Practicing Utopia An Intellectual History of the New Town Movement
by Rosemary Wakeman
University of Chicago Press, 2016
Cloth: 978-0-226-34603-8 | Electronic: 978-0-226-34617-5
DOI: 10.7208/chicago/9780226346175.001.0001
ABOUT THIS BOOKAUTHOR BIOGRAPHYREVIEWSTABLE OF CONTENTS

ABOUT THIS BOOK

The typical town springs up around a natural resource—a river, an ocean, an exceptionally deep harbor—or in proximity to a larger, already thriving town. Not so with “new towns,” which are created by decree rather than out of necessity and are often intended to break from the tendencies of past development. New towns aren’t a new thing—ancient Phoenicians named their colonies Qart Hadasht, or New City—but these utopian developments saw a resurgence in the twentieth century.

In Practicing Utopia, Rosemary Wakeman gives us a sweeping view of the new town movement as a global phenomenon. From Tapiola in Finland to Islamabad in Pakistan, Cergy-Pontoise in France to Irvine in California, Wakeman unspools a masterly account of the golden age of new towns, exploring their utopian qualities and investigating what these towns can tell us about contemporary modernization and urban planning. She presents the new town movement as something truly global, defying a Cold War East-West dichotomy or the north-south polarization of rich and poor countries. Wherever these new towns were located, whatever their size, whether famous or forgotten, they shared a utopian lineage and conception that, in each case, reveals how residents and planners imagined their ideal urban future.

AUTHOR BIOGRAPHY

Rosemary Wakeman is professor of history and director of the Urban Studies Program at Fordham University. She is the author of The Heroic City: Paris 1945–1958, also published by the University of Chicago Press. She lives in New York.

REVIEWS

Practicing Utopia is an ambitious and masterly historical synthesis, erudite and lucid, written in a lively and engaging style. Drawing on primary sources from around the globe as well as recent architectural and planning history, the book is an original and syncretic intellectual history of the New Town movement.”
— June Williamson, City College of New York

“A must-read for anyone interested in the intellectual underpinnings of the New Towns movement. Practicing Utopia is a convincing analysis of the intellectual background of one of the twentieth century’s most influential city models. This is a fascinating, elegantly written book.”
— Florian Urban, Mackintosh School of Architecture, Glasgow School of Art

“After the Second World War, a new town movement projected urban utopianism across the globe. Impressive in its scope and fulfilling in its details, Practicing Utopia is a fascinating survey of this moment in worldwide urban development. The impulse to begin cities anew lives and no urbanist true to the label should avoid Wakeman’s book.”
— Robert Beauregard, Columbia University

“A landmark history.”
— Times Higher Education

“In her lively and nuanced account of the brief passion for ‘new towns,’ she demonstrates how two decades of town planning turned wishful thinking into pristine, uncompromising urban developments in the face of  Cold War maneuvering, political instability, and vexed economics.”
— Times Literary Supplement

“As in all good history. . .Practicing Utopia shows the resonances between past and present clearly. . . .This book is a tremendously valuable one for the student or scholar with an interest in the urban and well worth a place in the library of any institution concerned with urban studies.”
— Urban Studies

TABLE OF CONTENTS

List of Illustrations

Acknowledgments

- Rosemary Wakeman
DOI: 10.7208/chicago/9780226346175.003.0001
[utopia, dystopia, modernization, population dispersion, suburbia]
The book’s Introduction examines the hermeneutics of utopia as a way of understanding the new town movement. It discusses new towns in the context of the postwar modernization regime and the ways in which urban planning evolved from art to science and was transmitted globally as a movement to build ideal places. It examines the backlash against new towns as dystopia and why these settlements carried so much meaning in the second half of the twentieth century. (pages 1 - 19)
This chapter is available at:
    University Press Scholarship Online

- Rosemary Wakeman
DOI: 10.7208/chicago/9780226346175.003.0002
[garden city, socialist city, neighborhood unit, fascist towns, wartime dispersion, reconstruction]
Chapter One discusses the origins of the new town movement, the garden city tradition, and the impact of both the First and the Second World War on urban planning. It examines early British and Soviet efforts to build new towns as well as the American influence and fascist new settlements in Italy and Germany. (pages 20 - 46)
This chapter is available at:
    University Press Scholarship Online

- Rosemary Wakeman
DOI: 10.7208/chicago/9780226346175.003.0003
[housing crisis, welfare state, steel towns, Greater London Plan, Clyde Valley Plan, Corby, Kwinana, Kitimat, Tapiola, Vällingby]
Chapter Two discusses the first great wave of new towns built in the postwar reconstruction years of the late 1940s and 1950s. It interprets the new town as a futurology of the ordinary and examines how visions of the garden city and neighborhood unit were fused with welfare state ideology to create ideal cities. It examines industrial and resource towns on both sides of the Iron Curtain as well as new towns around capital cities, focusing on the ideal cities of Vällingby and Tapiola. Lastly, the chapter considers why the garden city and neighborhood unit ideal formed such a passionate planning ideology. (pages 47 - 101)
This chapter is available at:
    University Press Scholarship Online

- Rosemary Wakeman
DOI: 10.7208/chicago/9780226346175.003.0004
[developmental modernism, World Bank, Ford Foundation, United Nations, refugee crisis, Constantinos Doxiadis, Albert Mayer, Otto Koenigsberger, Ekistics]
Chapter Three investigates how new towns were exported as utopia to the developing world. It argues that new towns were adopted throughout the Middle East, Asia and Africa as part of developmental modernism produced and managed by Western experts in alliance with local political and planning elites. New towns in India, Pakistan, and Iraq are discussed as well as settlement planning in Israel. The demise of the garden city ideal in the oil towns of Africa is examined as well as the Ekistics ideal that took its place. (pages 102 - 150)
This chapter is available at:
    University Press Scholarship Online

- Rosemary Wakeman
DOI: 10.7208/chicago/9780226346175.003.0005
[cybernetics, systems analysis, space Age, atomic age, RAND Corporation, regional science, transportation models, ideal socialist city, automation, threshold analysis]
Chapter Four interprets the second wave of new towns in the 1960s and 1970s as cybernetic cities. It examines how cybernetics and systems analysis were incorporated into new town planning on both sides of the Cold War divide, in the United States as well as the Soviet Union and the Eastern Bloc countries of Poland and the German Democratic Republic. The rise of cybernetics and computer technologies was fundamental to the Space Age and the fantasy of futuristic cities that functioned like spaceships. (pages 151 - 201)
This chapter is available at:
    University Press Scholarship Online

- Rosemary Wakeman
DOI: 10.7208/chicago/9780226346175.003.0006
[James Rouse, Paul Delouvrier, Charles Correa, Richard Llewelyn-Davies, Derek Walker, population bomb, Buchanan Report, Helmut Jacoby, Pierre Merlin, new communities]
Chapter Five looks at four new towns of tomorrow in the 1960s and the application of systems logic in Britain, France, India, and the United States. It concentrates on comprehensive land use planning and the new town as utopian dream and techno-scientific object. The new towns of Milton Keynes, Cergy-Pontoise, New Bombay, and Columbia in Maryland were imagined as nodes in a cybernetic web of information and communication flows. The four examples reveal the currents of international knowledge that produced new towns and how they were filtered through local circumstance. Each developed its own unique brand of utopia. (pages 202 - 253)
This chapter is available at:
    University Press Scholarship Online

- Rosemary Wakeman
DOI: 10.7208/chicago/9780226346175.003.0007
[archigram, metabolists, megastructure, cybernetics, space age, brutalism, space capsule, mass society, shopping mall, Tehran Comprehensive Plan]
Chapter Six focuses on architecture and design for the Space Age and how it produced futuristic new town fantasies. The optic is on the built environment and the architects, planners, and futurists who conjured up these brave new worlds. The first part of the chapter examines the impact of the Space Age on their design theories. The city was reinvented as a megastructural cybernetic machine that could support life and launch out into the cosmos. The second part of the chapter examines the architecture and design of actual ideal places, and ends with the eventual demise of the Space Age vision. (pages 254 - 296)
This chapter is available at:
    University Press Scholarship Online

- Rosemary Wakeman
DOI: 10.7208/chicago/9780226346175.003.0008
[utopia, dystopia, ecotopia, Sustainability, smart cities]
The Conclusion serves as the book’s conclusion and summarizes the argument that the new town movement of the mid to late twentieth century carried forward the legacy of urban utopianism. It also revisits some of the new towns previously discussed as they entered the 21st century and considers their contemporary successes and failures. Lastly, the afterward brings forward new town ideology and the wave of new town building currently taking place, particularly in the Middle East and Asia. It considers the new town within the context of sustainable development and smart cities. (pages 297 - 308)
This chapter is available at:
    University Press Scholarship Online

Notes

Selected Bibliography

Index