"on not designing for a utopia that will never come"

It was the rare idée reçue in Ban’s otherwise searching manner of speaking: that the Modernist quest for utopia is over, and we now live in fallen, or at least more sober, times. That was a commonplace I didn’t need to travel to Japan to hear. Nor did it seem true — not of Ban’s work, nor of the growing political conviction around the world about fighting against the very tragedies to which Ban has spent years responding. In addition to the architects, partly inspired by Ban, discovering, or rediscovering, their sense of social responsibility, we are regularly reminded, whether through the demolition of yet another Brutalist social-housing project or through a new exhibition on the architecture of the former Yugoslavia, that it was not too long ago that entire societies, and their architects and planners, committed themselves to climbing out of the most devastating wars, and to providing for their laboring, needy and vulnerable populations. 


“This moment, the beginning of the 21st century, is a big moment to change the direction — toward sustainability and disaster relief,” he said. “This will continue as the main theme of this century.” Times had changed since the Modernist era: “Those times, people believed that they would have utopia some day. But we know that it’s not true. There’s no utopia.”