Last year, Le Cool invited us to be one of the contributors to a new book about ideas and projects that improve the city. We were very glad to find the final result in our post box some weeks ago. A Smart Guide to Utopia is a book about cool urban initiatives, but not just another book about cool urban initiatives. It starts out with a fabulous admission from Ben Hammersley: that the city is the natural habitat of humanity. We need our cities just as much as they need us. They are the engines of humanity, and this book shows 111 different ways that this is happening right now.
Organised into sections based upon what we do in our cities (Live, Work, Eat & Drink, Buy, and Play), the book is full of descriptions of small-scale urban initiatives that make our urban lives more enjoyable, and is peppered with brief interviews and mini-essays on the nature of our urban lives and the people that are trying to make them fabulous. The Pop-Up City has given shape to a large part of the Play chapter with numerous playful city ideas and the finishing essay about the future of urban play (click here for a preview). So be sure to check out our contribution if you get your hands on the book!
Some initiatives in A Smart Guide to Utopia are well-known: the transformation of Berlin’s Flughafen Tempelhof into a huge inner-city park space is one of the great examples of space re-use, as is Vienna’s HappyLab being part of the growing international network of 3-D printing shops. Others are less publicised, but are equally inspiring: co-working spaces that are popping up all over the place (including London, Madrid, Cologne, and Budapest, amongst others!), or the resurgence of supper clubs like The Loft Project (Helsinki’s Restaurant Day makes an appearance, as well).
In a time of such uncertainty, it’s refreshing to discover that fascinating projects are happening all over the world that are breathing new life into our urbanscape. One hopes that these aren’t the only 111 projects the editors had to choose from.
A Smart Guide to Utopia: 111 Inspiring Ideas for a Better City
Edited by Kati Krause
Contributions by Ben Hammersley, Maria Popova, Adam Greenfield and others
Published by Le Cool
Launched: May 2012