Utopia Revisited.

How do we begin to imagine new settlements today? How do we regain the ability to plan them with confidence, optimism and delight? And how, in an era that has for the most part rejected the masterplan and the grand vision, can we re-engage critically with the idea of utopia?
The Utopia Revisited studio will study historic examples and speculate on future models. It will combine reflective research with design invention. It will be outward facing, engaging with current policy, political motivations and the realities of the industry. But it will aim to transcend these conditions and propose ideas that have the capacity to excite the imagination and embody an underlying utopian impulse. At the same time, we will question the notion of utopia as an unobtainable ideal.
Our site will be the region between Brighton and London. But we will address political, social, economic, political and environmental issues at a national and international scale. Against a backdrop of the current housing crisis, the studio will ask students to imagine new settlements as sites of social innovation and architectural speculation.

“When you reject utopia, thought itself withers away.”

Theodor Adorno

“As an ideal aspired to over centuries, the village, traditional or model, cannot suddenly be consigned to limbo, regarded as an irrelevancy or an ineffective solution to the problems of modern life.”

Gillian Darley

Students will be asked to conceive, plan and design new settlement at the scale of the village.
This work will begin with a series of short introductory design projects accompanied by historic research and contextual studies. We will then identify sites for potential settlements and develop plans for them. Having developed new village plans, students will produce detailed designs for specific elements within them.

This process will not always be linear and will move from scale to scale, from individual to group work and from reality to ideal and back again. Rejecting the idea that design only comes at the end of the research process, we will ask students to start designing on day one and to consider the research potential of their work beyond that of the individual project and the studio.
Studio tutorials and reviews will be augmented by a series of workshops throughout the year run by Vincent Lacovara and the London Borough of Croydon’s Planning Team. These workshops will provide a strategic context for individual projects as well as acting as a series of provocations asking students to relate their work to contemporary political, economic and planning policy.

Studio Tutors
Charles Holland: Principal of Charles Holland Architects and Professor of Architecture, SoAD.
Holly Lang: Planning Team, Greater London Authority.
Vincent Lacovara: Placemaking Team Leader, Spatial Planning Services, London Borough of Croydon