Monday, September 19, 2016

France Has One of the Most Impressive and Intelligent Attempts to Build 'Utopia'

By Gavin Stamp
Le Familistère de Guise, probably designed by Jean-Baptiste André Godin (1817–88) and built between 1859 and 1884. Photo: Chalmeau
‘Utopian’ has been applied to the very many attempts at creating an ideal harmonious society that have been proposed and, occasionally, tried over the last five centuries, from Robert Owen’s attempt at industrial harmony in New Lanark to the Shaker communities in the United States. French philosopher (1772–1837) Charles Fourier's ideal community or Phalanx was intended to consist of precisely 1,620 people living and working in a large palatial building, vaguely modelled on Versailles but with covered street galleries, where the many facilities offered (and a controversial system of free love) could be enjoyed. There is no other site like this in Europe: a place to consider the very idea of Utopia, where it is possible to see the future as it was – and find that it worked. [link]
The central living block at Le Familistère de Guise. The furniture in the foreground is part of Francis Cape’s ‘Utopian Benches’ exhibition. Photo: Gavin StampAA