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Edward Robertson z 5 1 2 2 5 3 7
The original word ‘Utopia’ is first coined by Sir Thomas More describing an imaginary
place which everything is perfect in his fictitious satire in 1516. The word has since
been defined in the Oxford English Dictionary as an “ideal society, place or state of
existence”.1 In the midst of the devastation of WWI, the philosophical Utopian concept
was drawn into architecture, where a modernist movement of influential architects
envisioned that their buildings could resolve the world’s problems. These wide variety
of visionary beliefs were all collected under the new term ‘Utopian architecture’, which
William Curtis explains as “a perfect society in the form of an ideal city”.2 Two of these
architects were Le Corbusier and Frank Lloyd Wright whom both spent decades within
modern European and American society persuading their respective authorities to
adopt their differing Utopian models.
Wright in the 1930s had devoted his
time to envisaging a decentralised Utopia,
‘Broadacre City’, which was proposed to
provide American society with a coherent
social form in a period of crisis.3 The city itself
consisted of vast spaces of countryside,
separating the small individual homes and
the tall buildings in an attempt to release
people from the “centralised urban capitalism”.4 Although Wright dreamed for a society
of free individuals living in a rural democracy, he adapted the modern scientific culture
in his ‘Design Centers’ where children would learn and be trained to become wellrounded citizens for the future.5 Even though Wright’s ultimate Utopia was mostly
disregarded, he integrated many of his idealisms into his small Taliesin settlement.
Edward Robertson z 5 1 2 2 5 3 7
Taliesin West ideally incorporates both the technologically advanced ‘Design Centers’
school and the natural forms and traditional culture to the local rural community.
Through both Broadacre City and Taliesin West, Wright’s Utopia in architecture was a
combination to facilitate scientifically thinking individuals while also giving them the
necessary freedom from urbanism by connecting them back with nature.
Another idealistic architect was Le
Corbusier who designed his Utopian city plan,
the Ville Radieuse, to restore order and to
“reunite man, nature and the machine in an
Corbusier arranged a highly centralised and
densely populated city organised within Renaissance symmetry, geometry and
anthropomorphic imagery for a new Utopian social order. By combining communal
places and housing in buildings, Corbusier focused on simplifying the functions of
labour, allowing for a “good life lived in the open air and sunlight” through technological
automation.7 Corbusier’s Ville Radieuse reveals his perspective on a revolutionary
urban Utopia of a well-ordered environment to unify the mechanisation of the modern
world and the natural.
Through both Wright’s Broadacre City and Taliesin West, and Corbusier’s
Ville Radieuse, the idealistic Utopian dream to wholly reintegrate man and nature is
seen to have had little success to the intended broader scale. The original optimistic
drive to create a Utopian society through architecture has highlighted the
disjunctions in and between both European and American societies, leaving the
perfect utopian models of harmony and freedom as just fragmentary experiments.
Edward Robertson z 5 1 2 2 5 3 7
1Oxford English Dictionary, 3rd ed. (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2013), s.v.
7Gold, John R. ‘A World of Organized Ease: The Role of Leisure in Le Corbusier's La
Ville Radieuse’. Leisure Studies 4, no. 1 (1985): 105. Accessed
2 -pg327
3- pg311
4, 5- pg316
6 pg323
Curtis, William. Modern Architecture Since 1900. Third edition. New York and
London: Phaidon Press, 1996.