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The Concept of Utopia

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Table of contents

  1. Introduction
  2. How Utopia is Defined/Described
  3. Ebenezer Howard
    Le Corbusier
    Soria Y Mata
    Patrick Geddes
    Frank Lloyd Wright
  4. Common Themes
  5. African Utopias
  6. Eko Atlantic, Nigeria
    Hope City, Ghana
    Konza Technology City, Kenya
    Kigali, Rwanda
  7. Common themes
  8. Similarities and Differences Between Planning Utopias and African Utopias:
  9. Similarities
  10. Differences
  11. Conclusion


Utopia: ‘an imagined place or state of things in which everything is perfect.’ I will be explaining how Howard, Le Corbusier, Soria Y Mata, Patrick Geddes and Frank Lloyd Wright defined ‘Utopia’ their ideal place or state of living. I will also be describing African Utopias. After describing Utopias then comparing the different definitions given by the architects, urban planners and sociologist and from African Utopias, this is to give the similarities and differences which will show why these plans were made.

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How Utopia is Defined/Described

Ebenezer Howard

The publisher of To-morrow: A Peaceful Path to Real Reform in 1898, better known as Garden Cities of To-morrow. He experienced pollution, congestion, and societal dislocations of the modern industrial city. Howard’s ideas of urban reorganization, spatial zoning, the inclusion of nature in the cities, green belting, and developing a self-supporting new community external to the crowded central city, laid the foundation for the whole tradition of modern city planning. He described his plan as a kind of human based community on “the town-country magnet”, where we have the best of both worlds, the town magnet which represents the modern city having a combination of workplaces and services, and the opposing country magnet with the natural features representing rural districts.

As shown in his concentric-ring diagram, the central park is in the centre of the Garden City with significant communal buildings and enclosed by a “Crystal Palace” ring of retail stores. The whole city must be surrounded by an everlasting agricultural greenbelt and the new cities to be linked with central “Social Cities” by a system of railroad lines. The town and country are two magnets drawing people to itself. There are not only two alternatives, but a third one being introduced where all the active and lively town life with all the attractiveness and pleasure of the country will be. Presenting a natural movement of people from the crowded cities to the dearest of the earthly country. The Town-Country are free from the disadvantages of each. (Howard, 1902)

Le Corbusier

Designer of the “Radiant City” which was to be straight and ordered city for the future, it was not only for a more balanced urban environment, but also for a thorough social improvement. The design of le Corbusier’s ideal city was inspired by how the organs of the human body works, working together to function. The main tactic was to generate vertical building and leave a lot of common open space in between for people to use and appreciate. The horizontal zones would be the traffic passages and public sceneries with lavish greenery. Cyclists, motorists, pedestrians and community transportation were allocated to different routes to use to get around. At the centre, the residential area being separated from the commercial zones by a business districts connected via underground transportation. Flats would have views of the public spaces. Corbusier designed urban villages in the sky. (Curtis, 2006)

Soria Y Mata

“Soria theorised a single developed strip of no more than 500 metres in width, with a dominant tramway and roadway and residential and commercial plots on either side of agreed size and separated by smaller streets, at the connections of which there would be kiosks and shops, and in the centre of which there would be schools, hospitals, courtrooms. No point in the city would be more than a few hundred metres from countryside.” (Collins, 1959)

Patrick Geddes

Patrick Geddes believed that every city has its own soul and therefore, own identity and uniqueness. He criticized the binding of other cities to form one. He also believed that cities should grow naturally instead of creating a rigid shape. He was against the massive planning approaches used by the utopias, as he believed the plans had almost nothing to do with the people that live in those cities. Geddes said that the grid-iron street pattern did more harm to the city than it improves it. To implement a geometric plan, a lot of homes and shops that are in the way of the big monumental buildings must be demolished, which then violates the city’s spirit. (Lesser, 1974)

Frank Lloyd Wright

His utopian plan to create the perfect community: The Broadacre City. Wright announced that heavily populated cities soon would begin to disappear, absorbed into a new city unseen because it would spread over the whole nation. Therefore, his plan was to reallocate the population broadly across the continent. “He proposed to retain all the diversity of urban life, scattering the factories and skyscrapers across the landscape, providing regional markets and local centres of culture, entertainment, and education. His plan further provides for diversity in mode of life: minimum housing on single-acre plots, small and large apartment buildings. Broadacres is a city, he insisted; telecommunications and convenient motor transport have altered the scale according to which we must measure propinquity.” (Dougherty, 1981) Broadacres where men use machines to improve their freedom.

Common Themes

The Utopias that were planned or safely said the ideal cities of the urban planners all had the people’s best interest at heart, as it was planned for the people. Self-sustainable cities, advanced in everything and all things. Most having a better and effective transportation system with one lined with trees, solving the problem overpopulation in the cities by planning high raised apartments and shared communal kitchens and laundromat creating socialisation in the community. Most of the planners wanted to keep the greenery, making the city environmentally sustainable. Separating industrial from residential.

African Utopias

Eko Atlantic, Nigeria

”Eko Atlantic City is a 10 square kilometres city built as an extension of the Victoria Island. The city provides upscale accommodation for 250000 people and employment opportunities for a further 150000 who will travel to and from the city daily. “(Lemanski & Oldfield, 2009). The development of the city provides a positive environmental impact, as it counteracts erosion.

Hope City, Ghana

Hope is a technology planned city. It is a major mixed-use development, integrating high quality housing, corporate, leisure, retail, hospitality, educational, social and recreational uses. A city in which there is an interaction between different functions and different social classes and diverse tastes that come together. This tactic will activate social interactions and a more unsolidified socialisation between people. The city is developed to be environmentally sustainable and socially attractive.

Konza Technology City, Kenya

Konza is a technology planned city. “Konza city was planned as a mixed-use, high density walkable city that accommodates a diversity of programs and districts. By avoiding superblocks and auto-orientated roadways, Konza will be a liveable, sustainable urban environment that encourages high-value development and discourages sprawl.” (Johari, 2015)

Kigali, Rwanda

“Kigali is immaculate, and quite unlike any other African capital. It is a city of well-tended verges, neat houses and quiet roads. Houses cling to the precipitous slopes and the valleys below are reserved for parks, urban farms and a golf course. The views are dramatic: all you see, in every direction, are pyramids of dense habitation floating on a lush green sea.” (Shlomo, 2012) It is Africa’s cleanest city.

Common themes

The African Utopias were planned and designed to limit the population. The cities are environmentally sustainable. Most of the cities were planned for mixed-uses and to create more employment opportunities. The way they were planned it allows socialisation between people and to uplift the city or even country to fit in the international economic market in terms of trading. The development of proper transportation systems.

Similarities and Differences Between Planning Utopias and African Utopias:


Both utopias are self-sustainable as they are advanced in everything. They both provide a well implemented transportation system both for cars and pedestrians, with trees and a green scenery contributing to the well-being of the people in the city and spatial zone. Counteracting population was brought about creating high raised apartments which was evident in both the African and Planning Utopias. Creating socialisation between the people was implemented. Expansion to form new cities


African utopias are mostly technology planned cities

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Utopia an imagined place or state of things in which everything is perfect. All the urban planners had an ideal city which was “perfect” in their own minds. These cities were planned to improve the city’s life as well as the lives of the people settling in the city. Environmental, social and economic factors of the city or the whole country being improved. A city planned to self-sustaining.

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