Utopian Hours returns with a streaming urbanism festival about the fate of the city

As A Concept, Not A Specific City

Utopian Hours returns with a streaming urbanism festival about the fate of the city

Utopian Hours 2020 will run from October 23 through 25 and complement its live presentations with streaming. (Courtesy Torino Stratosferica)

The Turin, Italy-based Utopian Hours festival, which last year asked global citizens to ask how they could make their cities a better place to live (and that AN was on the ground for), has returned for a fourth year. This time, both the theme and format of the festival have been driven by the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, which hit Italy especially hard.

That is why this year’s somewhat self-explanatory theme, The City at Stake, will examine the “city at a crossroads” as urban centers around the world deal with a pandemic, crumbling mass transit, fires and floods, terrorism, and a global recession. This is the first year the festival will have an overarching theme, and organizers Torino Stratosferica have put together a roster of speakers and presentations that address the survival of the “city” on physical, philosophical, and political levels. While the physical event will return to the Centrale della Nuvola Lavazza (the Lavazza campus) in Turin from October 23 through 25, for those who don’t want to risk international travel, the entire event will be livestreaming as well.

Rendering of a walkway floating in a turin river
A possible river intervention from the exhibition A Menu for Turin. 10 Courses To Change The City (Courtesy Torino Stratosferica & GMZN Studio).

This year’s presentations are just as varied as the last, and address problems facing cities from the grand (the future cities of Asia, Africa, and South America) to the decriminalization of skateboarding (and associated democratization of public space) and a panel on the problems facing cities, alongside trends to watch out for in future cities, and a talk on 10 different radical visions for overhauling Turin. Utopian Hours will close its first day with an “urban guru” session from urbanist and author Richard Florida, who will run through how the pandemic has forced the world to recontextualize cities, for better or for worse, and address the larger challenges facing urban areas today.

During the second day, author Leslie Kern of Feminist City will discuss just that (how cities, designed and built largely by men, can be made more equitable). Following Kern is a discussion from Oceanix, the “floating city” company that partnered with BIG to present at the UN last year, and a presentation by Rem Koolhaas, who will be joined by the festival hosts and curator, on his Countryside exhibition at the Guggenheim. A talk on the introduction of music into cities to help build place and culture is also one to watch for.

On the third day, alongside presentations on urban island-building, guests and streamers can also catch the aforementioned skateboarding presentation, an exploration of what’s in store for the future of Rotterdam’s MVRDV, and a roundtable on utopia and affordable, equitable housing.

A blue poster advertising two men talking
An example of one of the talks available at Utopian Hours (in this case, during the third day, October 25) (Courtesy Torino Stratosferica)

Also on display will be two exhibitions: Vision from Torino Stratosferica, a renewed version of the show that ran last year, wherein organizers collected suggestions for radically bettering Turin, and Future Urban Trends, which imagines what the city of the future might look like, along technological, cultural, and social lines.