“Hypotopia”: Architecture as a Vehicle for Political Action

By  Evan Rawn 
November 17, 2014, Architecture News – Austria

In the wake of the global financial crisis, banking scandals and government bailouts have made countless news headlines around the world. With such large sums of taxpayer money being funneled to the troubled financial sector, ordinary individuals are left to wonder how it will affect their own lives. But how can an entire country rise up and make their voices heard when it is nearly impossible to understand the magnitude of such an injustice? In Austria, a group of innovative students from the Technical University of Vienna set out to answer this question and have taken to a new form of protest in order to make the consequences of one Europe’s largest financial scandals in recent history a tangible reality.

To demonstrate the €19 billion price tag of Austria’s recent bailout of Hypo-Alpe-Adria, students designed and built a scale model of a fictional city called “Hypotopia,” a portmanteau of the bank’s name and “utopia.” According to Lukas Zeilbauer, “while utopia stands for an ideal fictitious world, ‘hypo’ is a Greek word meaning under, beneath or bellow – so a change coming from the bottom, from the folk.” Embodying an idealistic society with plentiful renewable resources and public education for people of all ages, the model city would theoretically contain 102,574 inhabitants, making it the sixth largest city in Austria.

The inspiration for the project came from the shock that Zeilbauer and Diana Contiu felt upon realizing that despite the enormous cost of the bailout, there were few public demonstrations, and the online petition calling for further investigation of the case drew only 150,000 signatures – less than 2% of Austria’s citizens. In attempting to explain the public’s passivity, Zeilbauer told ArchDaily “somehow this great sum of money surpasses the human power of imagination, and nobody can imagine what a great loss this is for Austria.” Read more…

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