Utopia was the ideal Island/State imagined and described by Thomas More in his namesake novel. Divided in 54 cities, which referred to the 54 English counties, this non-place was without any social tension and its inhabitants contributed to common wealth. This autarchic organization has been chased many times everywhere in the world, but so far it hasn’t been fully reached.
We talked about Marinaleda, the Andalusian community which is perfect to solve your renting problems. But it’s more like an agricultural cooperative who recently opened itself to alternatives such as sports and IT.
One of the most famous examples of Utopias is Christiania, city in the city of Copenhagen which started its path to autonomy in 1971, when hippies first occupied a barrack before expanding in the whole neighborhood. Founded on the typical ideals of the counterculture of the late 60’s, Christiania purpose was to defeat “psychological and material poverty”, according to its manifesto.
Not only the law reinforced private property, letting the residents buying the real estate at a controlled price, but even worse gangs of motorcyclists compete for the drugs market. Anyway, Christiania is still the second touristic destination in Copenhagen, with an almost intact style and a strong artistic presence.
Auroville, in southern India, is a little less known utopia, conceived by the guru and yoga teacher Sri Aurobindo and architecturally developed by Roger Anger, pupil of Le Corbusier. For a change, Auroville was born with an anti-capitalist perspective, but ended up invaded by Western people looking for inner peace. Although it has almost no impact on the environment, this place has been ruined by sex related crimes and discrimination against Tamils.
Slab City is less attractive from an aesthetic point of view. Expanded between concrete and desert in the south-east of California, Slab City is more like a camper gathering. Even if it’s far from luxury, it has a small golf court, eight holes instead of the usual eighteen. Indeed, the area is nothing but usual: Slab City rises on the ashes of an abandoned military base. But the anarchist inspiration of the “last free place of America” hasn’t brought a fulfilled utopia.
Dwellings made with waste materials and the presence of homeless, unsuited and addicted people, had the magazine Time daring a comparison with the series of post-apocalyptic movies Mad Max, situation aggravated by the crisis of 2008. Anyway, temporary and long-term residents preferred enduring a life without comfort and basic technology than paying debts.
More than suffocating hot and the dangerous wildlife of the desert, Slab City has a high crime rate. Murders and crystal meth proliferate like it was Breaking Bad – but is not worse than many American cities that have a regular justice system. Periodically Uncle Sam tries to keep back the control on a depreciated territory, which doesn’t find really interested buyers. So, the existence of this rent free aggregation is always on the line.
None of these experiments completely succeeded in a way that could have been exported. But even if the ideal community is vainly pursued by centuries, doesn’t mean that one day utopia can come true, changing its meaning on the dictionary.