Cambridge Talks: Bound and Unbound: The Sites of Utopia

In the five hundred years since the publication of Thomas More’s Of A Republic’s Best State and of the New Island of Utopia (1516), the project of imagining an ideal society has emerged as simultaneously regenerative and devastating on multiple fronts: for the concept of the polity, for the composition of social fabrics, and, most relevant from the vantage of the design disciplines, for the formation of buildings, cities, and territories. This year’s Cambridge Talks, now in its tenth edition, aims to provide a spectrum of exemplary instances of utopia’s modern guise.

In the main conference panels, we bring together speakers to address the rivalry between those utopian endeavors that organize space mainly through social relations and production, and those whose expansive impulse searches out some form of technical mastery over spatial configuration. In other words, utopia can be understood as either embodied or totalizing, bound or unbound. By taking examples from the 19th and 20th centuries, the case studies presented here—from communes and plantations to infrastructural projects and global ecologies—exhibit various attempts to imagine social conditions alongside spatial ones. A concluding discussion will touch upon the philosophical and theoretical ramifications of utopia today.

April 14, 3 PM – 6 PM

PhD Colloquium


  • Ana Miljački, Massachusetts Institute of Technology
  • Sonja Dümpelmann, Harvard University

April 15, 9 AM – 5 PM

Panel 1: Embodied Utopia

  • Luis Casteñeda, Syracuse University
  • Joyce Chaplin, Harvard University
  • Erika Naginski, Harvard University
  • Respondent: Catherine Ingraham, Pratt Institute

Panel 2: Total Utopia

  • Daniel Barber, University of Pennsylvania
  • Sara Pritchard, Cornell Univesity
  • Abby Spinak, Charles Warren Center, Harvard University
  • Respondent: John May, Harvard University

Keynote Lecture

  • Damian White, Rhode Island School of Design
  • Discussants: K. Michael Hays and Neil Brenner, Harvard University

Doctoral Program. More information: [email protected]

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Anyone requiring accessibility accommodations should contact the Public Programs Office at (617) 496-2414 or [email protected].