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Utopian Thinkability: Mobilization of Architectural Utopia in the Age of Junkspace

Alireza Karbasioun, University of Nebraska - Lincoln


While utopia has long been represented as an imaginary and impossible world, the history of architecture is wrought with utopian projects targeting a better life. However, witnessing the failure of the utopian dreams in forming sustainable and better life for communities, during the last fifty years, intellectuals and practitioners in the discipline of architecture have denounced utopia altogether and, to avoid nihilism, adopted weak and innocuous versions of future representations which are referred to in this study as degenerative utopias. ^ Yet, it is claimed that utopia is significant for societies, not as a perfect place to live but as a desire that illuminates and constitutes the future—will-to-eutopia. Following this path, this study aims to unearth the will-to-eutopia latent in architecture by focusing on the conditions that prohibit Utopian Thinkability. Utopian Thinkability, in this discussion, is defined as a substitution for the will-to-eutopia, which concerns the performativity of thought in architecture. ^ In the discipline of architecture, one of the moments that showcases the predominance of degenerative utopias is an essay called Junkspace, written by the famous Dutch architect, Rem Koolhaas in 2001. Both the name and the text are adopted as the description of the age in which Utopian Thinkability has become impossible, and in which dystopias and degenerative utopias delineate and shape the world. In this study, Junkspace represents the paradigmatic space of capitalism and neo-liberalism as the dominant ideologies of the contemporary world or what is referred to as the end of utopia and the end of history. The main objectives of this dissertation can be formulated in the following questions: is it possible to mobilize the discipline of architecture, and by extension society, which are stuck in the nothingness of Junkspace and degenerative utopias? Is it possible to revitalize the discourse of hope by resorting to Utopian Thinkability? ^ The close, critical reading of Junkspace as the space and time in which will-to-eutopia has been crushingly oppressed and replaced with the logic and desire of the market, I claim, can provide us the grounds on which Utopian Thinkability could be developed. Junkspace provides this ground and opening by demolishing all the previous utopian aspirations and forcing us to face the reality of nothingness.^

Subject Area

Architecture|Urban planning

Recommended Citation

Karbasioun, Alireza, "Utopian Thinkability: Mobilization of Architectural Utopia in the Age of Junkspace" (2018). ETD collection for University of Nebraska - Lincoln. AAI13419233.