Prototyping Utopias

This workshop was a more focussed and contained event, aiming to review the ideas and dreams shared by people in Bow and to create more tangible expressions of those dreams. To start, we reviewed all the different materials (audio, postcards, labels, models) and we tried to extract key themes. We found that people talked about universal ideals, like peace, solidarity, equality, nature and community but also reflected on the qualities of their own place and the value of local people. The audio recording was particularly evocative of those sentiments.

We then constructed two prototypes, building on the identified key themes. One (‘Smile Avenue’) aimed to bring together the recurring themes of environment, nature, and food with the themes of inclusivity, and local community. The other (‘Magic Boxes’) built on the discussions around the value of providing spaces/resources for creative random interactions from which community activities may grow.


Utopia Fair

Prototyping Utopias took part in AHRC’s Utopia Fair at Somerset House, 24-26 June 2016.

The Utopia Fair showcased creative outcomes from 25 AHRC-funded projects alongside 10 additional initiatives that were hand-selected by Somerset House. All these projects worked to bring together local community groups, researchers, activists and artists across the UK to explore how utopian ideals can be used to benefit the environmental and social future of our communities.

At the Fair we shared the visions of utopias created during the Dreaming and Prototyping events with people in Bow, and invited visitors to reflect on those visions and dream about the future of their own places using similar materials.

A film conveying the activities, dreams and reflections of those who took part in the activities was shown inside Somerset House. You can view it here:

Our stall showcased the generated voices, stories, artefacts, drawings, models and prototypes. It also offered a space for people to contribute their own visions of utopias for places around the world. Participants created a collective, diverse and colourful Big Wide World of Utopias, thinking about the very notion of utopia, their own place and relationships with others, and ideas that can make our places better.


Our key creative engagement activity was a ‘magic box’, a big suitcase containing arts and crafts materials enabling people to draw and make prototypes. An idea generated at the prototyping workshop, the box was particularly popular with young people, families, and children, and became a vehicle not only for the creation of visual representations of utopias, but also for in-depth discussions and exchanges.


The event was led by the Prototyping Utopias project team: Katerina Alexiou and Theodore Zamenopoulos from the Open University; and Louise Dredge and Sophia de Sousa from The Glass-House Community Led Design. The activities were organised and delivered with the help of artists Simon Daw and Paul Burgess. Many thanks to Vera Hale and Ruchit Purohit for lending a helping hand at the stall and to all the visitors of the Utopia Fair who shared their visions.