Walden 7 or Life In The Cities

2022

Video, 33’19”

Henry David Thoreau built a cabin on the shore of Walden Lake and lived there in a spartan and solitary way for two years, from 1845 to 1847. In this cabin he wrote his well-known book Walden, or Life in the Woods, a critique of industrial society and an argument in favor of “natural” non-productive and free life.

In 1948, B. F. Skinner wrote the science fiction novel Walden Two which takes its name from the book by Henry David Thoreau. Skinner imagines a utopian city; a collectivist utopia of a community of a thousand people where cooperativism is encouraged instead of competitiveness. The book was enormously popular mainly in the intellectual and alternative circles of the 1960s. In the novel, Skinner recounts the existence of other Walden communities that continue the Walden Two project, namely Walden 3, Walden 4 , Walden 5 and Walden 6.

Between 1970 and 1975, Taller de Arquitectura, the team of architects, sociologists, philosophers and poets who came together around Ricardo Bofill, built an emblematic project of radical architecture: the building of collective housing Walden 7 in Sant Just Desvern (Barcelona). And it is precisely because of this reference to the previous six Waldens, Thoreau’s Walden and the five Waldens imagined by Skinner, that they named the latter as such.

Walden 7, and its unbuilt precedent of the City in the Space, maintain a complex relationship with the housing project of modernity, and with the attempts, from the 60s, to overcome its contradictions, thus adding new layers of complexity to the central question of the modern project: how to live together.

The video project Walden 7 or Life in the Cities traces the journey between the initial project and the current building through interviews, archival and contemporary images. The video is structured around the core conversation with the architect’s sister and co-author of the project Anna Bofill, herself an architect, composer, as well as a feminist activist and former member of the Taller de Arquitectura (Architecture Workshop). She has been living in the building for the past 30 years, thus, identifying with the project through to the end.

A LOOP production. Co-finances with funds from the Creative Europe Program and the project A-PLACE. Linking places through networked artistic practices.

Thanks to: Anna Bofill, Taller de Arquitectura and the inhabitants of Walden 7

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