Constructing Utopia

Constructing Utopia

Raumlaborberlin at the Milton Keynes Festival of Creative Urban Living

A biennial ‘Festival of Creative Urban Living’ in Milton Keynes (until 13 October 2019) explores the theme ‘Built, Unbuilt and Unbuildable’. Based on Midsummer Boulevard East in Milton Keynes’ city centre, the three-week festival offers visitors a range of free events, debates and performances, ranging from an overnight stay with a MK resident to participation in discussions on radicalism and the built environment, as well as a number of activities based in and around purpose-built temporary structures. Several of these were designed by German architect Raumlaborberlin, which developed and co-curated the festival.

Above: Utopia Station, designed by Raumlaborberlin, with content curation by Teleinternetcafe

At the heart of the Festival campus sits the Raumlaborberlin-design Utopia Station, a colourful, eye-catching tower within which Teleinternetcafe – a team of architects, urban planners and critical thinkers – has developed a “quasi-scientific, speculative experience, where a participatory, playful process draws out utopian visions and thinking from all of us”.

Beginning with a welcoming ceremony in the Idea Kitchen, members of the Utopia Station team offer visitors tea and a gentle introduction to an ‘idea protocol’ for future thinking. Moving up to the next level within the tower, a Casino of chance, incorporating a bespoke city-making wheel of fortune, extracts ideas and processes, which then move up the tower once again to the Translation Chamber. Here ideas go through a production stage, transformed into drawings or models by the UST. Finally, via a bespoke mechanism, everything moves down to the Discourse Hall, where an exhibition curated into three separate strands; Utopia Projection; Utopia Cloud and Utopia Exhibition captures the results of this intuitive, playful and unusual process.

Above: Bike School, Meeting Place and Utopian Laundromat

At the Meeting Place, also designed by Raumlaborberlin, visitors are offered a place to sit, enjoy a refreshment and take part in a free programme of music, films, performances, talks, workshops, demonstrations, classes and discussions. The Bike School ­– again by the same architect – aims to promote bike use in a city to which cycling is ideally suited. It features a specially designed bike ramp alongside a repair workshop and a cycle-themed programme of activities.

The ‘Utopian Laundromat’, designed by La Bonneterie, is an installation which proposes a different way to wash, dry and recycle water. “The masterpiece of this mechanism is three connected watersheds – the water runs from clean to dirty, from the bottom to the top – immersed in the different watersheds”, says the designer. “In the middle of this revolutionary mechanical system is a common space, a soft detergent workshop, a filters research space and space to socialise. Utopian Laundromat is a place for us all to combine business with pleasure, harmonising the needs of nature with the needs of being human”.