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2005 03 30
Architecture and Utopia - Part 1
imageMy graduate seminar this year investigates the theme "Architecture and Utopia." Every week we gather in a fluorescent-washed room, under a cheap suspended ceiling, on mismatched chairs, and discuss big urban dreams, the visions of sprawling hope. Cities transformed into vast Edenic gardens, with sweeping throughways and radial residential blocks as far as the eye can see. Cities razed and rebuilt in futuristic layers, with floating railways stations and razored, hundred-story office towers. Dreamy cities, with snaking flaneur-friendly walkways and arresting juxtaposed street-culture. We read Le Corbusier, Sant'Elia, Benjamin. We entertain visions, images, pictures. We sit under the harsh electrified gas, our heads bent together, a dozen of us, architects and philosophers, probing to the logic of dreams.

Outside, with these north-facing windows, there is only the watery winter light of Toronto. The vista is bleak, a scene of nothingness. A parking lot. A snow-covered field where a stadium used to be. To the left, a small daycare centre and playground. Straight ahead, across Bloor Street, the banal concrete brutalism of the OISE building, one of those edifices apparently constructed to convey hatred for the street on which it sits. You must sidle down its edge even to get in. It could be a courthouse or security-conscious consulate. Next to it, a windswept and pointless parkette, a red stone wall blocking any decent view of a private club.

Inside the room, we look at pretty pictures and discuss big ideas. Tales of Paris, Milan, New York, Shanghai. We try not to look out the window, but it's hard, not least because someone has permanently removed the curtains from the windows, something we discovered only when we attempted to screen "The Fountainhead" in class. The dim light, those beige and grey structures under colourless sky, undid that dream.
[email this story] Posted by Mark Kingwell on 03/30 at 08:08 AM

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