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This article explores some of the manifold entanglements of architecture and utopia. It takes as a case study a social housing block in Vienna: the Hundertwasser-Haus. The house was designed by the artist-architect Friedensreich Hundertwasser and has attracted enormous attention from the architectural press and tourists. I articulate a series of architectural “movements”, manifest in Hundertwasser's design philosophy, press reportage about the house, residents' experiences of living at the house, and visitors' activities outside it. I argue that from these movements, a series of essentially unconnected utopian “moments” emerged. The article makes two contributions. First, it builds upon gathering interest in the geographies of utopia – specifically by moving beyond an emphasis upon utopian hope. It locates utopian impulses that are imbued with euphoria and joy, and which are not beset by a sense of lack. It also provides empirical examples of “unsettling” utopias of different registers (such as textual and experiential). Second, the article contributes to recent geographical approaches to studying architecture. It uses the analytical motif of movements to gain a sense of how a material building – and the idea of that building – is constituted as much by tenuous relations and disjunctures (even non-relations) as by relations. Whereas contemporary geographies of architecture do not leave room for tenuous relations and disjunctures in their narratives, this article tries to do so. It highlights how utopian moments at the Hundertwasser-Haus are proximate to each other: they are located metaphorically and/or literally at the house. Yet those moments neither conform to a coherent, singular narrative, and in some cases, nor do they relate to each other. The article opens debate about the significance of non-relational sociotechnical constituents to the geographies of architecture.

Keywords: event and disjuncture; geographies of architecture; home; relational spaces; tourism; unsettling utopia

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: Department of Geography, University of Leicester, Leicester LE1 7RH, United Kingdom, Email:

Publication date: 2010-12-01

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