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The main watershed instigated by postmodernism in its widest sense was that of the end of the grand récits. In parallel with François Lyotard’s analysis of the postmodern condition, Manfredo Tafuri deconstructed the claims of the avant garde in modern arts and architecture in his seminal study Progetto e Utopia). Since then, utopian ideas or belief in necessary progress have been likely to be received with scepticism if not outright rejection. The consequences of this for architecture have included an embracing of the idea of autonomy and a ‘sublime uselessness’, instead of a measure of concern for social issues. This turn in the architectural discourse implied the veiling of the close interaction between everyday practice and moral questions, and the choices that always have to be made in this respect.

The resurfacing of the issue of morality and utopian thought in relation to architectural practice is of a recent date. Among others, it is prepared in the studies of modern architecture by Hilde Heynen and by Sarah Williams Goldhagen. The latter’s anthology Anxious Modernisms argues that we should try to identify what she calls ‘the interlocking cultural, political, and social dimensions that together constitute the foundation of modernism in architecture’. In Heynen’s profound study Architecture and Modernity. A Critique and her anthology Back from Utopia, the author arrives at a reconceptualization of the utopian dimension of the Modern Movement. She draws the conclusion that the patent failure of many of modern architecture’s social claims cannot be taken to mean that all social aspirations are necessarily outside the realm of architectural practice. To Heynen, the notion of a Utopia still figures as a critical and energizing factor in the realm of everyday architectural practice. Rem Koolhaas too, the unsurpassed critic of any positivist inclination in architecture, affirmed the necessary link between architectural conception and utopian thought in his latest book Content.
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