Saturday, August 14, 2004
Utopia & Dystopia
We're all connected, but that doesn't mean we all look at the world the same way. There are those who think we're all connected, and those who say, like Woody Allen, "The universe and I are two." There are Whigs (who like progress), and Tories (who want to keep the status quo): Reformationists, and Counter-Reformationists. Aesthetically, there are Classicists, Romantics, and Romantic Classicists (like Leon Kriér).
Kurt Andersen's radio show today was about Utopia. I missed it, but if I don't hear the replay tomorrow night, I'm going to listen to it online (you can do that here). I want to hear Kurt and his guest "discuss what makes a world perfect, and how the 20th century turned many thinkers toward dystopias."
Most Traditional and Classical architects today are Utopians. They want to make the world a better place, including a more beautiful place. Beauty is something that we haven't had enough of in architecture and urbanism for a while now.
Early Modernists were Utopians, with a strong social program. Dystopia has become the standard of Late Modernism, as represented by Peter Eisenman, Bernard Tschumi, Rem Koolhaas and Daniel Libeskind. Note that Libeskind is the only one whose website doesn't open with a black screen. Perhaps that's to distinguish him from the Starchitects commonly referred to as "The Men In Black," although the picture to the left is of Daniel and Nina Libeskind. Libeskind always dresses in black, with thick black glasses.
It's like Goths with style. Obviously there's an element of adolescent alienation that likes Dystopia, and it's not for nothing that Late Modernism is sometimes called eternal adolescence. It's a self-conscious alienation that reflects its own isolation on the world. The irony is that it's an individual unhappiness with the world that makes the world worse for the individual.
The Goths are only a small percentage of the young. I've been saying for some time that the Sixties are coming back among teenagers and young adults. You see it in the demonstrations against World Trade, in the idea that small is beautiful, in the rise of religious issues and even in the talk about love.
Architecture students are susceptible to the dystopic visions of their professors, especially when it's the only vision they're given. But I find the political apathy of Gen X when they were in college is gone, and that architecture students want a social agenda for their work. This is one reason why student chapters of the CNU are springing up in architecture schools across the country.
New Urbanists are Utopians, without the ego games of the Starchitects. Something that distinguishes them from some Classicists is that they are Pragmatic Utopians: in order to change more than a small part of the world, you have to deal with the Good, the Better and the Best, not just the Best. Or as Michael Blowhard wrote,
That’s the New Urbanist and Slow Food thing: accept that the world’s a hugely commercialized place, but make the commercial stuff live up to your demands.
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Tracked on Aug 14, 2004 11:54:36 PM
» paint it black from no, 2 self
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Tracked on Aug 15, 2004 9:37:21 PM
» Quote of the Day from Veritas et Venustas
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Tracked on Dec 30, 2005 12:40:12 PM
Geez, Louise. If you think Utopia & Dystopia is about criticizing architects because they wear black, then you didn't read what I wrote.
And it's not contradicting what I just said to say that when men always wear black they're either fashion victims, or depressed, or both.
Posted by: John Massengale at Aug 15, 2004 5:13:55 PM