Utopia after sacrifice

Isozaki says architects need to research and take time in their work. He points out that Jean Nouvel participated in many competitions while still a student but did not win any. But he continued without quitting and entered hundreds of entries only to win one. Both Jean Nouvel and Rem Koolhaas have bankrupted numerous times.

This is similar to “the utopian ideology whereby the ideal world of utopia cannot be reached just by rushing towards it (without sacrifice). Constantly one is in pursuit of it. It is essential to establish the ultimate goal since that is what propels you forward.”

I think what Isozaki is implying here is that somethings gotta give when you design for utopia. The reason it’s so hard to bring about change, large-scale urban changes at least, is that people don’t like change. They are comfortable with the familiar. But to really make a change you need sacrifice, whether that’s emotional or the physical demolition of the built environment, somethings gotta give.

Arata Isozaki: Interviews with Arata Isozaki in Asia. Japan Architect Co Ltd, 2008, p75.


2 responses to “Utopia after sacrifice

  1. Hey Nancy, bet you didn’t know that I was secretly stalking you on your blog. 😀

    So, if utopia is only achievable with sacrifice, what are your thoughts then about ecotopia, a form of utopia that is based on a symbiotic (and thus sacrifice-less) relationship between technology and nature? In the study of utopian literature, there is the general consensus that in recent years there has been a gradual depreciation of utopia due to the horrors of war and global crises. But assuming that when architects design buildings, they are designing for the future, then utopia theory is more relevant, and thus, more significant and applicable. Then again, some theorists also believe a critical sense of danger, provoked by witnessing the depletion of earth’s limited resources, will be what inspires contemporary thinkers and creators to discover and explore alternative means for our survival.


  2. Hi Phoebe! I think ecotopia can be achieved with a change in thought and the people’s attitude e.g. we become more aware of protecting the environment or develop habits of recycling. Such changes in thoughts result in action and then possibly more concrete outcomes. I think in this respect there is not really a ‘sacrifice’ as such but rather just being more sensitive and possibly giving up some time to materialize the thinking. But in architecture most of the time we are dealing with tangible outcomes which shape the physical built environment. However not all architects design for the future, many times what satisfies the present is ‘good enough for now.’ Cheaper and less effort basically. Because it is undoubtedly more challenging to design with consideration of the future, especially when it’s hard to tell what the future needs will actually be. War and global crises are factors which can shape future visions, and they should. In my view architects should always design with a utopian view, striving to be one step ahead of what is actually possible because chances are they will be in the near future.
    It’s really interesting to hear about utopia in literature, do they mostly talk about it in a physical sense like how cities will be like, or does it encompass other areas too like the way we live in general? I would like to know more!

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