• The New Utopias
    Oliver Wainwright

Forest City, Malaysia. Image: Country Garden Pacificview

City building is back. In the first decades of the twenty-first century, a surge in global population growth and a sense of impending environmental Armageddon have together spawned a surge of planned cities around the world. These new utopias serve as instruments of nation building, technological advancement, eco-salvation, and tax avoidance, each embodying a specific social, political, and economic ideology. This research project examines what kind of places these new cities are creating, and shines a spotlight on the invisible forces that are driving them—from China’s new company towns, to Saudi Arabia’s automated Edens, to libertarian visions for floating free states, bolstered by the urge to build a brave new post-COVID 19 world. By critically examining the networks of actors engaged in shaping these projects, the research investigates the motivations behind the creation of new cities and how the plans compare to the reality of the lived experience on the ground—and the unintended consequences that follow.

Oliver Wainwright is the architecture and design critic of the Guardian. He trained as an architect at the University of Cambridge and the Royal College of Art and worked at OMA, Rotterdam; Muf, London; and for the Architecture and Urbanism Unit of the Greater London Authority. He has written extensively on architecture and urbanism for a wide range of international publications and has won awards for his in-depth investigations on housing and urban development. He served as curatorial advisor to the Architecture Foundation and has been a visiting critic and lecturer at a number of architecture schools, including Harvard, Yale, and the Architectural Association. His photographs have been exhibited in galleries in Moscow, Seoul, and London, and at the International Centre for Photography in New York and the Saint-Etienne Biennale. His first book, Inside North Korea was published by Taschen in 2018.