Topologies: The Urban Utopia in France, 1960--1970 Review

Topologies: The Urban Utopia in France, 1960--1970
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Topologies: The Urban Utopia in France, 1960--1970 ReviewA very important text. Intense reading experience. Useful book. Worth the money.Topologies: The Urban Utopia in France, 1960--1970 OverviewAmid the cultural and political ferment of 1960s France, a group ofavant-garde architects, artists, writers, theorists, and critics known as "spatialurbanists" envisioned a series of urban utopias, phantom cities of a possiblefuture. The utopian "spatial" city most often took the form of a massive grid ormesh suspended above the ground, all of its parts (and inhabitants) circulating in asmooth, synchronous rhythm, its streets and buildings constituting a gigantic workof plastic art or interactive machine. In this new urban world, technology andautomation were positive forces, providing for material needs as well as time andspace for leisure.In this first study of the French avant-garde tendency known asspatial urbanism, Larry Busbea analyzes projects by artists and architects(including the most famous spatial practitioner, Yona Friedman) and explores texts(many of which have never before been translated from the French) by Michel Ragon,the influential founder of the Groupe International d'Architecture Prospective(GIAP), Victor Vasarely, and others.The projects of the Spatial Urbanists were inlarge part a response to the government's planning policies, its Kafka-esquebureaucracy, and its outdated institutions, which they considered the firstobstacles to the implementation of their radical urban designs. But even though theSpatial City was conceived as progressive, by the end of the 1960s some critics hadbegun to question its ideological foundations.Topologies maps the literal andmetaphorical topologies of spatial urbanism, describing and documenting its projectsand locating it within an international network of experimental architecturalpractice that also included the Situationist International, Archigram, theMetabolists, Architecture Principe, Superstudio, and others.Even at its mostfanciful, Busbea argues, the French urban utopia provided an image for socialtransformations that were only beginning to be described by cultural theorists andsociologists. The designs of spatial urbanism anticipated the ambivalence that wouldgreet the arrival in France of capitalist modernity and globalization, marking boththe apex and the end of the technological optimism of the postwar years.

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