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Beyond the restrictions of the factual

by LiveModern Webmaster last modified Jan 04, 2012 03:09 AM
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by Geoff Manaugh ( last modified May 12, 2011



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.




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