Excavating Utopia

Unsurprisingly, Architecture and Utopia have always been comfortable bedfellows – in the realm of ideas, if not always in the realm of reality. From the Tower of Babel, to the pre-Revolutionary French Rationalists, and from the Russian Constructivists to the Situationist’s New Babylon, idealized religious, political, social, and philosophical ideas have found expression in architecture. Utopian ideas are not fashionable at the moment. We are living in a time, when the pragmatic seems to override the idealistic. And yet our current “pragmatic” world of free market neo-liberalism is crashing all around us. Such times of crisis provide fertile ground for the genesis of new Utopias which, in turn, become generators of new architectural and urban visions. We will begin by studying some past Utopias as a prelude to the design of our very own New Jerusalem.

You will be asked to develop a Utopian idea as the basis for an architectural/urban proposal. Your Utopia, might be technological, gender specific, ecological, anarchist, capitalist, surrealist, or drug induced. It can be anything you can dream of. The site for your project will be the Saline Royale, at Arc-en Senans in Eastern France, a Utopian project designed and partially realized in the 1770’s by Claude Nicholas Ledoux (now a UNESCO world heritage site). The character of this project, both as a realised Utopia and a powerful architectural expression of geometry, aptly reflects this year’s area of interest and DS15’s ongoing interest in the use geometry as a generator of architectural form, ornament and narrative expression.

As such this year, we will be designing at a number of scales from master-planning to small building components. We will be doing group and individual research, investigating utopian narratives, exploring geometrical composition in two and three dimensions at different scales and making beautiful models and exquisite drawings. It will be challenging and exciting and fun.

Sean Griffiths,

Kester Rattenbury,

Camilla Wilkinson

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