By Elizabeth YukArchitectural Digest
It’s easy to look back at the many failed American utopian communities that sprung up during the Transcendentalist movement of the 1840s—from the Oneida Community to Brook Farm to Fruitlands—and point out what went wrong. (Typically, some combination of leadership issues, problematic sex and relationship practices, and logistics.) Each of these groups, along with several others, were attempts at creating what people thought could be the perfect society, using communal living as a means of implementing religious or social values. And though the innovative social and political ideologies (and failures) of these communities are what we hear about most often, we’re most interested in the elements of their architecture and design that remain with us today. Born of a combination of frustrations with modern industrialized society and a hope for something better, these communities were attempts at implementing social reform—though most fell far short. From neighborhoods planned in line with the garden city movement, to some mid-century modern design, to suburbs (seriously), elements of utopian-inspired design have far outlasted most of the communities themselves. Here are three examples of utopian communities and experiments that used forward-thinking designs to help create their version of the ideal society.