In the southeast corner of Iowa, near the small town of Fairfield, lies the state’s newest utopian community. Here, followers of an Indian guru have built their own city, following ancient traditions with modern twists. 3,000-year-old Sanskrit texts guide everything from meditation to architecture, but solar panels are visible around almost every corner and an accredited university runs its film school out of the city. And all of this has developed in the last 70 years.Read more
Perhaps the most famous communal experiment in Iowa, the Amana Colonies are seven villages in eastern Iowa. Today, they are a National Historic Landmark and the Amana name is attached to home appliances, but for decades they were home to a religious community that explored a pragmatic and successful approach to communal life.Read more
Adams, in southwest Iowa, is the state’s least populous county. It’s also home to an exceptional piece of history: Iowa’s Icarian Colony, the longest-lived non-religious communal experiment in American history. The community, near Corning, was perhaps the most successful piece of a complex effort to build a society of “one for all and all for one.”
Icaria’s 50-year journey began in France and made stops in five states before its slow dissolution in the 1890s. Although there are few physical reminders of the movement, its impact is still felt in Adams County and every other place it touched.Read more
About 110 km north of Phoenix, Arizona, in the middle of a semi-arid desert, you’ll find an odd sight: a community of rough concrete buildings sitting on a mesa. Inside, brass and ceramic wind-bells are cast and sold, construction on the development continues, and, in theory, all the needs of a modern city are met with minimal environmental impact. This is Arcosanti, the brainchild of Paolo Soleri, built to prove his vision of architecture and ecology working hand in hand. Read more
In recent years, Detroit has become a byword for the decline of industrial cities in the United States. The community grew rapidly with industrialization in the mid-1900s, faced political, social, and economic turmoil through the rest of the century, and decayed into a disaster of infrastructure. Today, Detroit is finding its own way in the future of urban life, and it just might prove an example for all of the cities facing their own changing futures. Read more
New Songdo City, South Korea has been in planning and construction since 2003. It is and has been many things: a truly global city, an aerotropolis supported by the nearby Incheon International Airport, a green city, a “ubiquitous city” with technology in every aspect of life, and the backdrop to scenes in the video for the hit song “Gangnam Style.” As an early and long-running smart city project, Songdo says a lot about what we want from our cities of the future – and about what we may actually get. Read more
Authors Note: I’m taking a bit of a hiatus for January to get ahead on my researching and writing, as well as my classwork, but I didn’t want to leave nothing for a month. Here’s a little something about a book that I read last semester.
D.J. Waldie’s Holy Land describes a city that may not be of the future, per se, but was certainly a utopia to some. Waldie grew up and still lives in a tract home in Lakewood, California, a suburb of Los Angeles. Built in the years after World War II, Lakewood was the second “new” suburb in the United States, following in the footsteps of Levittown, New York. The book itself is a lyrical examination of a life in a place, and a place through the lives in it.
Seestadt Aspern, literally the seaside city at Aspern, is home to Smart City Wien’s large-scale experiments. The planned community of 20,000 people in the northeast corner of Vienna will be completed in 2028. Much like Masdar City, Aspern aims to act as a “living laboratory” to prove various new technologies, from smart electric meters to entire smart energy grids. Aspern Smart City Research (ASCR), the company in charge of research in Aspern, sorts its projects into four “Smart” areas: Building, Grid, User, and Information and Communication Technology (ICT).