Tuesday, August 25, 2009

New Babylon


New Babylon is a Utopian anti-capitalist city designed in 1959-74 by artist architect Constant Nieuwenhuys. Henri Lefebvre explained: "a New Babylon -- a provocative name, since in the Protestant tradition Babylon is a figure of evil. New Babylon was to be the figure of good that took the name of the cursed city and transformed itself into the city of the future." The goal was the creating of alternative life experiences, called 'situations. Sarah Williams Goldhagenp, explained:

[In 1950s, Constant] had already been working for years on his "New Babylon" series of paintings, sketches, texts,and architectural models describing the shape of a post-revolutionary society. Constant's New Babylon was to be a series of linked transformable structures, some of whichthemselves were the size of a small city--what architects call a megastructure. Perched above ground, Constant's megastructures would literally leave the bourgeois metropolis below and would be populated by homo ludens--man at play. (Homo Ludens is the title ofa book by the great Dutch historian Johan Huizinga.) In the New Babylon, the bourgeois shackles of work, family life, and civic responsibility would be discarded. The post-revolutionary individual would wander from one leisure environment to another in search of new sensations. Beholden to no one, he would sleep, eat, recreate, and procreate where and when he wanted. Self-fulfillment and self-satisfaction were Constant's social goals. Deductive reasoning, goal-oriented production, the construction and betterment of a political community--all these were eschewed.

Constant's New Babylon, and his 1953 work For an Architecture of Situation, were based on the idea that architecture itself would allow and instigate a transformation of daily reality."

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