Concrete Utopias: An Education in Desire
Imaginaries of the Future: A Leverhulme International Network
Chelsea College of Arts
“The designation of utopia as a space for the education of desire underlines the point that the imagination of society otherwise involves imagining ourselves otherwise”
The work displayed Concrete Utopias; in the exhibition of models, film, and accompanying publication, is drawn from the work of MArch Architecture students and staff of Newcastle University SAPL from 2016/17. A misunderstood and maligned term within architectural education, these projects followed studio leader Nathaniel Coleman’s ongoing research on the problematics of utopia, requiring students to engage with the notion of Utopia and confront their own utopia-anxiety.
In response, these projects resist the establishment of totalising architectural visions. Rather, as described by Coleman in one of his design briefs, they reflect David Harvey’s conception of dialectical utopia, examining how architecture might develop “spatial closure to establish settings for open ended social processes”. They reassert the role of architecture as a social art, critiquing spaces of exclusion or alienation, and developing spatial frameworks which support social fulfillment.
Following Levitas, these works chart nine individual approaches towards an education of desire, both establishing a personal aspiration for a project and addressing architecture’s complicity in dominant modes of spatial production. In doing so they evaluate the potential for individual architects, and for architectural practice, to imagine itself otherwise.