New Babylon is an anti-capitalist city perceived and designed in 1959-74 as a future potentiality by visual artist Constant Nieuwenhuys.
Initially known as Dériville (from “ville dérivée”, literally, “drift city”), it was later renamed New Babylon. Henri Lefebvre explained: “a New Babylon — a provocative name, since in the Protestant tradition Babylon is a figure of evil. New Babylon was to be the figure of good that took the name of the cursed city and transformed itself into the city of the future.
The goal was the creating of alternative life experiences, called ‘situations’. Sarah Williams Goldhagen, explained:
[In the 1950s, Constant] had already been working for years on his “New Babylon” series of paintings, sketches, texts,and architectural models describing the shape of a post-revolutionary society. Constant’s New Babylon was to be a series of linked transformable structures, some of which were themselves the size of a small city–what architects call a megastructure. Perched above ground, Constant’s megastructures would literally leave the bourgeois metropolis below and would be populated by homo ludens–man at play. (Homo Ludens is the title of a book by the great Dutch historian Johan Huizinga.) In the New Babylon, the bourgeois shackles of work, family life, and civic responsibility would be discarded.
let’s do this first: free art-ists.
The post-revolutionary individual would wander from one leisure environment to another in search of new sensations. Beholden to no one, he would sleep, eat, recreate, and procreate where and when he wanted. Self-fulfillment and self-satisfaction were Constant’s social goals. Deductive reasoning, goal-oriented production, the construction and betterment of a political community–all these were eschewed.
as if the organization of daily life needed a name, a website, and an English-language spokesperson to exist
– Omar Aziz
Nieuwenhuys’ New Babylon, and his 1953 work For an Architecture of Situation, were based on the idea that architecture itself would allow and instigate a transformation of daily reality”.
architecture as in city sketchup style.. ongoingly changing
As Nieuwenhuys himself wrote:
It is obvious that a person free to use his time for the whole of his life, free to go where he wants, when he wants, cannot make the greatest use of his freedom in a world ruled by the clock and the imperative of a fixed abode. As a way of life Homo Ludens will demand, firstly, that he responds to his need for playing, for adventure, for mobility, as well as all the conditions that facilitate the free creation of his own life. Until then, the principal activity of man had been the exploration of his natural surroundings. Homo Ludens himself will seek to transform, to recreate, those surroundings, that world, according to his new needs. The exploration and creation of the environment will them happen to coincide because, in creating his domain to explore, Homo Ludens will apply himself to exploring his own creation. Thus we will be present at an uninterrupted process of creation and re-creation, sustained by a generalized creativity that is manifested in all domains of activity.
intro’d to new babylon here via the new normal fb share:
“New Babylon is an experiment in extreme hospitality. It’s not an architecture in which the whole world would be housed, but a piece of architecture in which the whole world would be able to house itself according to the way it wishes to, according to the life it would like to live. Hospitality is not easy. Hospitality is openness to the stranger. It is to embrace the risk of the other. It is to welcome somebody else into your house who you don’t know, and without knowing how they’re going to act.”
Read an excerpt from Mark Wigley’s essay reflecting on the work of Constant Nieuwenhuys and an architectural paradigm of free space and time afforded by automation.
[more on mark‘s page]
NEW BABYLON: RADICAL HOSPITALITY IN A WORLD BEYOND LABOR
An excerpt from Mark Wigley’s essay about an architectural paradigm of free space and time afforded by automation.
As part of the exhibition at the Dutch Pavilion at the 16th Venice Biennale of Architecture, Mark Wigley has revisited “New Babylon” (1956-74), the project by influential Dutch artist Constant Nieuwenhuys which envisions models for cities with the playful and creative human being at the center. Attempting to resolve the dichotomy between work and leisure, Constant speculated about a society freed from the need to work by automation and visualized the post-labor world.
In New Babylon, people are liberated from manual labor and can dedicate themselves fully to the development of creative ideas. Constant did not simply consider New Babylon as a design for a futuristic city, but as a “design for a new culture.
In his project and essay, commissioned by Het Nieuwe Instituut as part of “Work, Body, Leisure” exhibition, Wigley explores the conflictual ethical questions that arise from the idea of a society freed from work. *Will technological order eradicate violence? Would New Babylon be possible without the work of the other?
now into excerpt (first section is original new normal fb share above)
Seemingly benign, conventional buildings, very simple buildings that simply offer an interior space, always sustain violence through these systems of exclusions and hierarchies. Every time architects draw a line, there is always on the one hand a promise for making a space for people, and maybe a wider space for more people, but it’s always exclusionary; there are always those who are left out.
The language of inclusivity is a secret language of exclusivity.. Every line has the capacity to give comfort, space, time, to one group, and take it away from another.
Can you draw a line that welcomes without also excluding?In Constant’s theory,
every line is violent.
Every line has to be undone. Every line has to be provisional, dotted, blurred, contested.. t How, then, do you operate as an architect? That is to say, a person who draws lines, while depowering the lines, by not allowing the line to be violent, to exert its violence? Miesian architecture may inspire hospitality, but it never strays too far away from the idea of authority. The room we are in is in every sense exclusive.
Real hospitality is a radical act. This invitation and embrace of the unknown guest necessarily undermines the designer and the design itself. In other words, a genuinely hospitable architecture that would welcome the other would welcome its own destruction. It would welcome the dissolution and blurring of the figure of the designer.
The real generosity of a host is not to invite someone or something to occupy a space, but to invite a transformation of the space..t
hosting ie: a campfire et al
New Babylon is the most extreme and invaluable example of extreme hospitality. Here, hospitality is extended to the whole species. It is a genuinely popular architecture for a world in which no one would be considered either ordinary or strange. This would be, to put it crudely, an architecture for the people, and nothing less.
Constant really tries to ask the question: how could we live together? What does it mean to be suspended within a networked world beyond labor? ..t
But the question Constant could not answer remains, this brutally important question: how will we live together when it would seem that one of the key characteristics of our species is its murderous relationship to itself?..t.. Our insensitivity and brutality towards others, our ability to anesthetize ourselves to the suffering of others, even to our own pains and pleasures. The repressive default setting reinforced by the new brains and body that we have become through the *technological adjustments to our own organism..t.. forces again a new generation of architects to ask, what is it that we could offer? What could hospitality be?