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Utopian Planning Theory

By Bernard Fisher,2014-06-17 16:47
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Utopian Planning Theory ...

Utopian Planning Theory

The Utopian Planning Theory is the idea of an ideal way of life

    based around togetherness. It is a civilization were nothing is owned,

    no one is superior, and everyone is happy. This very pleasant

    sounding but unconventional approach to planning a community

    never fully took hold, and people who supported the idea were often

    called dreamers. A modern use for the word is ‘far fetched’ or unrealistic, and is often used in movies to depict a wonderful,

    fantasy civilization. The term was first coined by English lawyer and

    Roman Catholic Saint, Sir Thomas More. To get the word he simply

    combined two Greek words together. The first, ‘ou-topos’ which means ‘no place’, and the second, ‘eu-topos’ which

    means good place. The word became well known when in 1516, More wrote his famous and controversial book entitled

    ‘Utopia’.

More’s Utopian dream was to create a civilization based on community and togetherness. First off there would be no

    private land. Everything would be totally public with nothing owned, therefore, no rich or poor people. Everyone in the

    community would be looked at as total equals, all working together to better the community. No monetary value would be

    needed, since nothing was owned and everyone contributed. The second main theme of More’s Utopia was complete

    religious toleration. This meant that the community would accept everyone’s beliefs no

    matter what they were, with one exception, everyone had to believe in something. No

    Atheists were allowed in a Utopian society. The belief shared was that there was one

    superior being or creator, be it God or whatever a person believed, and that everyone

    else was created by that superior being as equals. More thought that if everyone were

    equals in a civilization, then all fighting would stop and there would be peace all the

    time. There were quite a few famous followers of More’s theory. Plato, Owen, Fourier,

    Saint-Simon and Wells were all famous philosophers were believed that More’s idea

    could work. Some even argue that Karl Marx was trying to push Utopian theories with

    communism.

Although there are not very many civilizations started under the Utopian

    Planning Theory, there is one famous one right here in Canada. Off the BC

    coast on Malcolm Island is a community called Sointula which was

    originally started as a Utopian Socialist community. In 1901, Finnish settlers

    living and working in the mines in Nanaimo rowed north to start their own

    settlement. The civilization was to follow the Utopian Theory, and everyone

    was to be happy and the town prosperous. The motto for the town was ‘sound

    body, sound mind’, so regular exercise sessions, music festivals and drams productions were put on for the townspeople. The Finnish settlers even made the first Finnish newspaper in Canada which encourage Finnish immigrants to come to Sointula. The community did well for about 2 years until fires devastated the town. The land was sold back to the BC government and a lot of the inhabitants abandoned the island. The remaining people managed to rely on the quite lucrative fishing in the area and were able to save enough to buy back the land and try to restart the town. It didn’t follow

    the full Utopian Theory, but was still centered around sharing and community. Sointula population now is around 800, with a large amount of business coming from tourism.

    The Utopian Planning Theory was a very big idea back when it was first derived. It started people thinking about communities and sharing in a time of turmoil and fighting for land. People long for peace and a perfect lifestyle and the Utopian idea was exactly that, a plan for perfection. It is human nature to strive to be perfect, so why not make the perfect place to live. City planners today still keep the Utopian dream in the back of there minds while thinking of a community design. Central parks and public land reflect the sharing and togetherness More wrote about in his book. The most popular cities often have central areas such as gardens and parks where the public can gather together. The theory really couldn’t

    ever work in full swing though. People like having possessions, and the Utopian theory didn’t allow that because it then brought social status and inequality. The communities planned today have a sense of equality to them if you look at the big picture. The same price range of housing are usually grouped together in small communities. It is rare to see a huge house in a low income housing community, and vice versa. This would create a feeling of jealousy in a low income housing and a feeling of in superiority for those in the small houses. The Utopian theory still has a small influence on city planning today.

    In Lethbridge one can still see small groups living the Utopian dream. The Hutterite colonies around Lethbridge all live in a sort of utopian lifestyle. With the exception to the fact that they all share the same religion, the follow More’s theory

    quite well. In the Hutterite society, the entire colony shares everything and everyone contributes. The women take care of the clothing and raising the children, while the men farm and hunt. No one has to buy anything off of anyone since most everything essential to live is shared communally.

    The utopian planning theory sounds just as the title suggests, a utopian dream that is too far-out to work in a real life situation. At first it sounds like a great sounding way of life. In my head I picture a scene from Adam and Eve, humans and nature living in perfect harmony, but that isn’t real life. Humans need to have there own identity, a social structure

    and personal belongings. In modern day society is basically every man for himself. A lazy person won’t usually make as much money as a hard working person, and therefore live a lower income lifestyle because of it. If everyone shared everything like in a utopian community, then would the lazy people still get away with being lazy? Back in the 1500’s

    was a totally different way of life with primitive technology and harder living conditions, so it may have had a better chance of working, but now in modern society there is no way a full fledged Utopian society could work without someone being in charge and forcing the people to be utopian. The utopian planning theory is a very nice, ideal approach to a perfect way of life, but perfection is an ideal that can hardly ever be achieved.

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