About our Utopia – 2021

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Robert Owen ( Biographical note )

A Developement of the Principles and Plans on which to Establish Self-Supporting Home colonies…. (London: Home Colonization Society, 1841): 37-40.

Robert Owen’s proposal of 1817 for the design and arrangement of a cooperative community is part of this series of essays. Probably with his collaboration, Stedman Whitwell, an English architect, prepared a more detailed design, built a display model of it, and provided a drawing that was reproduced in 1825. Although Owen’s plans were thwarted when he attempted to create a model community at New Harmony, Indiana, he did not give up on the idea. In 1841 he issued a new and similar proposal. The chief difference is that he increased the population from 1200 as originally set in 1817 to from two thousand to twenty-five hundred persons. In this publication Owen included a large folding plan that is reproduced here. Elevation drawings have been omitted.

It is proposed that each establishment of these Colonies shall, in the first instance, be the property of a joint-stock company; who,–having purchased the land, and erected thereon the requisite buildings, and furnished the same,–shall let the whole, upon lease, to a company of tenants; the latter having power gradually to fine down the rents, and ultimately to become the owners, at a stipulated price, to be agreed on between the parties.

Each Colony to be devised to accommodate, ultimately, and permanently, from 2000 to 2500 individuals, of the usual proportions of men, women, and children; but to be so arranged as–without disturbing any of the permanent walls or buildings– to afford accommodation, temporarily, and during the transition state, to a larger number, as well be hereafter explained.

The following is a general description of the buildings and other arrangements of the Colony.

On a suitable site,–as nearly as may be in the centre of An Estate, of about 2000 or 3000 acres,–will be erected the Dwelling-Houses and Public Buildings the Colonists; forming A Square, inclosing an area of about sixty-five acres.

In front of each side of the square will be (as shown in the block and ground plan) a noble Terrace or Esplanade, of one hundred feet in breadth, and raised twelve feet from the natural surface of the surrounding land. the length of each side, including the Terrace, to be about 1650 feet.

At each corner of the square will be a large building, designed for A School of College,–the four constituting An University, for the scientific formation of a superior character- -physical, intellectual, moral, and practical–from infancy to maturity.

In the centre of each side of the square will be a magnificent building, containing Assembly and Concert Rooms, Libraries and Reading Rooms, Museums, Laboratories, Artists’ Rooms, Lecture Rooms, Committee Rooms, Places of Worship, &c. &c.

In the space between these latter buildings and those first described, will be the private Dwelling-Houses, 18 in number, on each side of the square. The general plan of these is,–

1st, a Basement Story, to be used as Store-Rooms, &c.; as well as for a variety of purposes connected with the apparatus for Warming and Ventilating, and supplying with Hot and Cold Water, and artificial Light, every apartment throughout the whole square.

2d. Above the Basement, will be three other stories, forming suites of Apartments for the adult residents. On each of these stories or flats, will be eight rooms, with closets, and other conveniences; and a spacious geometrical Staircase will run up the centre of each house.

3d, Over these, and forming a fifth story, will be Dormitories, and other apartments, for the children and young persons.

Projecting into the corner of the square, from the public buildings forming the centre of each side, will be four magnificent buildings, designed for Refectories; attached to which, will be the Kitchens. These buildings will contain arrangements much superior in convenience and economy, for the purpose in view, to those of the best Club-Houses in London or Paris.

Attached to these, there will be four massive Towers, each 240 feet in height, and of proportionate dimensions in other respects. Among other purposes, these are designed to carry off the smoke and effluvia of the fires below, used for heating the buildings, cooking, &c. They will, also, serve as Observatories for astronomical, meteorological, and other purposes; and from near their summits will be reflected at night, by powerful apparatus, the new Koniaphostic Light, which will brilliantly illuminate the whole square.

Within the square, also, and conveniently situated with regard to the other buildings, will be Gymnasia, and Baths.

In the centre of the square will be an immense Conservatory, of light and elegant construction, with forcing- houses, &c. attached.

The whole of the interior of the square, will be laid out in the most tasteful and scientific manner, as Pleasure Grounds; containing Botanical, Horticultural, and Floricultural Gardens; together with plots of land for experimental agriculture; the whole intersected with spacious Gravel-Walks, affording abundant space for cheerful out-door exercise.

Running entirely round the interior of the square, at a short distance from the houses, will be a spacious open Cloister; by means of which, access may be had to any apartment in the whole of this extensive range of buildings, without going from under cover; and which will also present opportunities for sheltered exercise in very hot, or wet, weather.

The surface of the grounds, in the interior of the square, will be nearly on a level with the floor of the basement story; whilst Susan Benjamin, Rare Prints & Maps, #the roof of the cloister, which will be flat for the purpose of walking upon in fine weather, will be upon a level with the floor of the first story of the dwelling apartments.

Round the exterior of the square, as already explained, will be a noble Esplanade or Terrace 100 feet broad, and raised twelve feet from the natural surface of the land; but on a level with the first or ground floor of the dwelling-houses. From this terrace will be seen portion of The Estate belonging to the Colony, laid out in Four Farms, but having the appearance of A Park, with its hills and dales, its wood and water. These farms will be cultivated, as far as population will admit, with the spade; and kept in the best order and most productive state.

About the centre of each farm will be the requisite Agricultural buildings &c.

At a convenient distance from the square, surrounded by plantations, will be Manufactories, containing the most complete machinery, with mechanical power, for accomplishing, in the best manner known, such Manufactures and Trades as may be best suited to the locality and other circumstances of the colony; and to make these arrangements complete, there must also be, at some distance without the square, but within the territory of the colony, Gas Apparatus; Washing, Bleaching, and Dyeing Arrangements; with Stables and Coach-Houses; and, in a more remote situation, a Slaughter-House, as long as it shall be found to be advantageous or necessary for health or happiness, for any portion of the colonists to subsist on animal food.

This, then, is a general description of what may be fairly termed A Magnificent Palace, containing within itself the advantages of A Metropolis, An University, and A Country Residence, without any of their disadvantages, and situated within A Beautiful Park of 2000 or 3000 acres; the whole most scientifically arranged, and placing within the reach of its inhabitants, at a very moderate annual expenditure, arrangements far superior to any now known, for the production and distribution of wealth, the formation of character, and the government of the population, with innumerable advantages never yet possessed by the most favoured individuals in any age or country.

Selected, scanned, edited, provided with headnotes, and formatted as a web document by John W. Reps, Professor Emeritus, Department of City and Regional Planning, West Sibley Hall, Cornell University, Ithaca, New York 14853, USA. Tel: (607) 255-5391, Fax: (607) 255-6681, E-mail: jwr2@cornell.edu