New Babylon, 1963

New Babylon, initially named “Dériville” (drift city), appears as the first utopian project for a global city, one marked by the planetary urbanism of Guy Debord, who suggested the name. Constant worked on this project from 1956 to 1974. The situationists were arguing for the necessity of moving beyond all forms of expression to achieve a “unitary urbanism” that would enable the creation of “ambiances” tried and tested by the “drift,” and thereby encourage the “construction of situations.” Constant decided to carry out this urban program. New Babylon is an “artificial environment,” technological architecture of networks based on nomadism, games and creative change. This city was to take the form of labyrinthine space that caused disorientation, where movements were no longer subject to the constraint of any spatial or temporal organization: rootedness would give way to nomadism; the agglomeration of private functional spaces would be replaced by gratuitous and public experiences. The transformation of architecture would be through the movement of individuals; mobility would be that of migration, a direct evocation of the situationists’ precepts of “shifting urban situations.” Unlike the concentrated and accelerated time of the industrial city, the architecture would dissolve in “the slow moving flow of humans.” For Constant, “the labyrinthine form of the New Babylonian social space would be the direct expression of social independence.” Creation would become a permanent process, a daily activity: “Like the painter who creates an infinite variety of forms, contrasts and styles utilizing only a few colors, New Babylonians would be able to endlessly vary their environment, refresh it, recreate it, by making use of the instruments of technology.” (Constant)

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