Visions of the City: Utopianism, Power and Politics in Twentieth-century Urbanism

Visions of the City is a dramatic account of utopian urbanism in the twentieth century. It explores radical demands for new spaces and ways of living, and considers their effects on planning, architecture and struggles to shape urban landscapes. Such visions, it shows, have played a crucial role in informing understandings and imaginings of the modern city. The author critically examines influential traditions in western Europe associated with such figures as Ebenezer Howard and Le Corbusier, uncovering the political interests, desires and anxieties that lay behind their ideal cities, and drawing out their 'noir side'. He also investigates oppositional perspectives from the time that challenged these rationalist conceptions of cities and urban life, and that disturbed their dreams of order, especially from within surrealism. At the heart of this richly illustrated book is an encounter with the explosive ideas of the situationists. Tracing the subversive practices of this avant-garde group and its associates from their explorations of Paris during the 1950s to their projects for an alternative 'unitary urbanism', David Pinder convincingly explains the significance of their revolutionary attempts to transform urban space and everyday life. He addresses in particular Constant's vision of New Babylon, finding within his proposals for future spaces produced through nomadic life, creativity and play a still powerful challenge to imagine cities otherwise. The book not only recovers vital moments from past hopes and dreams of modern urbanism. It also contests current claims about the 'end of utopia', arguing that reconsidering earlier projects can play a critical role in developing utopian perspectives today. Through the study of utopian visions, it aims to rekindle elements of utopianism itself.