Eutopias and Dis-Topias: Re-Imagining the Citizen of Ideal Societies
In a pioneering work published in 1987 Raymond Lifchez challenged architects to re-think architecture. His inspiration for doing so is similar to the motivation we have for writing this chapter addressing the issue of disability and utopian architecture. Lifchez’s concerns were more pragmatically oriented toward the experience of disenfranchisement built into the architecture of society and our focus aims to build upon that concern by teasing out the problematic nature of utopian socio-architectural design for disabled bodies, especially in spaces shared by all, that is, a context of utopian inclusion. Lifchez argues,
Our research parallels Lifchez’s concerns because architects are often guilty of not designing to meet the needs of inhabitants but for satisfying managers and owners, and for privileging concerns that prioritize commerce, function, and aesthetics rather than comfortable, accessible, and affordable accommodation. In many versions of utopian futures it is often the case that the individuals who will inhabit utopia are of, shall we say, a certain ability that is taken for granted in the design of a utopian city or space. There are relatively few accounts of how
exactly a utopia might accommodate differently abled people into its conceptual framework. Yet, beyond the artifice of the assumption that everyone in a utopia would be, somehow, perfectly capable of functioning in the created space of the utopia are critical and wholly underdeveloped cross-sections of social utopian planning. Namely, other than the absurd notion that each utopian inhabitant would be “normal” and that each individual would be able to meet and overcome the challenges presented by the built environment, utopian architecture fails to acknowledge the reality of other-abled bodies which will come into contact with the constructed environment.