Book review: Practicing Utopia: An Intellectual History of the New Town Movement

19th Jan 2018

Book review: Practicing Utopia: An Intellectual History of the New Town Movement

A new book review by Michael Kordas is now available online


In Practicing Utopia: An Intellectual History of the New Town’s Movement, Rosemary Wakeman seeks to analyse the various routes through which governments, corporations, architects and planners sought to create a fresh incarnation of urbanism. As the author admits in the introductory text, ‘there is nothing new about new towns’ (p. 1). Even the oldest settlements were ‘new’ at some point. Thus, she proceeds from the standpoint of new town designation and planning as a highly figurative and territorial act. Each is approached as a physical representation of the power relations of its time and the dominant vision for the future thereof, hence the concern with utopia which runs throughout. From this standpoint, Wakeman investigates the length of the ‘golden age’ of the new towns movement: the period 1945–1975. The book seeks to add to our understanding by approaching a diverse array of new towns as spaces of ideas, hopes and dreams. Beyond ‘bricks and mortar’ the targets of enquiry are the less tangible practices, cultures and discourses which animated these ideal spaces in the minds of their makers. Much of the existing literature on new towns is contemporary to this ‘golden age’ itself. Key introductory texts for any scholar include Osborn and Whittick’s New Towns: Their Origins, Achievements and Progress (1977) and Munzer and Vogel’s New Towns: Building Cities from Scratch (1974). Unlike the predominantly Western stance of these volumes, Wakeman’s work is a truly international study which illustrates how the new towns movement expanded into many different local forms and practices, from an initially tightly bound set of ideas.


You can access and read the full review here


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