Utopia Sunday – The Need for Dreaming

Image from Work AC: Tokyo Bay Utopia

I have had a PDF open on my computer for the last three weeks that I have wanted to post about but couldn’t quite work out why. I think I worked it out… but I’m not sure yet. The PDF, available here, is from an amazing project cataloguing architectural utopias. The full book looks gorgeous and has an excellent format for communicating everything from the core data to the grand vision. It really is a bit of a treat.

Why aren’t there more utopias in other design disciplines?

So the thing that has been bugging me is a slight jealousy that Architecture and Urban Planning seems to have all the fun playing with utopias. Industrial Design doesn’t really explore this. I’ve written previously about Design Fiction, and thoroughly enjoy the insightful work that comes out of the Philips Design Probes, but these projects fall into some other category than utopias. Perhaps Ross Lovegrove falls into this category sometimes? But I feel that even projects like Yves Behar’s hackable car are too pragmatic and realizable to be truly utopian.

So… this is a short post, more like a call for input, for any ideas out there for utopian projects beyond the built environment… they could be materials, products, systems and more…

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2 Comments on “Utopia Sunday – The Need for Dreaming”

  1. Justin Morris says:

    Industrial design utopias seem to be built from belief systems. A collective philosophy who would like to achieve particular goals for a desired society. It seems as industrial designers we have to build these utopias brick by brick. Architecture seems to have the advantage against us in terms of how effectively it delivers meaning and communicates a belief system, because it offers a lifestyle in ways an object can’t, and it’s much more spatially intricate than a single product. If a utopia is a society then its going to be a very complex web, and industrial design is a very complex web in itself. If you have a collective consciousness building this web, then I think you have your utopia. My question is why don’t designers collaborate more often on trying to find our utopia and belief system? And what kind of a picture would we paint if we all got together? It would be interesting.

    Right now I’m studying for my design thinking midterm and since I am in that mind frame, when I read this, I immediately thought of the modernists. They attempted to create a utopia through standardization, fordist mass production, and the idea of forming a new world leaving behind tradition. I think designers now are a lot more informed because of the mistakes they made, and i wonder what kind of a utopia we would try and create now.

    One last note. We fill our buildings with stuff…Architects design the buildings, and industrial designers design the stuff… That PDF is really interesting but I think in order for it to be a real utopia it has to be decided what stuff it will use to fill up the buildings, and that’s our job. So if each of those projects in that PDF had to include the stuff that people use everyday, what would those objects look like? It would be fun to take one of those buildings as a concept and design some of the everyday things that people who lived within those complexes could use. That would be pretty exciting.

    • Carl Hastrich says:

      Great comment. I had a friend send me an email suggesting that Utopias to different designers might be themed at certain scales: the utopian kitchen, or bathroom, etc, which sounds like a good entry point. I can think of a few projects at the kitchen level that might fall into that category.


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