This IASTE conference seeks to study how tradition inspires and informs changing concepts of Utopia in theory and space. Utopian theories and plans emerge from a complex symbiotic relationship with traditions that are based on notions of the ideal. Indeed, utopias cannot be understood without understanding the traditions from which they develop.
At its etymological root, utopia embodies both the theoretical paradox of an ideal place, eu-topia, and a non-place, ou-topia, rendering it an impossibility. As an ideal place, utopia relies on tradition, but as a non-place it attempts to negate it. Although most utopias have spatial manifestations, they often attempt to harness and make static the traditions used to create these spaces. The geographies of utopia physically ground tradition, but tradition simultaneously controls these very same geographies.
This contemporary moment of economic crisis necessitates a re-examination of this dynamic. The word “utopia” is no longer as commonly referenced in professional practice as it was a few decades ago. However, architects, planners, and politicians continue to look for and disseminate notions of ideal forms. Regulated by ethnicity, religion, or race, the identity enclaves of many modern nations use territory to perpetuate the vision of a perfect community based on specific traditions.
The continuation and strengthening of tradition, cloaked in the language of utopia, may thus be seen to provide the focus for new gated communities in the developing world, the dreamscapes in cities around the Persian Gulf and the Pacific Rim, and the faux-colonial homes in American suburbs. On the other hand, there is an emerging discourse that reconceptualizes utopia itself, not as a product but as an open process aimed at transforming, rather than transcending, the existing condition. This conference will focus on the theme of utopia and tradition in the twenty-first century with papers in three different tracks.
Center for Behavioral Research, American University of Beirut
Department of Architecture and Design, American University of Beirut
Issam Fares Institute for Public Policy and International Affairs, American University of Beirut
College of Environmental Design, University of California, Berkeley
Center for Middle Eastern Studies, University of California, Berkeley
School of Architecture and Allied Arts, University of Oregon
Nezar AlSayyad, IASTE President, University of California, Berkeley
Mark Gillem, IASTE and Conference Director, University of Oregon
Howayda Al-Harithy, Local Conference Director, American University, Beirut, Lebanon
Sophie Gonick, IASTE and Conference Coordinator, University of California, Berkeley
Leila Solh, Local Conference Coordinator, American University, Beirut, Lebanon
SESSIONS ADVISORY COMMITTEE
Eeva Aarrevaara, Hesham Khairy Abdelfattah, Heba Farouk Ahmed, Joseph Aranha, Fernando Bontempo, Anne Marie Broudehoux, Greig Crysler, Renu Desai, Mia Fuller, Nelson Graburn, Hildegarde Heynen, Mui Ho, Hassan Udin Khan, Duanfang Lu, Robert Mugerauer, Sylvia Nam, Dietrich Neumann, Mina Rajagopalan, Ipek Tureli, Montira Horayangura Unakul, Dell Upton, Marcel Vellinga
LOCAL ADVISORY COMMITTEE
Mona Harb, Samir Khalaf, Jala Makhzoumi