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Ideal Cities: Utopianism and the (Un)Built Environment

10 Ratings: 3.1
A book by Ruth Eaton


Tags: Books, Cafe Libri, Nonfiction, Ruth Eaton
Author: Ruth Eaton
1 review about Ideal Cities: Utopianism and the (Un)Built...


  • May 28, 2010

Can one design an "ideal city"? A virtual metropolitan utopia, where all residents can live in peace and harmony? Well, many people throughout history have thought so, and designed detailed plans for creating such a city; and in some cases, these plans have even been put into place (not always according to the exact specifications of the designer, however).

Ruth Eaton's book is a wonderful (to call it "richly illustrated" is an understatement) presentation of this dream. Although there were some depictions of the earthly "ideal" in, say, the Middle Ages (usually contrasted with the glories of Heaven), it was with the Renaissance that such dreams really began to multiply, even as the concept of "utopia" in literature (e.g., Thomas More's Utopia," Francis Bacon Essays and New Atlantis) began to develop. Everything had its place, from the vast quarters for the king, to the church.

The book then traces the ideal being exported to the New World (often with new cities being planned along a rigid 'grid' design), and finding a fertile ground with the rise in the 19th century of genuine utopian thinkers such as Charles Fourier and Robert Owen, who actually built utopian communities. The desire to reject the growth of "urban squalor" in the designs of men like John Rushkin and William Howard, as well as the advent of progressive architectural designs by men such as Frederick Law Olmstead (Frederick Law Olmsted: Designing the American Landscape (Universe Architecture Series)) and Ebenezer Howard (Garden Cities of To-morrow) are covered. The work of later architects such as le Corbusier, and of course Frank Lloyd Wright, are also surveyed. Paolo Soleri's Arcosanti is also briefly mentioned.

While the coverage of these topics is not "deep," and persons desiring detailed coverage of specific areas will have to look elsewhere, this book is a sumptuous introduction to this topic, and is even suitable as a "coffee table book" for the casual reader.

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