This essay in memory of Anthony Vidler explores the ways in which his obsessive mode of thinking and writing was primarily historiographic and ultimately autobiographical as it reversed itself towards the future. Vidler was not a historian who wrote but a writer who over time produced the effect of being a historian. He was a scholar in reverse, a trained architect and insightful architectural critic fixated on the ongoing legacy, from Plato to the latest digital zealots, of utopian dreams of an idealized architecture that would incubate an equitable society and the dystopian effects of the always unsuccessful attempts to realize those dreams. Vidler portrayed architecture and the social life it supposedly serves as permanently suspended between utopia and dystopia. Colin Rowe, his first tutor at Cambridge University in 1960, triggered this life-long obsession by pointing to Emil Kaufmann's writing about the precocious modernity of enlightenment architects, especially the ideal city imagined in the late 18th century by Claude-Nicolaus Ledoux, symptomatically the only architect referred to by the utopian socialist Charles Fourier. Vidler never let go of Ledoux, continuously reshaping him and an endless chain of architects from the 20th and 21st centuries, starting with Tony Garnier and Le Corbusier. Kaufmann and Rowe haunt all the work, as does Walter Benjamin, whose inversion of history likewise turned on the relationship between Fourier's philosophy and a specific architectural typology.

This content is only available as a PDF.
You do not currently have access to this content.