Imagined Utopias in the Built Environment: From London’s Vauxhall Garden to the Black Rock Desert
Beginning with the early history of London’s Vauxhall pleasure gardens, this volume surveys visionary architecture and urban planning from the 18th century to the present. The recurrence of themes of technology, individual agency and communal living in the work of Le Corbusier, Eileen Gray, Charles and Ray Eames and Constant Nieuwenhuys, testifies to the continued search for an ideal personal and public space.
Inspired by works of fiction such as Utopia, Herland, Mizora: World of Women and Homo Ludens and the films Metropolis and Stalker, artists and architects created fantastic plans for individual homes, housing complexes and entire urban centers. The resulting projects discussed here manifest the modern anxiety between the liberation of the individual and the needs of the collective. The urban landscape from the 18th to the 21st centuries has been woven into the fabric of architecture as a way to improve day-to-day life, as well as to create personal identity within an expanding public world.
The seven chapter topics are arranged chronologically, and begin with the design of social space in Georgian-era pleasure gardens and conclude with a study of contemporary Utopian groups that utilize early literary references as a focus for their societies. As such, the book builds upon the understanding of technology and architecture in its many forms as a shared benchmark for the expansion of individual rights and the growth of Utopian ideas in modern European and American society.
The daughter of noted environmental physicist Tihomir Novakov, Anna Novakov is an art historian, curator and writer, and was immersed in the Ecotopian dreams of air pollution control from an early age. In 1992, after completing her doctorate at New York University, she came to prominence in Manhattan as one of the first art critics to write about the interrelationship between art, technology and Utopian spaces. The author of dozens of books, exhibition catalogues, newspaper and magazine articles, Novakov is currently Professor of Art History and Director of the January Term Program at Saint Mary’s College of California.
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