Environmental Utopias

Ecotopias aiding the transition to an environmentally conscious society

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In the midst of industrialisation and simultaneously glimpsing the first sights of globalisation, the 20th was eminent for its many technical successes but also its social and environmental consequences, which created an unprecedented division in society. Wishful utopian thinking arose as a result of this dissatisfaction, and some architects adopted this idea to visualise a ‘perfect’ world, adhering to their political, social or environmental ideologies. The now clichéd term ‘sustainability’ was rarely of consideration at that time, but climate-conscious thinking and a desire to transition to a ‘greener’ lifestyle are evident in some utopian societies envisioned by architects and designers such as Ebenezer Howard and Paolo Soleri. Their ideas were presented to citizens as a model world where ecology, humans and architecture reside in complete harmony, encouraging people to take part in the common good. Images and advertising techniques were used to promote this ideal society to the public by depicting the ‘not yet’, giving designers the power to make sense of an unforeseen future. This thesis further explores how these environmental utopias, developed with comparatively little knowledge of the climate crisis to today, have influenced so-called independent sustainable communities in the contemporary world, and where, if at all, we can draw a line between utopia and ecological urban design.