Building Utopia is a dream, which many philosophers and architects have tried to build, conceptualize, and have taken human beings a step towards utopia. Utopia means “no place”, the term was coined by Sir Thomas Morein in 1516. Now with the advancement of technology utopias are thought of in a very unrealistic way, thus making it more fictional. The term Pragmatic Utopia refers to a Pragmatic or a sensible and realistic approach towards utopia. The term was first used by Davidya Kasperzyk and now Bjarke Ingels Group (BIG) is working on the Pragmatic Utopia concept as a style of architecture. There are several benefits of the Pragmatic Utopia which are as follows:

1. An approach towards the Utopia which makes sense

The most important thing about Pragmatic Utopia is its approach to make Utopia a more real one. The approach is made by using high-end technology, sustainable living, green building materials, and shaping government policies.

Example- 5 Pillars of Bawadi, Bawadi by BIG

It’s a great example to show how a building can be re-imagined making more sense by shaping the building with a climate like most of the buildings in the region are glass boxes and consume a large amount of energy to make the spaces habitable, and also conserving the possible urban spaces. Since the building is located in Arab, the form is inspired by the historical structures of Arab but the scale had varied from a building to a city. The building’s form looks like an inverted pyramid from a distance and carries the essence of the desert within.

10 Benefits of Pragmatic Utopia - Sheet1
Urban spaces of 5 Pillars of Bawadi ©
10 Benefits of Pragmatic Utopia - Sheet2
View from the desert ©
10 Benefits of Pragmatic Utopia - Sheet3
The skyline of Dubai ©
10 Benefits of Pragmatic Utopia - Sheet4
Top view of the building showing Islamic courtyards ©

2. Setting up an administration which looks to public interests

One of the most important factors about Utopia is to make all the citizens happy and the administration cares for them. So, the administration must be flexible and open to everyone, this concept may not seem feasible for a very large city but can be applied in the community.

Example- VM Houses, Copenhagen by BIG

The housing complex is designed in a way so that every family living in the complex can choose and make a unique set of combinations and patterns of room. The idea of the form VM is made to enable the users to get the maximum view of the surroundings from their balconies. The balconies are made triangular and arranged in a way so that each balcony has maximum cantilever and minimum shade, giving the users the feeling of the dock of the Titanic. 

10 Benefits of Pragmatic Utopia - Sheet5
View from one of the balconies ©
10 Benefits of Pragmatic Utopia - Sheet6
Combination of apartments in one building ©

3. Co-existing and learning from nature

When industrialization appeared, many people got jobs and the Industrial Utopia started, every person got a job, money, and a better standard of living. But in the 21st century, the idea of Industrialization is not sustainable for human beings due to global warming. If we don’t start to move to co-exists with nature, the whole land may get submerged into water and we can’t survive and sustain our lifestyle with existing resources available.

Example- Urban Lilypads, Penang Islands by BIG

This project involves the building of three artificial islands using green materials. With the development of residential buildings, the projects aim to conserve the ecology of the place with a large percentage of area for the flourishing of flora and fauna. Technology is used to improve the lifestyle and places using zero carbon emission vehicles and limiting the use of the car and promoting public vehicles.

10 Benefits of Pragmatic Utopia - Sheet7
Helicopter view of the islands ©
10 Benefits of Pragmatic Utopia - Sheet8
Bamboo Beacon ©
10 Benefits of Pragmatic Utopia - Sheet9
The Laguna ©

4. Replacing place-lessness with architecture deeply rooted in the culture of the place

Every place on this planet earth is unique, it has its cultural background and geographic characteristics. With the flourishing of Modernism as an International architectural style due to industrialization and the same aspiration of all people, the building got limited to box structure and all places on earth got the same style of building. This leads to placeless-ness and results in the misuse of resources and loss of identity from the root. 

Example- People’s building, Shanghai by BIG

Despite its unique shape, the building carries a strong architectural statement. The building’s shape looks like the Chinese word for people. Also, the components of the building carry a different aspect of Chinese ideology of The Feng Shui- Fire represented by a triangle, the gate when seen from city to the water; Earth by square, the public square at the shade of two towers; Metal by the circle, the circular load bearing exoskeleton; Water by the wave, the roof of conference hall; and Wood by the vertical rectangle, the view of the tower along the embankment.

10 Benefits of Pragmatic Utopia - Sheet10
Bamboo Beacon ©
10 Benefits of Pragmatic Utopia - Sheet11
Front Elevation ©
10 Benefits of Pragmatic Utopia - Sheet12
The gate when seen from city to the water ©

5. Using technology to the fullest to improve lifestyle

What drives us today to the new future is the use of technology to a large extent. Within the next decade, human beings would be able to see robots around and use them in daily life. Co-existing with nature and using technology to improve lifestyle is what the Pragmatic Utopia is thought to be. 

Example- Toyota Woven City, Susono, Japan by BIG

The concept of the city is to create equality in the movement of vehicles and people also developing driverless, AI cars. It is also planned to be a hub of R&D laboratory with robotic construction, 3D printing, and mobility labs, and experimentation zone for the new technology that will hit the market. The project will not only be an example of advanced technology use but also advanced mass timber construction will take place.

10 Benefits of Pragmatic Utopia - Sheet13
Bird’s eye view of the city ©
10 Benefits of Pragmatic Utopia - Sheet14
The urban spaces ©
10 Benefits of Pragmatic Utopia - Sheet15
Public gathering at night ©

6. A true approach to sustainability 

Sustainability is what we are looking forward to in the 21st century, but every time we approach sustainability there are many sectors, we can’tfulfill to be sustainable enough. Looking at the project’s sustainability measures and strategy, and treating the whole project as a single system and solving the problems with available technology, sustainability can be achieved.

Example- Little Denmark, Denmark by BIG

The projects aim to prove that what is the ecosystem shall we build to make the total energy bill of Denmark zero. So, by comparing the scale of Denmark, the project is thought to be built on 100000 square meters of land and performing all the interrelated activities. One such relationship is using the heat produced by refrigeration of supermarkets can be used to heat the swimming pool. 

10 Benefits of Pragmatic Utopia - Sheet16
Ecosystem made by BIG for zero bill plan ©
10 Benefits of Pragmatic Utopia - Sheet17
Model of the pyramids made ©
10 Benefits of Pragmatic Utopia - Sheet18
Bird’s eye view of the entry of the building in model ©

7. Solving problems with a worldview

Being able to solve the problems within the system is not only the goal of Utopia but also to consider the development of other systems is equally important. By collaborating with other systems in resources or helping by other means can result in the development of the project and the other projects at a time.

Example- Superharbour, Fehmarn Belt between Denmark and Germany by BIG

This project is building a port in such a strategic location so that the industrial belt of Europe could be enhanced and also to add a much larger port for storing and shipping materials. This port will open the gate to the Baltic Sea market and result in the continuous economic growth of the region. 

10 Benefits of Pragmatic Utopia - Sheet19
The strategic location ©
10 Benefits of Pragmatic Utopia - Sheet20
The existing growth zone ©
10 Benefits of Pragmatic Utopia - Sheet21
The potential of the harbor ©
10 Benefits of Pragmatic Utopia - Sheet22
View of the harbor ©

8. Opening up opportunities for humans to think beyond- Copenhagen Ski on power plant

It is a psychology of all human beings to think beyond what we are seeing today. Improving mental growth and making impossible things possible will make humans take a further step in development. So, the development of the human being can also be achieved through the Pragmatic Utopian style of architecture.

Example- Copenhill, Copenhagen by BIG

A ski slope, hiking trail, and climbing wall over a waste-to-energy plant is a great move to create awareness among people about the plant and the plant produces carbon ringed clouds which don’t pollute the air much. This project will enable people to understand that industry can also become a usable urban space if used and maintained wisely.

10 Benefits of Pragmatic Utopia - Sheet23
Skiing slope over the plant ©
10 Benefits of Pragmatic Utopia - Sheet24
View of the plant from distant ©
10 Benefits of Pragmatic Utopia - Sheet26
Interior of the waste-to-energy plant ©

9. Exchange of culture and improving relationships- the Danish pavilion, shanghai expo

The development of all systems from a single system can also lead to the exchange of culture and values. With the exchange of values, the other systems may act positively towards sustainability and more awareness can be created.

Example- The Danish Pavilion, Shanghai by BIG

The building is built on the concept of Danish virtues and also shares the culture of Copenhagen through city bike, harbor bath, a natural playground, and an ecological picnic. The most interesting is the Mermaid from Copenhagen harbor, which is a symbol of Danish culture is shifted to the Danish Pavilion at Shanghai and also gallons of water from Copenhagen is shifted to the bath created, for the visitors to experience Copenhagen’s taste.

10 Benefits of Pragmatic Utopia - Sheet27
Division of the spaces ©
10 Benefits of Pragmatic Utopia - Sheet28
Division of the spaces ©
10 Benefits of Pragmatic Utopia - Sheet29
Division of the spaces ©

10. An approach to reveal and use the hidden potentials and resources of the place- The plus

With the notion to make a system sustainable and use geographic characteristics in a better way, it is also important to find the hidden potential from the urban and geographic context. This hidden potential may lead to a better solution to the problem in the project and also to use the project to its full potential.

Example- 8 House at Copenhagen by BIG

This housing complex is a perfect example of how the building form can be shaped to make it climate responsive. Also giving justice to the pathway in the middle of the plot the building took the space of eight. The building is a great example to show how a building can be shaped to reduce the heat island effect and gets perfectly fit in urban fabrics.

10 Benefits of Pragmatic Utopia - Sheet30
Bird’s eye view of the building ©
10 Benefits of Pragmatic Utopia - Sheet31
Bird’s eye view of the building ©
10 Benefits of Pragmatic Utopia - Sheet32
Bird’s eye view of the building ©

Through each example, it is understandable at how much pace we are moving towards the Utopia and also bring in the new possibilities for the newer generation to take giant leaps ahead for their future generation. In the 21st century, we learned a lot of things about the amalgamation of architecture, technology, and nature. It’s on the people living in the 21st century who must break all the barriers and drive into the future to explore the unexplored and discover the undiscovered.


Souktik is a creative architecture student with a passion for architectural designs. He loves to research extensively on every field and shares his thoughts through visual illustrations. He is also an honest, kind-hearted person and an all-rounder.