International Workshop

Planetary Home and Garden: Ecumenopolis, Ecumenokepos, and Doxiadis's Role in Mod-20th Century Environment-Development Politics
Panayiota Pyla (University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign)
Ecumenopolis, Doxiadis's vision of an interconnected urban network covering the earth, was arguably the most ambitious of Ekistics' grand projects. Methodologically, it represented the epitome of Ekistics' modernist ambition to coordinate the entire system of knowledge about the physical environment. Ideologically, Ecumenopolis was the apogee of Doxiadis's optimism for a postpolitical global society where social, economic, racial and ethnic inequalities would be managed away by benevolent technocrats. In its physical manifestations (the creation of new cities, the restructuring of old ones, and the reorganization of regions imagined to be part of the future global city), Ecumenopolis represented an unwavering commitment to urbanization as the key to spreading socioeconomic modernization around the entire globe.

This paper examines the history and politics of Doxiadis's Ecumenopolis, by uncovering its complex entanglement with post-WWII discourses of modernization, development, and environmentalism. The paper first examines how the concept emerged out of Doxiadis's early practice in the postcolonial world, and how his optimism for a harmonious and balanced global city, along with his conviction of the commensurability of the local and global, made Doxiadis's vision palatable to international institutions and state governments eager to advance policies of postcolonial reform, nation building, and regional particularity. The paper then discusses how the notion of a comprehensive urban network in balance with a global garden (Ecumenokepos) crystallized through the Delos Symposia of the 1960s, and how this twin concept of Ecumenopolis-Ecumenokepos, eventually came to be reconceptualized as a strategy for not only international development, but also, for global environmental protection.

By analyzing the specific prescriptions of Ecumenopolis about the scientific management of land and the earth's resources, and also by reflecting on its metaphors of nature, balance, and ecumenism, the paper critically examines the sociopolitical implications of Doxiadis's global vision, and its crucial role in mid 20th Century debates on architecture, technology, nature and ecology. In the process, the paper also reflects on the nuances and the fluidity of the concept of Ecumenopolis-Ecumenokepos that led to multiple alignments with changing modernist paradigms and allowed Doxiadis's vision to persevere, even after the demise of High Modernist optimism, as a response to ecological exigencies.