This will kill that
“Small things overcome great ones. This will kill that. The book will kill the edifice”.
Victor Hugo, Notre Dame de Paris
With this sentence long excluded from his book Notre Dame de Paris, Victor Hugo announces the death of architecture in the favor of the development of printing. As Francoise Choay describes in L’urbanisme, Utopies et Realites, that declaration that aroused virulent critics at the time, could be interpreted as the disappearance of architecture as a primary mode of writing, of expression, and communication.
Now that something smaller than the book might be threatening it, what will happen to architecture?
This time of shift could be an appropriate one for reflecting on utopia, redefining the ideal, and its representation. One where technology is not a necessity, not the subject but what makes the system and interaction possible. It is a reflection on the place of the person building the utopia. Not a signed one, a total one, but an evolving, collaborative environment.
From the tower of Babel to Brasilia, the infinite models of Constant and the airships of Archigram, the library of Borges, the invisible cities of Calvino to the performative models of Le Corbusier… The history of cities has been closely linked to the construction of Utopias.
Utopia as coined by Sir Thomas More is a perfect imaginary world, a “Non-Place”/”Place of Nowhere” if we refer to its Greek root.
This opens the broad question of defining an ideal, and in the case of cities, implies that this perfect balance can be embodied, or even result from a certain organization of the built environment, often brought together with the notion of performance.
Who defines that ideal? Who have been the authors of utopias? Who has been building the representation of those visions? How have those representations been built?
Who has had the power on our imaginaries?
How did they evolve?
Through models that applied would generate an ideal system. Could we establish a link between this process of thought and computational systems that seek to generate optimized environments? Is there an inheritance, a continuity that would demonstrate that this way of thinking wasn't created by the implementation of new capable technologies but was inherited from a history of thought that shaped a method then shifted to a new medium, doesn’t mean it doesn't bring changes, only possibly could be rooted before the rise of parametrized models?
When did those arise: At times of redefinition of societies, to represent a changeover sufficiently important.