Fact and Fiction: Public Space in Fictional Cities
Why do people create worlds other than this one? In religion, science fiction and philosophy there are a plethora of fictional worlds, Utopias, that inspire and intend to capture the essence of true perfection. What form this “perfection” takes on is dependent on the cultural background of the architects themselves. In the example I have chosen, Andreae’s Christianopolis (Figure 1), his motive was the construction of “an ideal city on a pietistic socialistic basis” (Abercrombie, 1920, pg. 99).
Johannes Valentines Andreae was a German priest who designed a Utopian city, dubbed Christianopolis, in 1619 (For technical details of the city’s architecture and design see Abercrombie, 1920). The city is a mythical paradise, of concentric walls set in a square frame with interior apartment blocks, aligned at right angles in rows orbiting the core structure within the city, the College. As an urban design and public space, it radiates order and structure which were desirable traits to the logical mind of a Renaissance theologian, equally intrigued by science and piety. Yet this ornate and intricate city exists only on paper and in the mind of the creator.
For the sake of comparison let us view the city of Calw. Andreae was part of the committee that rebuilt the city of Calw, following the city’s destruction during the Battle of Nordlingen (1634). The city, visible above, is a rigmarole of corners and looping paths with its shape dictated entirely by the flow of the river Nagold. This hardly reflects the carefully constructed rows and symmetrical design of Christianopolis. The Utopian city in its grand design is meticulously regulated, even down to the level of the individual citizen as “visitors to Christianopolis are tested as to their moral suitability, backgrounds, and character, and are subjected to an intellectual cross examination” (Davis, 2008, pg. 14)
By creating a fictional world, one can create beauty via public space, untainted by the real world with its perceived mortal filth, needs and degeneracy. In this context, the public space is not a street or a park but a whole city, an idea that is superimposed on an already existing and understood institution, the urban environment, but re-imagined in a way that reflects the power, values and in many ways the lamentations of a powerful few, who view their world and city as a failed attempt at what could have been.
- Abercrombie, P., (1920) Ideal Cities: No. 1 Christianopolis, The Town Planning Review, Vol. 8, No. 2, Liverpool University Press, pp. 99-104
- Davis, J.C, (2008) Going Nowhere: Travelling to, through, and from Utopia, Utopian Studies, Vol. 19, No. 1, Penn State University Press , pp. 1-23
- Morrison, T. (2013) The Architecture of Andreae’s Christianopolis and Campanella’s City of the Sun, Proceedings of the Society of Architectural Historians, Australia and New Zealand: 30, Open, vol. 1, p 259-271.