a classic New England village and Euclidian New York or Philadelphia: Instead of living on rambling homesteads, Mormons should live in gridded, nucleated settlements of 15,000 to 20,000, with wide streets and half-acre lots centered around the Church and public buildings. Farms were relegated to the outskirts of town. (For real-life reference, the original plan of Salt Lake City reflects Smith's mandates, although the building lots were much larger.) Bringing the vision back East, David Hall's NewVistas Foundation has purchased almost 900 acres across four Vermont towns since last October for a total of $3,600,000, the Daily UV reports. Hall, a scientist and engineer, intends to purchase up to 5,000 acres of land to build a "network of environmentally and socially sustainable villages, communities, and megalopolises. [The settlement] combines sustainability with massive scalability to achieve a comprehensive approach to human development.” The NewVistas Foundation overlays contemporary, New Urbanist-y planning vernacular onto Smith's 19th century principles. The foundation describes their community as a "completely walkable mixed-use urban development" for 15,000 to 20,000 people in a series of villages centered around a commons. One village for 160 to 210 people is comprised of 960 half-acre buildable lots, each (per Smith's vision) with a garden and patio. Agriculture and industry sit outside the residential and downtown portion of the 2.88-square-mile settlement to keep the enterprise self-sustaining. Ultimately, the villages would join forces like Legos to create a dense urban environment for up to one million inhabitants. Hall argues that the proposed settlement isn't a religious project, but a proof-of-concept for creating an environmentally conscious, balanced community that could be a model for other settlements in a world threatened by global warming and consequent ecological disasters. The LDS, Hall maintains, isn't involved in the project. Considering a move? The gallery above features renderings of the NewVistas settlement and takes viewers through proposed step-by-step urban agglomeration, while the NewVistas Foundation website dives deep into housing typologies and infrastructure systems.
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34 Nations to submit works for the Inaugural 2016 London Design Biennale

Despite having an established pedigree within the creative world, London has never had its own Biennal(e)—or even Triennale, for that matter. This year however, the city is opening the Inaugural 2016 London Design Biennale, showcasing work from 34 participating countries around the theme of Utopia by Design. Set to be hosted at Somerset House, a former royal palace on the Strand in central London, the Biennale will run from September 7 to 27 this year. On display will be installations curated by leading design institutions from around the world. Participating bodies include USA's Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum, DAMnation (Belgium), German Design Council, Moscow Design Museum (Russia), Triennale Design Museum (Italy), India Design Forum, Southern Guild (South Africa), The Japan Foundation, and Victoria and Albert Museum (UK). Other participating nations will be: Albania, Australia, Austria, Bahrain, Chile, Croatia, France, Greece, Indonesia, Israel, Korea, Lebanon, Mexico, the Netherlands, Nigeria, Norway, Pakistan, Palestine, Poland, Portugal, Saudi Arabia, Sweden, Switzerland, Tunisia, and Turkey. Judging the contributions will be an an international advisory committee and jury comprised of established figures within the industry who will "award medals to the Biennale’s most significant national contributions." “We are delighted to announce the first ever London Design Biennale to be held at Somerset House," said Dr. Christopher Turner, Director of the Biennale. "500 years after the publication of Sir Thomas More’s classic, we are inviting countries to interrogate the contentious theme, Utopia by Design. These responses will demonstrate the power design has not only to strike up and inform debate, but also as a catalyst: provoking real change by suggesting inspiring or cautionary futures. Alongside the exhibition there will be an ambitious talks programme bringing together the very best international thinkers, and I hope that the Biennale will become a laboratory of ideas that might, in their way, contribute to making the world a better place.” London Mayor Boris Johnson also added: "Just as the London Olympic and Paralympic Games brought the world together through sport, they also inspired it through design, with Barber and Osgerby’s elegant torches and Heatherwick’s kinetic cauldron – a great unifying convergence of nations in fire and copper. In autumn 2016 the London Design Biennale will attract designers, as well as visitors, from all around the world for a vigorous exchange of ideas and ingenuity—the currency of London’s important and world-leading creative economy.”
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City in China Disappears Overnight

Chaohu city in China has been canceled. It wasn’t a small city. In fact the population of more than 4 million is comparable to Los Angeles, the Phoenix metro area, and the whole of South Carolina, but that is now irrelevant data, since Chaohu's official city status was annihilated on August 22. Although buildings and inhabitants remain as proof of a once-coherent city plan and living organism, the land has since been divided into three parts and absorbed by its neighbors, Hefei, Wuhu and Ma'anshan. Situated in eastern China’s Anhui province, about 200 miles west of Shanghai, the idea was to strip the dead wood and make the surrounding cities more competitive, which, unlike the former Chaohu, are rapidly industrializing and urbanizing. In a recent interview for NPR, economics professor Jiang Sanliang from Anhui University explained: "Chaohu's development hasn't been good, but Hefei … needs land, so absorbing Chaohu will benefit Hefei. The government hopes that redistributing the land will improve the entire province's GDP," he says. It turns out, according to this report, Hefei’s average growth of 17 percent was enough of a reason to dissolve an entire city. Though it is an unusual scenario, there are some benefits to the new divisions. For years the city’s namesake, Lake Chaohu, has been undergoing an intensive clean-up effort to meet the countrywide agenda to cleanse its badly polluted lakes. In the new arrangement the lake falls under Hefei’s administration and has more chance of getting the funding it needs to meet the Government’s 2030 deadline. However, there is no doubt that the move is at odds with other city-planning approaches in China; in August we reported on a new kind of utopia in Chengdu. Designed by a New York architect and local developer, it was one that aimed to foster connections and strengthen communities rather than amalgamate and alienate them. Indeed, instead of public consultation and even public announcement many inhabitants of the former Chaohu learnt about its abolishment from local news on the morning it happened; the striking off happened overnight. No ceremony. No funeral. No Chaohu.
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Quick Clicks> Disaster Prone, Earthquake Averse, and the Melancholy Utopia

Mapping Disasters. In and around New York City, we were fortunate Tropical Storm Irene created little more than flooding, fallen trees, and electric outages, and that last week's tremors left no damage in the city. If these rare northeast natural disasters are getting you down, perhaps it's time to consider moving to the safest place in the U.S. to avoid natural disasters? A NY Times infographic hasfound just the place: Corvallis, OR. Cities in Oregon and Washington state top the list, while areas in Texas and Arkansas have the highest risk of earthquakes, hurricanes, droughts, and tornadoes. Standing up to Earthquakes. Many of the east coast's 19th century masonry buildings are not built to withstand a strong earthquake. How do those California skyscrapers withstand the west coast's dangerous, powerful tremors? Gizmodo featured an array of earthquake-tech such as tuned mass dampers and roller bearings allow tall buildings to move with the earthquake and absorb shock. Melancholy Utopia. The end of summer and beginning of fall will bring a flood of design events in European cities. Among them, more than forty designers will descend on Rotterdam on September 3rd to showcase their work throughout the city. The theme is Melanchotopia, an examination of the connections between melancholy and utopia, mourning and hope, said e-flux.
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Video> Proposed Utopian City Moves Like Clockwork

"Clockwork City" is the fantastical vision of animator Roy Prol calling for a city of rotating rings that change the notion of getting around in large city. As the video (after the jump) notes, the 3,000 meter diameter "Clockwork City" won't need cars or even transit since work and home are a mere minutes away, anywhere in the city. The city itself is in effect one large form of public transportation. To get to work, the video notes, "Just wait at home until you see your workplace closer." Four concentric rings each 280 meters wide housing offices, residential, industrial, and agricultural/energy zones are traversed by smaller cogs joining them together. Boldly proclaiming "endless movement" complete with the prospect of an ever-changing skyline, it's unclear how such a "Clockwork City" could be built or sustained. What are your thoughts? (Via Digital Urban.)