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(Not) by Design: Utopian Moments in the Creation of Canberra (Part III: Australian Utopias) (Report)

Arena Journal 2005, Fall, 25-26

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In an article from 2001 entitled 'Ecopolitics by Design', David Wright draws attention to the 'unique integration of political idealism and ecological thinking' that characterizes the work of Walter Burley Griffin as the principal architect of Australia's federal capital. In Wright's assessment, Griffin's legacy has been unjustly overlooked by those attempting 'to map ecopolitical thinking in Australia', as a consequence, he suspects, 'both of the character and scale of the canvas he worked'. (1) In the meantime, Canberra's present-day city planners have embarked upon their own practical revaluation of the 'Griffin Legacy'. This they see not so much as a 'blue-print that fixes the future planning of Canberra in rigid detail', as setting 'the big picture, identifying those things of value which should endure while allowing flexibility to respond to emerging needs and opportunities'. (2) Within the National Capital Authority's (NCA) vision of 'the big picture', the radical democratic and ecospiritual elements of Griffin's Canberra plan, variously illuminated in the research cited by Wright, inevitably get flattened into the familiar mantra of the triple bottom line. The endeavour to integrate economic, social and environmental considerations in the further development of Canberra doubtless manifests a certain utopian impulse of its own, while nonetheless falling short of the recognition that their genuine reconciliation would necessitate a far more profound transformation of the prevailing ecosocial order than is currently intended by the NCA. I will return to a consideration of this and other utopian stirrings in contemporary Canberra at the end of this article. What principally concerns me here, however, is the programmatic utopianism that is discernable in Griffin's--or rather (for it was evidently a collaborative effort) the Griffins'--vision for the federal capital. In particular, I will follow Wright in taking a closer look at the ecopolitical dimension of this utopian design project. In so doing, I will illuminate a certain tension, perhaps even a contradiction, with which all systemic eco-utopias are bound to wrestle: that is, between the Promethean ambition to remake the world and the ecocentric ethos of attunement to the given. (3) From the ecopolitical perspective that frames this study, the utopian ambition to create a better future by design appears at once absolutely necessary and necessarily problematic. [ILLUSTRATION OMITTED]

(Not) by Design: Utopian Moments in the Creation of Canberra (Part III: Australian Utopias) (Report)
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  • 2,99 €
  • Available on iPhone, iPad, iPod touch, and Mac.
  • Category: Religion & Spirituality
  • Published: 22 September 2005
  • Publisher: Arena Printing and Publications Pty. Ltd.
  • Print Length: 36 Pages
  • Language: English
  • Requirements: To view this book, you must have an iOS device with iBooks 1.3.1 or later and iOS 4.3.3 or later, or a Mac with iBooks 1.0 or later and OS X 10.9 or later.

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