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Ideal Cities: Utopianism and the (Un)Built Environment [Hardcover]

Ruth Eaton


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Book Description

18 Mar 2002
Ideal Cities presents a vast panorama spanning more than two millennia of Western attempts to invent the perfect city, cradle of the ideal society. Embracing not only architecture and town planning but also art, literature, philosophy and politics, this book takes us through the imaginary environments of a wide variety of fascinating and often controversial movements and figures, including Plato, Filtrete, Leonardo da Vinci, Thomas More, Thomas Jefferson, Claude-Nicolas Ledoux, Charles Fourier, Etienne Cabet, Robert Owen, William Morris, Ebenezer Howard, Bruno Taut, Le Corbusier, Frank Lloyd Wright, the European Situationists, the Japanese Metabolists, Archigram, Superstudio and many more. In this richly illustrated book, the author explores the ability of ideal cities to stimulate reflection and change, and suggests under what conditions they might continue to exercise their vital function in relation to the urban environment of the future. The ideal cities presented by Ruth Eaton exist for the most part in the virtual domain of ideas, treading the fine line between dream and nightmare. While it is true that notorious attempts to cross the border to reality have greatly discredited utopianism, it is good to recall - with the most famous historian of cities, Lewis Mumford - that 'a map of the world that does not include Utopia is not worth even glancing at'.

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About the Author

Ruth Eaton, a noted historian, is currently involved in a major project dealing with sustainable development applied to housing, architecture and urban design. Over the last two decades she has acted as a freelance curator for numerous large international exhibitions, among them Living Bridges, Inhabited Bridges: Past, present and future at the Royal Academy in 1996, and Utopia: The Search for the Ideal Society in the Western World at the Bibliotheque Nationale de France in Paris in 2001.

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Amazon.com: 5.0 out of 5 stars  1 review
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars BEAUTIFULLY PRESENTED, YET GENUINELY INFORMATIVE 27 Aug 2009
By Steven H. Propp - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
Can one design an "ideal city"? A virtual metropolitan utopia, where all residents can live in peace and harmony? Well, many people throughout history have thought so, and designed detailed plans for creating such a city; and in some cases, these plans have even been put into place (not always according to the exact specifications of the designer, however).

Ruth Eaton's book is a wonderful (to call it "richly illustrated" is an understatement) presentation of this dream. Although there were some depictions of the earthly "ideal" in, say, the Middle Ages (usually contrasted with the glories of Heaven), it was with the Renaissance that such dreams really began to multiply, even as the concept of "utopia" in literature (e.g., Thomas More's Utopia," Francis Bacon Essays and New Atlantis) began to develop. Everything had its place, from the vast quarters for the king, to the church.

The book then traces the ideal being exported to the New World (often with new cities being planned along a rigid 'grid' design), and finding a fertile ground with the rise in the 19th century of genuine utopian thinkers such as Charles Fourier and Robert Owen, who actually built utopian communities. The desire to reject the growth of "urban squalor" in the designs of men like John Rushkin and William Howard, as well as the advent of progressive architectural designs by men such as Frederick Law Olmstead (Frederick Law Olmsted: Designing the American Landscape (Universe Architecture Series)) and Ebenezer Howard (Garden Cities of To-morrow) are covered. The work of later architects such as le Corbusier, and of course Frank Lloyd Wright, are also surveyed. Paolo Soleri's Arcosanti is also briefly mentioned.

While the coverage of these topics is not "deep," and persons desiring detailed coverage of specific areas will have to look elsewhere, this book is a sumptuous introduction to this topic, and is even suitable as a "coffee table book" for the casual reader.
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