City of Sound is about cities, design, architecture, music, media, politics and more. Written by Dan Hill since 2001.

Quite often, I think about reporting on exhibitions too late, long after I’ve actually seen them and sometimes even after they’ve closed. Which is no use to anyone, frankly. For example, Ilya and Emilia Kabakov’s ‘The Utopian City and other projects’ at London’s Albion Gallery at the end of last year. A fantastical reworking of the gigantic Zollverein coking plant in Essen, the project unfurls an update of the utopian urban projects from almost a century ago, comprising detailed architectural models and numerous sketches and paintings. I was utterly absorbed one happy December afternoon, but it finished months ago, leaving only a very expensive book in its wake.

Images from The Utopian City by Ilya and Emilia Kabakov

Ironically then, the topic of that particular unreported exhibition leads neatly into my attempt at an early warning of an upcoming exhibition at the Barbican this summer, which looks fabulous, whether it features the Kabakovs or not. “Future City: Experiment and Utopia in Architecture 1956 – 2006”, runs 15 June 2006 – 18 September 2006 at the Barbican Art Gallery in London:

“From Archigram to Zaha Hadid, Nox and UN Studio, Future City traces the history and development of experimental architecture. Featuring over 60 visionary building projects and urban environments, the exhibition showcases projects that have pushed the boundaries of conventional architecture and have influenced and inspired a generation of architects.”

“Comprising original maquettes, drawings, film and photography, the exhibition invites us to take a look into the future and envisage radically different ways of living in the city. Highlights include Constant Nieuwenhuys’ New Babylon (1963), Rem Koolhaas’ drawings for Delirious New York (1978), and Foreign Office Architects’ prize winning Yokohama International Port Terminal (1995).”

Yokohama International Port Terminal

Barbican: Future City: Experiment and Utopia in Architecture 1956 – 2006

Oh, and I should add a quick word on the Barbican website. Having knocked it here four years ago, suggesting it wasn’t worthy of its setting, I feel I should at least mention that the latest incarnation is hugely improved. It’s bright, engaging, and usable. It conveys the subject matter elegantly, enables browsing of events my day, week, month etc, supported by a relatively seamless online booking system. Still has some foibles, but a) don’t we all, and b) it’s loads better in general, so well done to all concerned. (I think the agency are de-construct.)


5 responses to “Utopian cities: recent and forthcoming exhibitions in London”

  1. Tim Abrahams Avatar

    Thanks for the heads up on what sounds like a fascinating exhibition. (Is that really a FOA’s Terminal though? Looks more like an Ushida Findlay house to me…)


  2. Dan Avatar

    Hmm you could well be right, Tim. I rather lazily just took what the Barbican site said it was. Have removed the caption on the photo for now – can anyone confirm?


  3. marty Avatar

    An exhibition I’m sure you’re aware of, and might be interested in, is Graphic Cities 05, partof the onedotzero series of events, on at the Science Museum 7-9th March 2006.
    “a curated programme of graphic explorations of urban environments. featuring new visions both inspired and disillusioned by the reflection of our urban environment. ”
    As Rene Zellweger never said “you had me at graphic explorations”
    More info at:


  4. Dan Hill Avatar

    I contacted the Barbican regarding their incorrect photo. Took them a few weeks but to their credit, they’ve removed the incorrect picture (and uploaded some better ones).


  5. julian Avatar

    we should all be young again and
    live in groovy pads like this in
    pure, golden sun.


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