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Designing Utopia

Designing Utopia

John Ruskin's Urban Vision for Britain and America
Progressive urban planning and design have been influenced by many individuals who sought to design the ideal community. John Ruskin was one of them, and this book presents a broad overview of his views on urban design and social justice. Written by Michael H. Lang

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Many individuals have sought to design the ideal community. Read any suburban paper today and you will find story after story about citizens trying to protect open space and control rampant suburban sprawl. These citizens are unknowingly seeking John Ruskin's vision of the `Garden City' small, beautiful communities set in green open spaces.

Although his name is not one that springs to mind when the public thinks of influential urban planners and designers, he was, undoubtedly, a most important influence. Art critic, social reformer, giant of English literature, his prodigious output of books, pamphlets and lectures, as well as his efforts at practical reform, established his tremendous reputation in Britain and America. More than providing a vision statement, he challenged artists, architects and town planners to collaborate on developing prototypes of his vision. To a remarkable extent they succeeded in doing so and thereby created a legacy of good community design that this book highlights.

Designing Utopia presents a broad overview of John Ruskin's life: the development of his views on architecture and urban design, as well as his views on social justice; how his vision was developed in his writings; his efforts at practical application of that vision, in particular his efforts to build a guild based society. Finally the book analyses how Ruskin's urban vision influenced the work of a long line of progressive architects and planners and the buildings and communities they designed modern urban designers such as Lewis Mumford, Patrick Geddes, Ebenezer Howard. The work of these figures are then related to current practitioners of the New Urbanism such as Duaney and Plater-Zyberk.