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Ecotopia: Fewer Experts, More Visionaries

 Editors Note: The Functionality is excited to bring you today's Friday Feature by David Bantz. David is a young architect working in Los Angeles. His interests range from the sustainable to the insatiable. He bring us this feature directly from Mr. Hodgetts' himself. Stay tuned for next week's feature from Quang Truong of No Ideas But In Things.

Courtesy Craig HodgettsIn recent years there’s been a drift towards the very specialized; cults forming within the ever-expanding, interdisciplinary field we dub “Architecture,” capital “A.”  Everyone knows a Maya-goon, a BIM-pro, or an Eco-freak, but do we know any genuinely adventurous architects?

With inquiries, billings, and permits dropping like the Dow lately, we all need to start thinking a little more creatively.  One such Los Angeles practitioner, Craig Hodgetts, is doing just that by dipping opportunistically into his visionary past.  Uncovering a batch of clairvoyant renderings, a whimsical storyboard, and a dramatic shell of a script (completed by Mr. Hodgetts in 1978), we find an exciting cultural pertinence.  Originally pitched for a film adaptation of the 1970’s cult-fiction novel, Ecotopia by Ernest Callenbach, the solar powered city, mag-lev trains, and electric vehicles are a testament to Hodgetts' incredible futurist aptitude. As Mr. Hodgetts' says,

 “It was just 30 years too early, and yours truly could never get the film off the ground.  Architects and publishers at the time were seriously not interested in the subject.” 

Courtesy Craig Hodgetts With the green revolution at full break-neck speed, and the rash of recent rumors about a possible Hollywood movie deal, it seems Hodgetts' futurist vision could now be quite popular.

A film about a futuristic sustainable city, and the civil and social battle that ensues between Americans; some looking to the future, others languishing in the past. A movie jammed full of suspense, action, and drama? Sounds like it could be the Blade Runner of our generation to me.  When’s the premiere?

It is this delicate balance between social visionary and cultural opportunist that inspires and qualifies architecture as a multi-level cultural catalyst.  I think Callenbach puts it best at the end of a recent New York Times article motivating us all to use our imaginations a bit more:

“It is so hard to imagine anything fundamentally different from what we have now… but without these alternate visions, we get stuck on dead center.” 


Reader Comments (2)

So what's an ideal or sought-after balance between imagination and execution, between dreaming of how things could (or should?) be and actually getting things built?

02-4-2009 | Unregistered CommenterLukeG

The balance is simultaneity. Inventors (architects) must not only dream, but they assume responsibility for making their dream a reality. I think the first step is awareness. Through the media of film a new vision can be projected to the public with out actual "real" conception. This vision can then be a goal to strive for... it may provide direction through example... or reveal possibilities and solutions that may otherwise go unrealized. Many of these visions require much more than an architect to achieve, and a film can be a way to get others on board.

02-10-2009 | Unregistered CommenterDave B

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