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More or Less? Utopia Today
Wednesday 7 February @ 6:30 pm - 7:30 pm
THIS SALON IS THE OPENING SESSION AT CRITICAL SUBJECTS: SPRING ARCHITECTURE & DESIGN SCHOOL 2024. IT IS OPEN TO ATTENDEES ONLY
Since the publication of Thomas More’s Utopia marked the dawn of modernity, utopian thinking has been a means to imagine how society might, in the future, be radically, wholly different. Successive revolutionary moments in history were accompanied by reimagined worlds to come. By the turn of the twentieth century, Oscar Wilde could confidently assert that ‘a map of the world that does not include utopia is not worth even glancing at’. ‘Progress’, he declared, ‘is the realisation of utopias’.
Yet in recent decades utopia has found itself on trial, tarnished by association with totalitarian ideologies and a casualty of the ‘end of history’ and with it the demise of the possibility of imagining a different future. But while many condemn as dangerous the aspiration for transforming the world, others regret the demise of genuinely transformative ideals. In our times of paralysing malaise and disenchantment with the future whether through the environmental emergency or artificial intelligence apocalypse, should we seek a revival of utopian thinking?
Alastair Donald is convenor of Living Freedom organised by Ideas Matter and associate director of the Academy of Ideas where he is co-convenor for the Battle of Ideas Festival. Alastair has worked in the UK and internationally to develop festivals, exhibitions and curated programmes. He is author of The Scottish Question, published as part of the series Letters on Liberty and co-editor of two books, The Lure of the City: from slums to suburbs (2011) and The Future of Community: reports of a death greatly exaggerated (2008). He was a founding member of mantownhuman which published Manifesto: towards a new humanism in architecture (2008), as featured in Penguin Classics 100 Artists’ Manifestos.
director, Future Cities Project; honorary research fellow, XJTLU, Suzhou, China; author, China’s Urban Revolution; convenor, Critical Subjects Architecture School