The First Ecological Steps in Architectural Utopias: The “Nature” of Imaginary Smart Cities

The First Ecological Steps in Architectural Utopias: The “Nature” of Imaginary Smart Cities

Akin Sevinc (Architect, Australia)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-61350-453-6.ch005

Abstract

In the first appearance of living spaces and creating new ones, human being’s fundamental aim was to be prepared for all sorts of natural circumstances, which can be “wild” and “cruel” sometimes. Protecting itself from these hard circumstances, the human being has aimed to create safe places. In this struggle which is occasionally named as “war”, the spaces designed come out as the main fortresses. This chapter aims to seek out human beings’ efforts in the struggle with the natural circumstances and especially the shift of it in the mid twentieth century, in the light of architectural structures of utopias. In other words, the chapter may be seen as a research of imaginary projects which have starting points as “peace and happiness, assessing them to see if they have peaceful approaches to nature or not.” The chapter also aims to examine, from the first simple projects to notable ones, how nature was handled and how the projects responded to the scenarios of natural resource scarcities of the future. As smart cities try to meet the requirements of today with scarce resources, the question in mind in the examination of utopias is “May these imaginary projects be the first sketches of smart cities?”
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Background

If we look at the first living spaces humans created, we often see the footprints of these relations. We observe that our ancestors were obliged to protect themselves from natural conditions and to use natural resources to build their living spaces. These two determining factors have played a very important role in the evolution of spaces. The early relationship of humans with nature only started to change with the onset of the Industrial Revolution. Thereafter the association between humans, nature and technology was given a special emphasis. Modern technology was deemed necessary to counter nature – the “cruel” bringer of starvation, cold, illness and death. Technology was considered necessary because of these ills and because nature was still strong (Buck-Morss, 2000, p. 132). When we look at the changes in living spaces after the 1780s, we see the perception of nature as “wild” and the humans more willing to fight against nature. This conflicting relationship with nature takes root and begins to dominate our thinking.

In Utopias, we see the products of a modern idea to create ideal living spaces and formulations in a manner that challenges nature. Until the mid-20th century, most utopias offered spaces with clearly defined borders and walls to limit relations with nature2.

The reason that nature and living spaces were strictly separated from each other in utopias might have been because of the difference between the sine qua non characteristics of utopias and the unique/origin structure of nature. As the basic characteristics of utopias were isolation, functionality, stability, order and dictatorship, nature might have been regarded as a threat.

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