Four well-known architectural Utopias of the past 100 years are relocated ‘otherwhere’. Le Corbusier’s Domino House (1914), Lissitzky’s Wolkenbügel (1923), Fuller’s Wichita House (1946) and Superstudio’s Life/Supersurface (1972) are reconceptualized, having another protagonist at their center. The Sub-Saharan African becomes the new protagonist, and the African planes the new areas where these Utopias are transferred.
This conceptual shift functions as a mirror on which these iconic architectural Utopias are reflected in order to revive in another, alternative context. This relocation intends to make us, architects, redirect our gaze towards the people who are not included in the existing Utopias, all those who see our reality as their Utopia.
The message to the architects of the developed societies must be clear: Instead of imagining another Utopia for the privileged few, try to visualize the existing Utopias for the unprivileged many. Instead of asking a maximum happiness for the few, fight for the minimum happiness for the many.
Utopia is one of the most interesting chapters of architecture. From the ancient times until nowadays Utopias are an indispensable part of architectural history and theory, and still affect and inspire the work of architects worldwide. However, these Utopias which provoke us to envision new possibilities for the architecture and the city, the society and its future, the man and its environment are always addressed to a specific subject. This subject is the inhabitant of the contemporary city - like Plato’s 4th century BC Athenian or Thomas More’s 16th century AD Londoner - the citizen of the modern developed countries. Therefore, the right to imagine Utopia appears as a luxurious privilege for those who already live much better than most, the fortunate few who live a life unimaginable by billions of other people.
Even if architects of the 20th century, from Ernst May and Constantinos Doxiadis to Aldo van Eyck and Rem Koolhaas, have worked in Africa in order to pave the way to a better future or refresh design thinking itself, few architects realize today in which way the future of the developed cities, societies and natural environment is interconnected to the future of the rest of the world. In an era of globalization we do not have the right to ignore the fact that a part of our prosperity and happiness is due to other people’s poverty and misery.
A new architectural Utopia can only be one that gives hopes for a decent living standard for the billions of human beings who still don’t have it.
Utopia is a word empty of meaning unless it is a Utopia for all.
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