Seven American Utopias
The Architecture of Communitarian Socialism, 1790 - 1975
412 pp., 9 x 11 in,
- Published: April 4, 1979
- Publisher: The MIT Press
From the time of its discovery, the new world was regarded by American settlers as a new Eden and a new Jerusalem. Although individual pioneers' visions of paradise were inevitably corrupted by reality, some determined ideatists carved out enclaves in order to develop collective models of what they believed to be more perfect societies. All such communitarian groups consciously attempted to express their social ideals in their buildings and landscapes; invariably, ideological predispositions can be inferred from a close study of the environments they created. The interplay between ideology and architecture, the social design and the physical design of American utopian communities, is the basis of this remarkable book by Dolores Hayden.At the heart of the book are studies of seven communitarian groups, collectively stretching over nearly two centuries and the full breadth of the American continent-the Shakers of Hancock, Massachusetts; the Mormons of Nauvoo, lllinois; the Fourierists of Phalanx, New Jersey; the Perfectionists of Oneida, New York; the Inspirationists of Amana, Iowa; the Union Colonists of Greeley, Colorado; and the Cooperative Colonists of Llano del Rio, California. Hayden examines each of these groups to see how they coped with three dilemmas that all socialist' societies face: conflicts betweeft authoritarian and participatory processes, between communal and private territory, and between unique and replicable community plans.The book contains over 260 historic and contemporary photographs and drawings which illustrate the communitarian processes of design and building. The drawings range in scale from regional plans showing land ownership, access to transportation, and availability of natural resources, through site plans of communal domains and building plans of dwellings and assembly halls, down to detailed diagrams of furniture configurations. To aid readers in making comparisons, a series of site and building plans drawn at constant scales has been provided for all seven case studies.
As a manual for new life styles and their manifestation in design the book is illuminating. The communitarians themselves are an attractive lot with their commitment to the land, their aim to integrate city and country, their concern with a design for life. The text on these groups and the ample photographs and diagrams are striking testimony to an imaginative use of stock styles and a vital search for something other than the customary American design for exploiting the land.
The illustrations in the books are a volume in themselves: a valuable archive of early photographs, excellent plans and maps. There are useful appendices with a comparative chart of the experiments, and the design and production are first class. Seven American Landscapes is an exemplary book; provoking, scholarly, and utterly engrossing.