Book Chapter

Genius of Utopia

Seen through the ‘frankly eutopian’ lens of Patrick Geddes’ regional survey methods – encompassing both his pragmatic involvement with existing cities and his regional ambitions – this essay considers several practical interpretations of the term ‘genius’ as it relates to the legacy of ‘utopia’. First we will consider genius along the lines of the most commonly understood, conventional sense of the term – as someone of extraordinary ability, capability, and influence. Then we will consider genius in the sense of ingenuity – the genius of the idea of utopia – in that Thomas More’s ‘invention’ of the term utopia in 1516 gave subsequent generations a name for an effective way to conceptualize, communicate, and give form to future aspirations. Finally, we will consider the site-specific implications of genius loci, demonstrating that Geddes’ implicitly ecological notion of ‘utopia’ was fundamentally evolutionary – and explicitly temporal – and that it was informed by his active interest in cultivating the desirable qualities already present in existing cities.


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