.UTOPIA IS OUR PAST,PRESENT AND FUTURE
Historically, architectural aspirations to create perfect places for others have proven to be an illusion. The utopistic ideal of architecture came out of the belief that architecture should be granted undisputed authority. This was fostered by a complacent consumer who was convinced that architects have an undeniable capacity to provide the ideal framework for a perfect life. They expected utopia.
However, utopia never manifested itself. It became elusive. The source of this catharsis was the realization that the main benefactor of architectural inspiration was no longer the society but architect herself. The societal well being was no longer a priority. It was replaced by self-assertion. Spontaneously, the society demonstrated a strong desire to rebel through both unconscious and conscious interventions: shaping what was already made and generating new informalities. They created a rebellious utopia, which transcended the one imposed by architects.
Utopia is a paradox. On the one hand, it represents mutual fulfillment - shared happiness instead of egoistic satisfaction. On the other, it is purely subjective. It is a personal interpretation of natural dichotomies: beauty vs. ugliness, useful vs. useless, comfort vs. discomfort, needed vs. redundant. Utopia proves to be an emotional state of mind. It is fluid. It is everywhere… it can be found anywhere… it can be based on anything. It is a captured moment in time that seems to slip away. And it exceeds any physical context.
Although it may seem enticing to think that there is such a thing as “after-utopia”, this is utopistic at best. As elusive as it is, utopia transcends any concepts of time and space, and an ability to consider that in one space and time someone might have already surpassed it. Our intention is to challenge the concept of “after-utopia”. Assigning an expiration date to utopia is consensual. Utopia is a never-ending process. It is a quest for perfection. It is a moving target we all need and hope to never lose. It begins once we have accomplished something previously believed to be close to utopia. The only constant matter in utopia is our forward-looking willingness.
Architects have an unquenchable creative thirst: to contextualize utopia within the past, present, and future actions. Thus, it is not a surprise that architects are often hijacked by nostalgic reminiscing about modernist architecture as times when utopia was considered to be a reality. In order to avoid creating dystopic realities, which can only serve as a distraction, architects should be more sensitive to societal realities. Architects are called upon to provide guidelines and suggestions for ideal use of space, not to impose their own judgments and values guided by their perception of what utopia should look like. Lacking concrete form, utopia is only possible through expressions of ideas and ambitions, not exact forms and shapes.
While it has become conventional to think of utopia as in the determination of place, such treatment threatens to make utopia overly static, vague and purposeless. Rather, we suggest that utopia is the most purposeful, albeit elusive, system of ideas that stimulates creativity and pushes us to reinvent space over and over again. It is intimidating, yet exhilarating. For any architect, utopia should be Icarus’ ambition to fly: instead of flying, we need to contemplate new creative ideas of making the best wings to reach the skies.
UTOPIA IS RESOLUTE.
ORA in Yugoslavia, 1960
UTOPIA IS SENSITIVE.
FILM, Only lovers left alive, Directed by Jim Jamrusch,2013
FILM, Only lovers left alive, Directed by Jim Jamrusch,2013
UTOPIA IS INDULGENCE.
UTOPIA WILL REMAIN ELUSIVE.
Painting The Garden of Earthly Delights by Hieronymus Bosch, 1490-1515
AND IT STAYS AT THE ORIGIN.
Utopia, Thomas More, 1516
.MULTIDISCIPLINARITY AS A MAIN TOOL
Multidisciplinarity has become common sensual. Its benefits and opportunities it provides should not be overlooked, nor undermined. Consequently, architects are not exempt from the essence of interdisciplinary cooperation. On the contrary, they have been strongly driven to it. The fast paste of communication, incentivized by technological advancements and knowledge dissemination in a globalized world, have fostered a sense of utility to explore and acquire know-how from various disciplines outside of the realms of architecture and urban planning. However, the time has come to look at ways to further sophisticate this essential need to share and explore common ground from a variety of professional lenses.
Multidisciplinarity should not encourage, nor be mistaken for, the creation of professional fiefdoms. It is not a system that resembles a patchwork of experts, all selfishly preserving their monopolies of knowledge. Instead, multidisciplinarity is a process of interoperability. A process that promotes knowledge exchange. A dynamic that fosters knowledge beyond one’s specific field. In such environments, architects should exploit the possibilities of assuming indispensable know-how from other disciplines, which would facilitate a better understanding of societal needs. In other words, for architects, multidisciplinarity should be an illuminated form of interdisciplinarity: a perpetual quest to find new ways of countering the challenges imposed by societal changes, using insights from disciplines that only seem detached yet are strongly interrelated with architecture. Architects should not be naively discouraged to explore new frontiers of society. The only way of furthering architectural relevance is to deepen the current understanding on a variety of levels: stemming from design to public administration, from economics to botanists, from sociology to geography. Everyone’s relevance in the society should be acknowledged. Everyone’s expertise should be used. Most importantly, every field should be explored and deeply integrated into the new tools that architects can use in order to answer the needs of individual utopias; indeed not one utopia but many that they need to facilitate and help create.
Societal pressures are a blessing in disguise for any architect. They provide new inputs on what demands to be accentuated and redefined. Instead of marginalizing individual needs and desires, architects are called upon to provide support for decision makers in order to sustain the growing demand for individual and collective advancement. Architects need to fathom new tools that can address these challenges. And these tools will inevitably be interdisciplinary in nature.
The first essential tool is to develop a socially sensitive language. A system of communication that can reduce uncertainty; avoid mistrust; break the monopolies of knowledge, and destroy invisible walls of expertise. The new language will be responsive to everyday changes. It will acknowledge the limits of layman’s views of architecture and vice versa. This can only be achieved if architects learn how others understand what they say; and instead of insisting on a single meaning, show flexibility through socially sensitive communication that is backed by a deeper understanding of one’s intentions and their wider implications. Borrowing from other disciplines does not undermine architects authority when addressing societal expectations. On the contrary, it strengthens their ability to transpose ideas in a more effective and compelling manner.
The second tool is attentiveness. It is the ability to absorb inputs coming from various facets of society. It is the capacity to acknowledge the wishes, internalize the needs, and integrate the hopes of those expecting creative suggestions from architects. It is the responsibility to assign new meanings to unchartered territories, pristine landscapes, abandoned industrial complexes, forgotten service structures, formal and informal dwelling systems. Such attentiveness will serve as a learning curve for architects not to deprive such spaces of their original meaning but emphasize their uniqueness and opportunities.
A third and final tool is assertiveness. Willingness to expand the notion of multidisciplinarity in order to integrate not only the actual professional expertise coming from specific disciplines but rather individual experiences that provide exceptional inputs for any architect. While expert knowledge offers comprehensiveness, it is the actual experience that deepens the understanding of what architects should achieve through their actions. Experience should be treated as an essential component of any creative contemplation, as without it any suggestion will be deprived of its actual applicability.