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Access Type

Open Access Thesis

Document Type


Degree Program


Degree Type

Master of Architecture (M.Arch.)

Year Degree Awarded


Month Degree Awarded



This thesis proposes that architectural utopian ideas are the foundation for societal change. The communities that form from utopian ideas act as test sites for societal values on a microscale (Gondolf 1985). When communities work together on a utopian vision through dialogue, they avoid the pitfall of one person’s utopian vision being blanketed over the world (Schneekloth 1998). Utopian communities solve problems through experimentation that create different ways of living which act as visions that can provide hope (ibid). Ruth Levitas, author of The Concept of Utopia, defines utopia as “the expression of the desire for a better way of living” (Gizem Deniz Guneri 2019,155). In this thesis I articulate a framework for understanding utopian societies in sociological terms, as a place or idea created with clearly stated design principles. Utopian communities have clear boundaries and ideological principles that favor the wellbeing of the group above that of the individual (Gondolf 1985). Moreover, social mechanisms in the form of designed social conventions are the traits of successful utopian communities (ibid).

The natural settings of utopian artists' retreats and craft schools contribute to creativity, community connection, and an increased appreciation for these natural settings. A comparison of four creative places, Black Mountain College (NC), Haystack Mountain School for Crafts (ME), Pilchuck Glass School (WA), and MacDowell (NH) are used to identify the positive characteristics of natural settings.

Using these precedents and associated literature on utopian communities. I have collected a series of features that contribute to the ideal environmental, architectural, and organizational design practices of utopian communities. This thesis then employs a research through design methodology to illustrate and test these features through a single, prototypical project. The findings of this thesis include a list of opportunities and challenges presented by this project, which can be broadly applied to similar endeavors.


First Advisor

Caryn Brause

Second Advisor

Carey Clouse

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.